I was recently interviewing a candidate for a senior leadership position. He used the phrase, “the currency of time” in describing his approach to mentoring others. I could not stop thinking about this phrase in its relationship both to the demands leaders have on their time, as well as the power leaders have to allocate their time intentionally.
In reflecting on the month of November and its ability to help us focus on giving thanks, I thought of four strategies I believe leaders may use to give the gift of time to others. As is always the case, when leaders, or anyone for that matter, give something as precious as time to someone without expecting anything in return, the rewards are infinite.
Here are the four strategies:
Improve Your Meetings
TheMuse.com states if you are a middle manager in the USA, you spend an average of 35% of your time in meetings and for executives, it is upwards of 50%. Even though you are only a part of a few of the 25 million meetings per day in the US, there are things you can do to make the most of the time spent in meetings.
First, you can assess whether the meeting is really necessary and how you might give some time back to co-workers by accomplishing agenda items outside of a formal meeting. Second, you can model the best use of time by not multitasking (checking email or texts or working on any unrelated items) during meetings. Finally, to ensure remote co-workers are engaged, schedule video versus audio meetings. Of course, sending a clear agenda and materials to all necessary attendees ahead of the meeting is critical. If this step is not needed, perhaps a meeting is not necessary. It is a great litmus test.
Hold A Barn Raising
You don’t actually have to build the whole barn. Simply ask what matters most to someone you work with every day. Offer to give them an hour, or an afternoon, or whatever time you can to simply help them execute against their target. The concept of barn raising is a collective action for the good of the community. The result is that you get to help someone succeed with something they are building and it is contagious and the strongest fastest way to build community. Before you know it, you will have others offering to help you with something you are working hard to achieve and everyone is elevated by this gift of time.
Do What You Say You Are Going to Do
Think about how much time you spend as a leader listening to others vent about someone else not following through, or pulling their weight, or walking the talk. Being dependable is efficient and when co-workers know you are trustworthy you will see their best selves as well. Trust, or lack of trust, has a huge impact on how much time is spent getting to where you need people to go. It sounds so simple and yet doing what you say you are going to do or renegotiating your original commitment, every single day, is more of a marathon than a sprint. Start with today and watch how much more effective your efforts become in terms of who is inspired to go the extra mile.
Listen More And Talk Less
While this may seem less productive and like it would take more time, the opposite is true. When we truly listen to others and they experience us as empathetic and caring, they feel heard sooner and they move on to the work at hand. How many times have you put someone off today at work, at home or somewhere in between because you don’t have time to listen? Just reflect for a moment on the number of times you have said, “just a minute, “ or “I will call you right back,” or “can we talk about this later?” How many of those people have you circled back with? It is natural in our “busy” lives to think we don’t have the time to listen now, but in fact, now may be the only time this person is willing to share and there is a reason they are here now and it may be better than your reason for putting them off. It is worth a pause.
As a lighthearted way of closing this piece on giving the gift of time, I am reminded of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss passages:
How did it get so late so soon? It is night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?