In a world where speed is valued, we all waste a lot of time and resources with two unconscious patterns: Chasing opportunity and avoiding important conversations. This article is about the two mindsets that increase speed and efficiency.
Speed bump No. 1: Chasing opportunity
As much as we all value opportunity, too many opportunities can slow your growth and inhibit progress.
How much longer does it takes a client to say “Yes” when they are overwhelmed with too many options? How much time is wasted at meetings when there’s too much information to process?
How much productivity is wasted when employees feel overwhelmed with too many objectives?
Entrepreneurs, small-business owners and C-suite executives all face the same challenge: Staying focused instead of drowning in a sea of opportunity.
Mindset No. 1: Alignment trumps opportunity
One sure way to slow progress is to chase every opportunity. The key to increasing speed is to work from alignment rather than from opportunity. In short, alignment is the ability to focus energy toward a desired result. Let’s face it, most of us are not equipped or disciplined enough to maintain focus in a world of instant access to information, purchasing power and other distractions.
Management guru Peter Drucker said it best:
“In a few hundred years when the history of our time is written, it's likely that the most important event historians see is not technology, not the internet, not e-commerce, but an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time, substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices and for the first time, they'll have to manage themselves, and society is unprepared for it.”
Alignment keeps everyone rowing in the same direction toward a desired outcome.
What’s required: The number one requirement is clarity. Without clarity there can be no alignment. Without the clarity of mission, vision and values, the obstacles and opportunities are sure to distract and guide you off course, wasting valuable time and energy.
How to practice an alignment mindset
Alignment tells you whether the new opportunity in question is in harmony with previous decisions and values you have already worked through. The next time opportunity presents itself, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this opportunity in harmony with our values, and current objectives?
- Do we have the resources to execute fully?
- What sacrifices will we have to make to take on this opportunity?
If the opportunity creates loose ends, broken promises or any lack of integrity, then it’s going to be a time-waster.
We need enlightened leaders who know how to choose alignment over the habitual addiction of opportunity.
Speed bump No. 2: Avoiding conversations
How much time are we wasting in avoiding conversations and blaming our peers, employees or bosses?
Research conducted by authors of "Crucial Conversations" report that “95 percent of a company’s workforce struggles to speak up to their colleagues about their concerns. The study of more than 600 people found that one in 20 estimates that over the course of a drawn-out silent conflict, they waste time ruminating about the problem for more than 6 months.”
Does it really require research to observe how many poor decisions are made because of the fear of speaking up?
Do we really need white papers and scientific studies to understand the effects of rumination, avoidance, and how toxic mind-drama affects performance?
No. This kind of understanding comes from experience, observation and time spent fixing mistakes that could have been avoided with the right conversations.
Mindset No. 2: Responsible conversation drives growth
The key to increasing agility is to build cultures where all people in the organization take 100% responsibility for their conversations.
ClickStop founder Tim Guenther shared how powerful communication can be when each person takes 100% responsibility for the outcome of a project and for the shared understanding.
“When a project involves multiple departments, or a challenging conversation with a peer, the individual must own the outcome of what is happening around them. It doesn’t matter if they are a key person, a delegator, or a team-member. The point being, if you are in a conversation, or on a project then you are responsible. Don’t be a victim. If you choose to take a victim approach, this is not the place for you.”
What’s required: The two requirements are trust and tolerance. The first requirement is to build trust within the team so that conflict is viewed as a learning tool versus a way to win an argument.
The second requirement is to increasingly build tolerance for conflict where people can disagree without disconfirming.
This cultural initiative can only start with enlightened leadership. If the leader can’t be trusted and can’t tolerate the discomfort of conflict, then the managers, directors and employees will follow that direction.
How to practice personally responsible communication
Here are some personal questions to see where you measure yourself in the responsibility department. You can also distribute these questions with your team to get a sense of your culture.
- Do I speak up when I’m not clear?
- Am I confident enough to respectfully disagree and explain my position?
- Are people comfortable disagreeing with me?
- Does my company offer education in dealing with conflict?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do I trust those with whom I work?
Opportunity, obstacles and distractions are only going to increase. Swift decision-making that drives growth is achieved not through new knowledge, more information or greater opportunity. Agility is made possible through alignment and responsible conversation.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of "Stop Workplace Drama" (Wiley 2011), "No-Drama Leadership" (Bibliomotion 2015) and "7 Ways to Stop Drama in Your Healthcare Practice" (Greenbranch 2018). Download "The Bottom Line: How Executive Conversations Drive Results." Connect with Chism via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and at MarleneChism.com.