The Truth Behind “I Don’t Have the Time”
Disclaimer: The leader in this blog gave me permission to use his personal experience.
At the beginning of all my virtual coaching sessions, I make a point to ask the leader, "Are you impacting the work environment, or are you being impacted by the work environment?" I also make a point to ask them, "Do you realize that the choices you make as a leader will influence the choices your team members make to work faster, harder and smarter?"
Last month, at the end of a coaching session, I asked the leader to please pay someone on their team a compliment before our next session and to be prepared to discuss: What did the team member do that was worthy of recognition, and how did they react? The leader assured me he understood the assignment.
The following week, after discussing hot-button issues this leader faced in the past week, I asked if he paid a team member a compliment. He smiled, looked down and said, "I didn't have the time. I was so busy." I then asked how many hours he had worked during the last week. He boasted that he worked 55 hours, which did not include several hours he worked in the evening on his laptop.
I then asked this leader if he had an open mind. I enjoy asking this question because 99% of the time people say they do. Asking this is my chance to help them look at a situation differently. After assuring me he had an open mind, I asked him to access the stopwatch function on his cellphone and time how long it takes me to say, "Junior, I appreciate how you complete your work at the end of the day, and then help others finish their tasks so we can all leave on time." I asked the leader how long it took me to pay the compliment. "About 10 seconds!"
When I confirmed with the leader that he could not find 10 seconds during the last week to recognize a team member who is trying to help them succeed as a leader, he frustratingly replied, "You don't understand!" I instantly replied, "I do understand; you made a choice not to recognize your team members this past week."
Recently, I had a Saturday golf game planned. Not wanting to feel guilty about being on a golf course for 4-5 hours on a beautiful fall weekend, I asked my wife to let me know in advance if she needed anything done around the house so that I had 5 days to complete these tasks and not feel guilty of playing golf on Saturday. After sharing this with the leader, I emphasized, "See how I chose to get things done in advance. See how I moved things up on my to-do list? Let's simply say, you made a choice not to recognize a team member this past week. Is that a reasonable thing for me to say?" He smiled and said, "Yes."
When I asked again if he had an open mind, he assured me he did. "Well, then your choices impact your team member's choices. If you want to get stingy when it comes to paying your team members compliments, they can get stingy too! Like not working faster, harder, or smarter and maybe the ultimate choice, not showing up to work."
Life is full of choices. You make choices to do things and not to do things. You must live with the consequences of your choices. When the leader expressed I was now making him feel guilty, I shared that 90% of solving a problem is admitting you have one. We all have the rest of our lives to do things differently!
So, the next time you say you didn't have time to do it, did you? Or did you make a choice to do other things on your to-do list? I have learned over the years that something magical happens when I put a task at the top of my to-do list and document it. It's incredible how we start making choices to prioritize what is most important when we make the choice to do so. Leaders Are MADE, Not Born!