The Most Important Leadership Strategy: Slowing Down

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Leadership Strategy|The Most Important Leadership Strategy: Slowing DownLeadership has become more dynamic and fast-paced as organizations go global and technological integration increases. With these demands, leaders may feel the pressure to speed up, potentially sacrificing important leadership strategies along the way. Increasingly, immediate gratification is the way of the world, yet leaders would be remiss to forget the most important leadership strategy: slowing down.

When leaders choose to implement the deliberate act of slowing down, it can help promote various positive outcomes. Slowing down can help minimize mistakes, increase focus, and assist in the regulation of emotional reactions to various situations. There is no limit to the way these benefits can serve the modern leader.

Leaders who know how to take their foot off the accelerator and slow down — even when the impulse is to speed up — attain tremendous strategic advantages that, in the long run, help them to come out ahead.

Among the many advantages leaders can realize when slowing down, the following four are some of the most prominent:

1. Decreased mistakes. It should come as no surprise that going too fast can produce mistakes. Leaders who become caught up in fast-paced environments can forget their manners, overlook critical steps, or forget tasks altogether. When leaders speed up, they may inadvertently treat team members poorly as they become hyper focused on reaching goals. However, leaders must always remember that their organizations thrive because of their people, and that their people create the culture and environment of the workplace.

If leaders don’t take a moment to slow down, breathe, and check on their team, they won’t know their team’s status. Whether that’s their progress on goals or their internal struggles, team members’ wellbeing is necessary to achieve goals without setbacks. Part of being an effective leader is understanding the need to ensure the team reaches its goals without sacrificing quality or team members’ welfare.

2. Increased listening. Leaders who allow themselves to slow down improve their ability to listen to learn in their conversations. When the need for speed pushes all involved to move too quickly, conversations become compressed and the ability to actively listen diminishes. For leaders, this is especially detrimental. They must remain entirely present in all their conversations in order to keep a pulse on their team.

Should leaders regularly face instances where they’re unable to fully listen, they end up losing instead of gaining time, often having to reconvene team members to go back over important points or concerns. Instead, slowing down enables them to actively listen. This involves calming their breathing, maintaining eye contact, refraining from interrupting, and attempting to fully address the issues at hand.

3. Alleviated stress. The drive that comes from a need for speed is often accompanied by stress and anxiety. That drive also makes it difficult to gracefully respond to interruptions, which can produce negative reactions among team members. Slowing down decreases the risk of showing or provoking negative emotions. For leaders, this is imperative as their influence on their team sets the tone for team behavior and organizational culture.

By slowing down, leaders can effectively prioritize, stay on top of tasks, and remain organized, and therefore will find it much easier to avoid the stress and anxiety that can permeate throughout the organization. While the need to act quickly will present itself from time to time, leaders must slow down enough to respond from a controlled emotional state. Even under pressure, leaders can achieve a sense of calmness and model for team members how to manage themselves by maintaining a steady composure.

4. Strengthened organizational culture. Going too fast leads to making mistakes, diminishes listening skills, and creates stress and anxiety. Yet leaders who know how to slow down, remain present, and think clearly are helping to build a positive culture. Leaders are the drivers of culture, and they must model the behavior they wish to see in the workplace.

Slowing down leaves room for emotional intelligence, ethical behavior, empathy, and compassion. These are all foundational qualities to being a positive leader and leading a successful team. It allows teams to reach their goals, results in employee wellbeing and low turnover, and increases innovation and creativity. At a time when masses of workers are choosing to leave their jobs, leaders can create positive and productive cultures by slowing down.

Any current or aspiring leader hoping to learn and grow can start with the most important leadership strategy: slowing down. By slowing down, leaders cultivate all of the best leadership qualities that will better motivate employees, generate effective decision making, and galvanize a positive culture.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Mary SmithStrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Brian SmithMary Smith has degrees in English and psychology from the University of Redlands, and in organizational leadership from Colorado State University Global. She is co-author with her father, Brian Smith, of the new book, Individual Advantages: Be the “I” in Team (BookBaby, March 2, 2021). Learn more at iabusinessadvisors.com.

Why Businesses Need Management Consulting

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Why Businesses Need Management ConsultingManagement consulting is something you may want to consider, even if you run a small business. Such professionals can assist a business of any size, however. These are a few of the complex issues that a consultant of this kind can help you with:

Team Leadership

For a business to be successful, all members of the team have to work together harmoniously. The leaders must be well versed and organized in their leadership strategies as well. A management consulting firm can assist you in this area by consulting with your top board members and management staff to develop new strategies for training and leadership. You may need these services if you find that employee retention numbers have plateaued or lessened. You may also find these services helpful if your customer service ratings have declined.

Research and Analysis

A management consulting firm can also conduct research and analysis for you. You may need to know if you should get involved with a possible merger with another business. Perhaps you need to decide which area to expand your business to. Maybe you need someone to gather information about the current market trends so that you can choose how you want to perform a product launch. Management consulting firms can do the legwork in this area so that your leaders can make decisions that profit your establishment.

Growth Strategies

Growth strategies are often complex processes that need more than one person to collaborate on them. Businesses of all sizes need to develop effective growth strategies. A management consulting team can assist you with growth strategies as well. They can help you develop blueprints for the business decisions you’ll make over a stretch of time. You may want to create a strategy for growth over the next five years, for example. Strategic planners will be able to look over the numbers with you and find areas where you can improve your company’s performance. They can also analyze the information and give you tips on how you can cut down on some of your operational costs.

New Process Rollouts

It can be difficult to enforce and implement new processes within your establishment. A management consulting firm could help you with those processes as well. Changing one of your primary processes can be an exciting and helpful move for your business. However, your employees and management staff may not be too keen on the changes. The good news is that a management consulting firm can assist you in that area and many others. You can think of such a firm as an end-all for solidifying your business’s success. Michael Canzian operates a reputable management consulting firm. All you need to succeed is a renowned firm that genuinely wants to see your business blossom.

management consulting firm can be highly beneficial to you if you’re a new entity or a company trying to find your way around the market. You can schedule a consultation with such a firm to see if its services can assist you. You might find that a management consulting firm is exactly what you need.

Context Is Decisive

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | Context Is DecisiveContext is decisive. My mother always said that to me… Not really…. I learned this in a Landmark seminar. It rocked my world, my understanding of the world and what gives the world meaning. The instructor, wags his index finger and asks; “what is this?” “A finger”, we say. “Ok, if we are talking about anatomy, it is a finger, but what if we are talking about numbers? What is it?” “One”, we said smugly. “Well then”, the instructor said, also smugly. “If we are talking about direction, what is it?” “Then, it is up.” “Wow”, he says “this” indicating his finger, “just changed three times. It changed from anatomy, finger, to number one, to direction up. All we did was change the background conversation.” I sat stunned. What just happened? Silence enveloped the room.

For this blog, context: is the background conversation that gives meaning to the forefront conversation. As demonstrated above, context is decisive. The context defines how things show up and how they occur. This definition has changed what I pay attention to from what is happening in the foreground to what is happening in the background. Context has deepened my ability to understand my world and the meaning that people give to the world.

Here is an example. In my lifetime and certainly in the lifetime of my grandmother, the career opportunities available to women have dramatically expanded. We will agree that now being a pilot, doctor, president, soldier, astronaut, policewoman, scientist is all available for women as valid and viable career choices. This was not always so. What happened? What shifted in the last eighty years? Women existed. For the most part these careers existed. Yet the reality that my grandmother dealt with when she graduated as a sole female medical doctor in NY in the 1930s and the career reality for my niece in 2015, when half her graduating class of physicians were women are in stark contrast.

What are the implications of this for my Granddaughter Sienna who is 7? What is possible for her and her girlfriends now in 2021? What has occurred and what has allowed for this shift? I would argue for that to happen the context around what it means to be a woman with a professional career has altered. For my grandmother being a doctor and a woman was a unique occurrence, unexpected and exceptional. For my niece it was normal. For my granddaughter it is a birthright, which many will achieve and certainly is not dependent on gender.

I would suggest that what happened on 911 shifted the context of airplane hijackings. Before that time, we had numerous and significant hijackings. A plane would be taken over by hijackers, land some place and then haggling over the hostages would ensue. Freedom usually happened, sometimes rescue, sometimes tragedy and death. However, there was a pattern to it, and everyone played their part. 911 changed the context of hijackings. It was dramatic. Crashing airplanes full of passengers into buildings became the background of air travel and influenced everything that happened in the foreground of air travel.

As that context shifted, the rate of change was tsunami like. Almost immediately TSA formed. Security at the airport altered. Lines to wait in, metal detector screenings, pat downs all became the norm. Doors to the cockpits practically overnight became fortified. For the pilots to use the bathroom became a ritual complete with food carts. We all accepted these changes and delays and there were few questions. Why? Because the context around air travel had shifted and impacted everything around air travel. Why? Because context is decisive.

Now we have two examples, let us look at others. What about police beating black, Latino, and people of color? What about the murder of George Floyd? Has that incident changed the context in which police being physical with people occurs? Do they occur differently because since George Floyd the context has shifted? I would say yes. Certainly, for many the context has shifted from one of police meeting out justice to a context of people being murdered only because of the color of their skin.

How about the Pandemic? It started in Wuhan China and spread from there. An illness appeared among us that prior to this had not existed. That is a fact. For me, this Covid –19 Pandemic occurred in basically two contexts. One was that it is a big deal and we had to take real actions, masks, lock downs, quarantines to prevent many deaths and the breakdown of our medical and hospital systems. This context made shutting down of the world economy and keeping everyone home for months a rational decision. This context supported saving lives by keeping people masked, separated.

The second context in which this occurred for many is that Covid 19 was no big deal. Sort of like the flu. With this context people would gut it out, muddle through and the people who die are the people who die. I see this where I live in rural Michigan. Covid is no big deal. Residents say, “Covid is certainly not here. Covid is no biggie.” Just ask the butcher Dave…he never wore a mask. We muddle through and we do not see what all the fuss is about.

The large Urban School Systems and the Catholic School Systems generated very different contexts from which to deal with the pandemic. The Catholic context was that they would make it work with protocols, cohorts, and targeted quarantines. The context of the Public Schools is that we cannot be safe and do this other than by remote learning. Again, given the context, the impact on children and their learning was enormous.

What is the point? Well, the context that something occurs in like Covid determines what you do. Context is decisive. Here is the kicker. You get to choose the context. Things are happening for sure to you and the context that they happen in is up to you. Creating and choosing the context that the world occurs in for you is a big deal because it will shape your experience of what is happening to you. Remember the beginning of this article…finger, to direction, to number…. One can have very different things occurring all by shifting the background conversation.

I have created a context in my life that everything that happens and occurs to me supports and furthers my …life. That is the background conversation that I bring to all that happens in my life from flat tires to a new project to a new relationship to a breakup with a girlfriend. No matter what is happening, how it is feeling my generated background conversation or context is that it all furthers, (enhances my life) and it all supports me. It is useful in that nothing blocks me, and it allows me to always be supported and be contributed to no matter what is happening. Now for the juicy part. You the reader, yes you, take this opportunity to look at what is the context that you are experiencing. What is your background conversation that is giving meaning to the foreground? Is this meaning something you inherited or are you creating it to empower and enable yourself in the face of whatever you are dealing with and whatever matters to you? How are you coming out of the Pandemic and what is the context from which you are creating this new world? Look and let me know what you see and what alterations to the context that you are making. This is important work because, as my mother always said, not really, CONTEXT IS DECISIVE.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bruce HodesBruce Hodes, President and Founder of CMI, is dedicated to helping companies grow. The focus of his work is developing work teams, business leaders and executives into powerful performers. Bruce has an MBA from Northwestern University and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work.

The Key To Being A Good Leader

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |Good leader|The Key To Being A Good LeaderLeading a team is a big responsibility and there are key factors to remember. Building a strong and productive workforce takes time and effort and can be the difference between a successful company and a failing one. How can you ensure you’re a leader that contributes to a positive outcome?

Set an example

Most people understand that the best way to lead is by example, but how exactly can you do that? Modelling how you want your team to perform and behave in the workplace is crucial. Creating the right work ethic involves being willing to work hard and do some of the same jobs you ask of others. Your team will watch how you behave and communicate and will replicate their leader. Setting an example will enable you to solve staff issues when they arise, safe in the knowledge you have set a boundary giving you the freedom to reprimand them if needed.

You should also follow good timekeeping if you expect your team to follow suit. If you’re training a member of staff and they accompany you to client meetings, always ensure you leave plenty of time to get to your destination. If you live in London and need to catch a flight to attend a seminar or meet a client, you can pre-book in advance, at a time and place that suits you, a taxi to Heathrow to get you across London in time for your flight. Examples of good punctuality, professional attire, and excellent preparation will encourage your workforce to take their responsibilities seriously and give 100% effort. Client satisfaction is vital for any business to run successfully.

Provide Excellent Training

It’s hard to expect a team to produce results if they are unsure of the responsibilities and tasks assigned to them. Investing in good quality training will help employees grow in knowledge and enable them to be more productive in their work. They will perform better and their confidence will increase hugely. It will also help them appreciate you as a leader and help them feel valued. Employees who have access to training will be able to upskill in the workplace providing flexibility and the ability to switch staff between tasks, and cover for others when needed.

Continued development can also help staff come up with ideas that benefit the business. New knowledge sparks ideas, and a renewed sense of creativity can form a collaborative team spirit.

Positive attitude

Positivity is contagious so leading with a positive attitude is imperative for staff morale. Adopting a positive problem-solving approach will encourage the team to remain upbeat. A positive leader will motivate his team, and as a consequence, they will accomplish much more than a downbeat one. Focusing on your wellbeing will help help you stay focused and give you the energy to help others and get the best out of them.

Communication

Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, and it’s no different at work. Communicating effectively with your team will help you build strong professional relationships and help employees feel valued. Make time for staff that request to see you and always treat them respectfully and with compassion. Always be a good listener and hear what your employee is saying without jumping in with a solution. Staff are more likely to come to you with issues affecting the business if you are approachable and understanding.

Leading a team is a privilege, and caring for them appropriately and setting a good example should be a priority for the long-term success of the company.

EMERGENCE – What is Now Needed for Leadership Teams to Become High Performance Teams

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article |High Performance Leadership|EMERGENCE - What is Now Needed for Leadership Teams to Become High Performance TeamsLike those old scary movies… creature from the black lagoon. Moonlight on the water, ripples small at first. Then you see a head, then neck, shoulders, a trunk emerges, all covered in black yucky goo, smelling putrid and sulfuric. The creature is covered in wretched mud, dripping stinky black slime, standing on the bank gazing outward. That is how I feel. That is exactly how I think I look. Only I am emerging from the Pandemic.

Now imagine a group of creatures, dripping, stinking, and standing on the bank, male, female, big and small – about seven give or take and you have what company leadership groups look like as they emerge from the pandemic and take their first steps in dealing with the new reality.

It has been tough for many organizational leadership teams. In the beginning of the pandemic many companies experienced immediate slowdowns and uncertainty going from a growing company to a shrinking company. There was getting and managing PPP. This was harrowing and un-tested ground!

Slow business growth and emergence began in early summer and has continued throughout the year. We got used to working at home and working remotely and Covid protocols. This was spiced up by employees and leadership team members getting and dealing with Covid. Sometimes there were shutdowns, certainly there were quarantines and periodic, unexpected deaths. There was one challenge after another after another.

Today many leadership teams have not been with each other physically for over a year. Vaccines are occurring – I got mine- but what does it really mean? Is everyone getting vaccinated? Can we mandate that all employees get vaccinated? Can we hire only vaccinated people? Can we come to work like normal? When do masks come off and under what circumstances?

The federal government is predicting 6.5% growth starting in the summer……Is that something you and your company are ready for? What planning do you need? Part of that question is answered by asking is your company’s leadership team ready for the growth opportunity that is arising? Is your organization’s leadership team ready to emerge from “we survived the pandemic” to having the organization positioned for growth and health in the new emerging world?

The answer lies in, is your company’s leadership team really a high-performance team and prepared to lead in this new era? Frankly, is the leadership even willing to contemplate that it is a new era? The answer to this question will determine the short-term success of your organization as we emerge. What follows are thoughts and ways to diagnose and improve your leadership team in winning at this new game.

As a business coach, I have heard business leaders refer to many groups as “teams.” I typically cringe, hyperventilate and get a rash when I hear the word because it is usually not an accurate description of the group. I have found it useful to distinguish leadership groups from leadership teams.

Team performance does not just happen. It is not a function of the right combination of personalities or luck; despite what conventional wisdom and typical business pop psychology might have you believe. The following are components that are critical to growing and developing leadership groups into high-performance leadership teams. Much of my thinking here has been influenced by the book, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith

First, members of high-performance work teams have a common agenda that all members subscribe to and support. These are typically documented, and progress is reviewed and coached usually in at least a weekly manner. For leadership teams that are emerging powerfully and entering the second quarter of 2021 this means they have a plan. No kidding! They are out to cause specific actionable results and they have action plans to support their goals.

Secondly, teams do not spring up by voodoo, and/or magical thinking. It is a focus on team performance and an agreed-upon appreciation of what this means that allows a leadership team to get results. The good communication and good relationships are an outcome and result of a team that is performance driven.

Thirdly, high-performance leadership teams are “a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and a working approach.”

Real teams have members of the team who are mutually accountable for the results. This point of being mutually accountable for the results is critical to the success of the leadership team because it calls for mutual coaching and support between all members of the team. This is different from what happens in Leadership Groups where acceptance of mediocrity and avoiding conflict is rampant.

I am seeing two things. Some leadership groups are feeling their way and seeing what occurs as vaccine rolls out and the variants spread. The leadership teams are not waiting. They are making the bet that health and growth are returning and running down that road with a focused agenda. They are implementing and out in front of the emerging reality.

High-performance leadership teams develop in stages. By teaching these stages, groups can be asked to identify which stage they are in. Once the team has aligned on where it is, have the group design the necessary steps for reaching the next stage. Again, this exercise is valuable for allowing the team to focus on growing, developing, and normalizing their struggles and challenges.

The stages are as follows:

Stage A The exciting stage. This is the birth of the team that is still a group, and there is typically excitement and anticipation about the team’s potential and possibility. There is an uncertainty, but there is also optimism.

While a leadership team may have worked together for years, they may find themselves at this stage post pandemic. They have been separated for a time, the rules of working have altered, and they have been focused on survival. Like the creatures at the beginning of the article they are standing on the bank looking outward. There is optimism spiced with uncertainty as they look to the future.

Stage B The “poop hits the fan” stage is when reality sets in about the challenges facing the group and the organization. New group life can be hard and demanding. It is no longer fun, and there is finger pointing between leaders. Silos are rampant. Mutual accountability is seen as an empty concept. Team members look at whom to blame for their bad results.

How do we bring the company back to our offices? If we have been open during Covid what changes do we make and when regarding our Covid protocol? What is our policy regarding the vaccine….do we make people get it or fire them…? What about our supply chain as our sales increase? How do we make sure we can be on time to our customers? What about hiring – are we facing a labor shortage and what do we do about it? Are there now key hires that we need to go after and how are we onboarding them into the culture? As you can see there are some whopper challenges now facing leadership teams.

This “poop “stage is where most teams die. The leadership team needs to generate commitment to work through the inherent conflict surrounding these issues. This is also where the leader’s dedication to emerging powerfully from the pandemic is needed. Stage B is where focus and discipline are critical for success.

Stage C The “getting behind the game stage.” This is when everyone begins to align behind the company strategy and the leadership team performance in implementing the company strategy. Discipline and focus arise when the group follows the same ground rules and work approach. For the first time, real team performance results are seen.

A clear agenda post pandemic is required for the leadership team and company. This needs to be transparent and coherently communicated to the organization. What I see from the successful leadership team is that there can never be enough communication. Communicate, communicate, communicate, and reward the right actions are the mantras of the successful high performance leadership teams.

Stage D This is the high-performance stage, where the team is using its group structure to produce remarkable results. The team is enthused about the opportunity for growth and health. They are realizing the possibility before the organization.

It is typical, at this stage, for the team to be recognized both internally by employees and externally by customers for the results that are being produced. The teams that I see that are high performance are out and about and doing visits and surveys with their customers. Leadership team members feel connected to one another. The team is winning their business growth and development game.

From doing the above process the leadership team aligns on what stage they are in. You can also use + or – to distinguish the stage you are in. Brainstorming occurs on how the team can improve and move to the next stage. There needs to be alignment on what actions are to be taken and follow up and accountability established.

What follows is another approach in helping a group diagnose where they are in becoming a high-performance team. This is taken from an audit contained in The Wisdom of Teams.

“Even though most of us are familiar with high performance teams, we are imprecise in thinking about them. Imprecise thinking about high performance teams, however, pales in comparison to the lack of discipline most of us bring to potential high-performance team situations. Leadership Teams can significantly enhance the team’s performance by focusing on performance – not chemistry or togetherness or good communications or good feelings.”

As a starting point, think about the six basic elements of a high-performance team when you assess your leadership team’s current situation:

  • Are you small enough in number and do you have a methodology of powerfully meeting and communicating?
  • Do you have adequate levels of complementary skills and skill potential in all three categories necessary for team performance as you emerge into the new world?
  • Do you have a broader, meaningful purpose that all members aspire to?
  • Do you have a specific set of performance goals agreed upon by all? Are there action plans and champions and leaders accountable and acting on all the goals.
  • Is the working approach clearly understood and commonly agreed upon? Are the goals monitored and updated frequently and shared with the entire group?
  • Do you hold yourselves individually and mutually accountable for the team’s results?”

Answering these questions can establish the degree to which your leadership team functions as a real team as you emerge from the pandemic at this critical time. It will help pinpoint how you can strengthen your efforts to increase performance. Have your leadership team pick two areas in which you think you can improve. Which two areas provide the biggest bang for the buck if the team developed itself and improved?

This audit sets real standards and answering the questions will reveal the opportunities to improving your leadership team’s performance. Let the team think through and plan for actions they will be taking in these areas to improve their results. Facing up to the answers will accelerate the leadership team’s ability to develop, grow and become a high-performance team in this new business world.

A year ago, my company clients and myself were in free fall. Recall the news …. scary, dire and overwhelming as everything canceled and locked down. Fast forward a year. We are no longer in free fall and we and our leadership teams are standing on the bank. Stinky yes, gooey yes and on solid ground.

These ideas are intended to be valuable and stimulating as you work to generate a high-performance leadership team. Do not postpone this work. Now is the time. Get cracking! Apply and utilize this material so that you can emerge powerfully from what we have been through. It is worth the effort. Let us know what you are up to and what you accomplish. We are eager to hear about your progress.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bruce HodesBruce Hodes, President and Founder of CMI, is dedicated to helping companies grow. The focus of his work is developing work teams, business leaders and executives into powerful performers. Bruce has an MBA from Northwestern University and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work.