Don’t Just Do Something: Sit There! by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA of Redpoint Coaching

by Urs Koenig, PhD,  MBA , Redpoint Coaching

One of the default responses many of my clients, colleagues, friends and indeed family members give when asked how they are doing is “Very busy!” “Super busy”, “Totally slammed”.  More often than not I suspect it is a boast packaged as a complaint. And I often catch myself giving the implied congratulations response: “Well, better than the opposite.”

I love what Tim Kreider, NYT blogger, has to say about our addiction to busyness:

“Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence. Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

When I read the above it reminded me of what I sometimes tell my clients: Everyone is busy but not everyone achieves results. It sounds counterintuitive but just ‘sitting there’ is often a necessary prerequisite to achieving great results. There is a reason why we need to have off-site retreats to think strategically: we need to get away from the busyness to think about the important questions.

Again Tim Kreider: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body (…)The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections it is (…), paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

It is, in my mind, no coincidence that many of the greatest thinkers like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, C.G. Jung and the Dalai Lama spent ( in the case of the Dalai Lama are still spending) many hours alone in quiet meditation…just sitting there.

I am someone who used to keep himself notoriously busy and overcommitted (and no, I am not cured but I am making good progress J!). I have on countless occasions experienced the adrenaline rush of being constantly busy and in demand. It is addictive, no doubt!

What is helping me to combat the addictive need to be busy but rather to focus on what is really important? Here are four things

1. Awareness about what unfulfilled need I fulfill with my busyness.

I have to admit that at times my busyness helps me to not face what I should be facing. It’s often easier to plow rather mindlessly through the to do list rather than stepping back and asking the big, hard questions.

Busyness also provides comfort. The emptiness we face when we ‘just sit there’ can be a scary place. It’s just me facing me and….nothing…pretty scary uh?

Building awareness around what need you are fulfilling by being constantly busy will help you take steps to let go.

2.Regular (2-5x/week) meditation practice

Over the course of the last three years I have started to mediate regularly. There are dozens of studies demonstrating the physical, emotional and mental benefits of a regular meditative practice. And I can attest from my own experience: it is one of the purest ways of ‘just sitting there’.

3. Monthly retreat with self (pen and a note book only)

I take regular time by myself over a coffee or yes, a drink, in a comfortable place, armed only with an old fashioned pen and note book but by design without any wireless connections that would distract me from asking the big question: Am I spending my time and energy with the people and projects that are most important to me?  If no, what changes will I make?

4. Most of us keep To Do lists. However, instead of focusing on what “to do”, my “Stop Doing” List encourages me to think of activities I should not do anymore, things that I am doing out of habit, a (false) sense of obligation, and that are not really moving me to where I want to be.

Re-visit my stop doing list  for some pointers on how to accomplish this.

Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More) by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

by Urs Koenig, MBA, PhD, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

“If you want something done you need to say it 150 times, seven different ways.”

I must have said this so many times (maybe 150 times) that some of my clients have quoted me back.

I am proud to announce that empirical research (quoted in the 2011 May issue of the Harvard Business Review) is now backing my statement:

”A team lead by Professor Tsedal Neeley (from Harvard) and Professor Paul Leonardi (from Northwestern University) shadowed 13 managers in six companies for more than 250 hours, recording every communication the managers sent and received. The research discovered that one of every seven communication by the mangers was completely redundant with a previous communication using a different technology. They also saw that the managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”

When the researchers asked the managers if they were surprised about their redundant communication the reaction was this: “Seriously, you think this is interesting? This is how it works. Of course I follow up with yet another message.”

Two key take-aways from this research for you:

  • If you want something done, plan deliberately to communicate the same message several times using different techniques such as instant communication (face to face meetings, calls, Instant messaging) or delayed communication (emails, voice mails).
  • The most powerful way to move the needle on a project or a task is to start with an instant communication (preferable a face-to-face meeting, second best a call) and then follow up with a delayed message (such as an email). The instant communication ensures motivation and buy-in. But the follow up via email is to remind people of their commitments so that it does not fall off the radar screen.
  • Do not use email first (delayed message) and then follow up with a face to face (instant).
For more leadership tips and resources, visit www.redpointcoaching.com.

How to Delegate Effectively By Urs Koenig, MBA, Phd, Principal Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

by Urs Koenig, MBA, Phd, Principal, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching

Is This You?

Learn How to Delegate EffectivelyJoe is the managing partner of private equity firm. He has tons of balls in the air at any one time. He is generally good at delegating projects and tasks. Yet when his stress level rises, he feels the urge to re-engage in projects he previously delegated and ends up frustrating his people. Joe is micro managing and getting overly involved with his subordinates’ projects.

Susanne is the Senior Vice President of Operations. She has a background in sales and enjoys nothing more than building relationships. Because of her position, she gets bombarded with requests for meetings and calls. By her own admission, she finds herself too often spending time with people who should be talking to her sales force instead of her. Susanne is engaged in tasks that be done effectively by someone at a lower level in the company.

Recognize yourself or one of your managers in the above behavior patterns? If so, read on!

Delegate More of The Right Stuff

Most leaders we talk to feel that they need to do a better job at delegating. Indeed, effectively delegating might arguably be THE hardest leadership competency to master. While the majority of leaders and managers need to delegate more, it’s not just a question of delegating as much as possible but delegating the right stuff. It might actually be that your people need you more and not less involved in certain areas.

Ask Your People

Our advice is simple. Sit down with each of your direct reports and ask them the following questions (credit to Marshall Goldsmith) about each of their areas of responsibility:

  • Are there areas and projects where you believe that I am too hands-on and can let go more? Are there projects where I need to get more involved and provide you with more guidance?

During the course of this discussion you will inevitably find that you are micro managing in certain areas and that more delegation is needed there, while more of your involvement is asked for in other areas.

Then Ask Your Direct Reports:

  • Do you ever see me working on tasks that someone at my level doesn’t need to do? Are there areas where I can help other people grow and develop, and give myself more time to focus on strategy and long-term planning?

I will virtually guarantee you that your direct reports will come up with great suggestions for you on things a person in your position should not be doing.

Ask yourself and your people these tough questions. The responses will most likely be eye opening and will save you time, energy and make you more effective. All the things good delegation is supposed to do!

Following our coaching philosophy we encourage you to commit to concrete action steps to your direct reports on how you will improve your delegation and then check in with them on a regular basis on how you are doing.

And remember the ‘D’ in LeaDership stands for Delegating!