During recent executive coaching sessions, I have been asked the following question: How do leaders keep operating successfully when their time is constantly being interrupted by everyone else?
In the past, I have referenced the work of the late Stephen Covey on time management who noted that we need to define our roles and then manage our time. As often commented, “Always put the big rocks in first.”
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement tell us to “manage your energy, not your time.” And to make sure you have time to work and time to recover from work.
And I forget the name of the author who told us to never do e-mail first thing in the morning. I would add from experience to also never do it late at night before you go to bed. It will ramp some of us up, or end up distracting us from what is most important, namely the need for sleep.
While all of the above helps to a degree, I think we need to look at the bigger picture. Here are my latest observations about leaders who do well even though they are routinely interrupted:
First, these leaders have a sense of place. They feel like they belong with the company, and can put down roots. This changes the kind of connections they have with people. In short, this sense of place gives them a feeling that they are making a difference.
Second, this sense of place is directly connected to their sense of community. Those who have a sense of place describe their work place as a “community” where all involved come to unity around a common focus and perspective rather than just a job.
Third, no matter what their age, these leaders routinely spend time listening to young people talk about the leaders who are making a difference in their lives and their work. This listening helps them keep things in perspective.
With the above as a framework, leaders who handle interruptions well do something most unique. They don’t just focus on being better leaders. Instead, they focus on being better people. As the late Warren Bennis wrote: “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It’s precisely that simple, and it’s also that difficult.” The first step is to make sure you have allies and confidants in your life. Allies are those who work with you and support you. Confidants are those who can listen and provide perspective, insights and fresh thinking. They are rarely the same people.
The second step is to ponder the following quote by Dzigar Kongtrul, namely “Don’t believe everything you think.” As a leader, recognize that not everyone thinks like you. This is a big step in your development as a leader. And furthermore, recognize that you may not be thinking clearly about everything, too. The hardest part about dealing with leadership and time issues is that many leaders forget what they do not know.
This week, check to make sure you have the right number of allies and confidants in your life. Then, visit with them on a routine basis to make sure your thinking is not becoming misaligned with your desired results.