Three Steps to Being Un busyIn my last blog, I railed about “Lemmings in Suits-Why you Should Become Un-Busy”, and our obsession with being “busy”. The result is that we limit our ability as leaders to build relationships, coach others, and plan for the future. We also neglect to do what Stephen Covey calls “sharpen the saw”.
Being “un-busy” is not about being lazy or slothful. Quite the opposite. It requires hard work to become master of your time, and to invest in the often difficult relationship issues, creative problem solving and long range strategic thinking. Most days, it is far easier to just pack your day with “busy”. You will feel very tired at the end of the day, which makes us feel that we have earned our paycheck. The problem is, you are paid as a leader, but may have only earned the pay due to a clerk if you have been busy doing things a clerk could have done.
Do you want to get out of the trap of “busy”? Here are my three steps:
Step #1- Enlightenment
For me, this came early in my career from reading about Lee Iococca, the leading business personality of the day. After creating the Mustang and Pinto at Ford, he served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 to 1992. He is credited with the 1980’s revival of the company. In his autobiography, he talked extensively about what we now call “work / life balance”. One key interview question he used when hiring senior executives was to ask how they spent their holidays the previous year. If they claimed to have been too busy to take holidays, he would dismiss them immediately. He felt strongly that if they could not schedule their personal life properly, they could not lead at Chrysler.
At that point I became enlightened that I could reach whatever pinnacle of success I desired and still control my time and my life. And I did.
Step #2 – Conquer Peer Pressure
It does not end after high school. Throughout your career, you must be prepared to constantly battle public opinion. I was once told in a job interview that the only way to move up in that company was to be the first to the office in the morning, and the last out in the evening. Not only that but one should park up front so everyone can see your car and know that you are putting in the big hours. In other words, look busy! I shared that I did not wish to be judged by this standard, but rather by my results (see Step #3). To my surprise, I still got the job offer, and spent 9 successful years at that company. It turned out that my interviewer had a wrong perspective, heavily influenced by peer pressure which drove his wrong behavior.
Step #3 – Deliver Outstanding Results
If you want to be judged by the clock, you simply show up early and go home late. Otherwise, you must deliver outstanding results. Learn your craft and everything about your company. Take every commitment you make seriously, and hold yourself and others accountable to do what you say you will do. Become known as reliable and a go-to person. This can be demonstrated in the little things. Return every e-mail and voice message promptly, never more than 24 hours. Be on time for meetings and properly prepared. Learn to say no, or ask for help, if you do not feel that you will be able to deliver. Admit when you fail and be sure to learn so you will not fail the same way twice. Deliver whatever you agree to deliver. These are all behaviors that busy people often fail at. If you live by these standards, you earn the right to preach the gospel of un-busy, because you are delivering what is expected.
Many people will tell you that these three steps just do not work in their world. In some cases, they are right. But trust me, there are plenty of organizations looking for people who wish to be measured only by their results. Resist the crowd, and focus on delivering results beyond everyone’s expectations. And then, enjoy the many benefits of being un-busy.
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