Leadership is a LOT of things. One thing it’s NOT? Easy. In the day to day routine of a leader, there are any number of routines that beg answers to this main question. As such, today, Labor Day in the US, we take a break from work and perhaps time to address some truth. Are we doing too much? Do we simply need a break? Or is it really that we’ve hit a wall and it happens at the start of every fall? Have we worked so hard, for so long, at such speeds that the holiday powers that be recognized we all needed a break to catch our breath? Whether the leader of teams, employees, or merely the vocal voices in your head, this Monday Moment deserves special mention, needs your attention and serves to address the question of “are we really doing too much?”
Could or Should
The question of are we doing too much does not have a simple yes or no answer. Your answer is likely “it depends”. But, in the age of believing we must be a superstar on Linked In, post a pic on Instagram on occasion, chat it up on Facebook, slice our thought into minimal character tweets, makes sales, keep in touch with friends, turn in reports, field texts from our kids, help them with homework, emotionally understand our employees, discipline those who are off track, meet with HR, meet with our own leader, respond to everything that dings, answer four million emails…and… gosh, I’m tired just saying the top fifteen of what most of us attempt to do in a myriad choices of order. Not everyone feels compelled to do it all, but those who do are faced with a limit of time, lesser limits of patience, and a simple truth that there is a difference between all we COULD do and all we SHOULD do. What is your priority? Is it getting as many things done in the hours you’ve been given, as is humanly, or super humanly possible? Is it focusing on the one thing that will make the most difference? Are you so busy that the one thing never seems to get done? Perhaps the answer to “are you doing too much” is yes.
Smoke or Fire
There’s a saying that goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, and your speed when you lead could be called smokin’! Maybe you’re even on fire on occasion and getting things done fast. That’s great, but is it a pace that lasts? Is it a pace that causes you to become the dragon who breathes fire then smolders for days? Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint and it’s when we forget the value of progress versus perfection, that we lose. A dear friend pointed out this distinction. His lengthy leadership career alone commands respect and more days than not the speed of his productivity would cause one to marvel at his pace. But if you talk about more than work, you spend time in his space, talking face to face about his focus, it’s on progress, not perfection; gratitude, not a perfectionistic attitude. Yet, his accomplishments are still smokin’, so to speak. Is it possible the turtle and the hare had a larger lesson to share? Where are you making great progress in your leadership efforts? Maybe the hare was on fire and the result of the tortoise merely what we’d call smokin’ hot. One could argue you can never have too much progress so maybe the answer to “are you doing too much” is no.
Results or Return
Checking an item off of your list produces a result. You got it done. Leaders like to get things done. But what was the return on that desk you just cleared? What is the return on having an inbox at zero or a social media rating that makes you appear a hero to the marketing team? What is the result you’re after and are you making progress on those items most important to your deeply desired result? In your day to day routine, maybe you’re doing a lot of things, but are you doing the right things? Are you doing too much or not enough on the tasks or with the people that matter most?
For a visual with this post, I could show and then whip out a literal demonstration of the rocks in a jar with pebbles, sand and water that show just how much we could fit into our day. However, it’s not that you can’t fit millions of tiny things into your day as a leader; it’s a question of should you be leading your life this way. It’s not a question of can you achieve results when moving at breakneck speed accomplishing three hundred things; it’s a question of is that pace giving you the return you seek. It’s not a question of what others will think about the speed you keep; but a question of for you, right now, and for the results you truly need, are you doing too much, too fast, and for too long? Maybe for you, you know the answer.