Every leader I talk to has plenty to do. We live in an age of the full plate, the fast pace and the stuffed to-do list. While this may be a sign of our times, there is another sign that we see and observe every day; and we don’t really realize that this sign can do more than keep us safe and help us avoid a ticket.
I’m talking about the stop sign, and in the next few minutes I’m going to tell you why you should stop more than just your car. Specifically, I believe there are (at least) six reasons we should stop – and things we should do while we are stopped. Some of these will relate to the stop signs we see as a driver, but all of them will apply to us as a leader and a human being.
Before you move on to the next task in your day, stop and read these ideas.
Stop and Look Both Ways
One of the first lessons we learn as a driver is that when we come to a stop sign, we must look both ways before we continue. Yet often as leaders we forget this rule. We are so focused on our goal that we never look around us for new or fresh perspectives. We know that the world is constantly changing, yet too often we build a plan and move forward with single minded focus – negating the value of collecting additional perspectives and adjusting our plan when necessary.
Stop and Ask
If they are still thinking about driving and actual stop signs, women reading this may be adding the words “for directions” to this point, and that is actually part of the point. As leaders we don’t have all the answers, and we shouldn’t have them anyway. The best leaders engage others to learn what they are thinking, what they would suggest and more. When we ask, we not only learn from others and engage others, but we build relationships too. It might seem like we are too busy to stop and ask (and so we just move forward faster), yet we all know that misinformation, or a wrong turn, can make our trip far longer than if we had stopped and asked others for their input.
Stop and Think
I know; you have five meetings, three phone calls, a full email box and interruptions all day long. It is one thing to do work. It is quite another to make sure you are doing the right work. As a leader you must take time to think, to plan, strategize and prioritize – and you can’t do these things well between calls or as you rush to the next appointment. You must stop and think – and the busier you are, the more important this is for you to do.
Stop and Look Back
There is a lot that can be learned from what happened in the meeting you just left, the work of yesterday, and on the last project. Yet if we don’t stop and reflect on what happened and what we learned, we will take advantage of none of it. As a kid, your parents asked you each day, “What did you learn today?”. When was the last time you asked yourself that question? (Tweet that)
Stop and Smell the Roses
The best leaders have balance in their lives. Yes, they may work hard and have a strong drive to succeed for their organizations, Customers and teams, but they also know that there is more to life than work. While this is true personally, it is doubly true because as a leader you are setting the standard and the bar for others on your team as well. If you let busy-ness win, you won’t have any balance. Make sure you are turning off the computer and turning yourself on to your hobbies, families and other personal interests. In the end you will be happier, but you will also be more effective as a leader too.
Stop the Madness!
I know your plate is full. I know you have lots to do. I know that you are important. But busy is the wrong goal. Accomplishment is the right target to aim for. And while it may seem like a paradox, when we stop and do the things I am suggesting here, the madness will subside and the results will improve.
Ignoring the stop signs when you are in a rush in your car is a bad idea. It is just as bad in driving your professional life as when driving your car.
It’s time to “Stop!”, so you can accomplish more.