Yesterday I was in the beautiful city of Dublin where the sun was shining and the day was cold. I flew there and back in a day to catch up with my long-time friend, D. Scott Smith from Oregon, who I last saw in person in September 2013. He was leading a workshop and participating in the #SocialMediaSummitIRL and it seemed an ideal opportunity to go and meet up.
What I didn’t anticipate was the generosity of the Irish organisers, who welcomed me into the event with open arms and allowed me to participate for the few short hours that I had. For that, I will always be grateful, not only because I was able to meet with Scott in the event space, but also because I heard some fascinating speakers. One, in particular, posed the question of this blog post. He posed it in a slightly different way, but nevertheless, the sentiment was the same, if not more powerfully expressed.
I fully agreed with the speaker’s point of view and have thought this for many years. Too many people spend all their time doing and far too little time thinking. I’ve seen many people in many organisations engaged in what I call ‘hamster-wheel’ activity and management, rarely, if at all, looking up for a view of direction or destination and keeping busy, busy, busy!
This type of behaviour poses some major questions to me. Where does it lead? Is it productive, really? Does it add value? If so, in what way and by how much? There are numerous other questions you might think of too though I hope you get my drift? My belief is simple – we need tot ake more time to think, not only creatively, but also through reflection.
We need to create personal time and space, on a regular and consistent basis to think. Some might ask what would we think about? Again this to me seems straightforward. So, for example, what’s been happening lately in your sphere of work? How has it gone? In what ways and how might you improve things? How else might you, your team and your organisation add value to your users or customers? For me, the thrust of this thinking has a general common sense purpose which, in itself, is not common practice.
That answer or thrust is this. How do you make a better you, and/or a better team, and/or a better organisation? A better you might engage in or lead a team more effectively; a better team might be more productive; and, through this, allow your organisation to add value to its offer to its users and customers, not to mention key partners and suppliers.
I guess that sounds very grand and noble, but in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, how do you do that. Again I offer simplicity, coupled with self-discipline. You need to make time to think and stick with it! You can do this in a number of ways though my preferred options are these:
- Do proper supervision, not business meetings that just focus on targets. Address your staff member’s everyday concerns, issues and ideas. Look at their plans for growth and personal development and act on them. Offer what you can to help them improve. Focus on their personal contribution to the business, not just on the targets! Build that relationship, grow that trust and see the benefits. It will astound you. This was a watchword throughout my local government career and I swear by it.
- Find yourself a coach, mentor or non-line management supervisor. Sometimes this might be a paid role if it is affordable, sometimes you might be looking for someone to support you voluntarily or in kind. In my first paid role working for Kent County Council, I was part of a non-line management supervisory cooperative. We each received and gave time being supported and supporting colleagues in the field. Sure it’s an old idea, but then some of them are still immensely valuable. For me, it is still a current practice.
- Create a space in your diary to think and hold to it. Just an hour a week is invaluable. When a Head of Service in Sunderland I had a slot mid-afternoon on a Friday. I held it strongly in my diary and usually only a senior politician or Council officer could breach it. If staff wanted to see me at that time, they were told I was in a meeting and, unless it was a life or death emergency, I could not be disturbed. The fact was I was meeting with myself. I reviewed the week past, the week ahead and then looked for service improvements we could make and it worked amazingly well for me.
Earlier I called these simple steps anyone can take and maybe that understates how challenging any or all of them might be in the modern frenetic world people inhabit nowadays. While this may be so, it does not invalidate my views.
So, if you are looking for time to pause, reflect, review, imagine, innovate and create fresh ideas, thoughts and approaches, my challenge to you is to try one or more of my ideas or even other ideas you know of or have seen others do. If you do the boost in your understanding, awareness, confidence and self-belief will be invaluable. Better still your team and your organisation will ultimately benefit too.
What do you think? Are we thinking enough or doing too much ‘doing’? How are you or how would you deal with this issue?