Yesterday, on the Guest conversation Call as a part of the Remarkable Leadership Learning System, my guest Timothy Johnson was asked how to deal with resistance to process improvement efforts in the form of “I don’t have time.”
His answer was brief, to the point, and completely correct. He pointed out that we all have the same amount of time – it isn’t that people don’t have time, it is that they are choosing to spend it differently.
His answer, and my recent experiences and decisions lead me to write this important for all of us as leaders (I chose to spend my time writing it).
We are all “busy”, especially as leaders. Seriously, when was the last time you met someone who wasn’t (or didn’t think they were) busy? Modern organizational life put many demands on our energy, focus and time.
I have recently, with an observation from Heli Jarvelin, my friend and a wise coach, realized that the word busy does us very little good at all. When I say I am busy, I am giving myself a rationale for something being late or not getting done. It is like a drug. When I say he word, I feel better for a minute, but almost immediately I crash into guilt and victimization (MAN I wish I weren’t so busy!)
Because of this fact, I have effectively banned the word busy from my vocabulary and from from use in and around Remarkable House (what we call our offices). That’s right, banned.
The important strategic leadership lesson here is that we must communicate clearly what we want and explain why. I haven’t just told people not to say the word, but explained why.
Trust me, we have as much to do, and as many ideas for future work as anyone I know. But we can always make choices about how we spend/invest our time.
Why the Excuse Works So Well
People say they are “Busy” or “don’t have time” for a couple of reasons.
1. They legitimately feel like they are.
2. They have learned that that comment often works in keeping more stuff off of their to do list.
People are smart, they go with what works.
If we want to be more successful in persuading them; and as leaders, helping them prioritize the long list of “to dos” that are making us feel busy, we must structure our response differently. Consider these steps:
1. Recognize that the excuse is an opportunity to explore and understand.
2. Find out what is making people busy.
3. Help them think about the relative priority of those items.
4. Put the new idea or request in context and priority.
5. Help people re-prioritize, move or even remove other tasks from their list.
In short, help them take control and see that how they choose to spend their time is a choice.
A Leader’s Role
Looking at the last set of suggestions should make our role pretty clear – whether we are in corporate or executive leadership or operating as a supervisor – we can use these situations as a coaching and mentoring opportunity and a chance to help people take more accountability and become more productive.
I know you are busy – so thanks for choosing to spend your time reading this post.