This is the next installment in a weekly series in which I attempt to answer a question from a leader somewhere in the world. Today, I want to speak to an issue that the best leaders consider often. Today’s Challenge: What should I STOP doing?
I’ve read my share of leadership books during my career, and I’ve been to more than my share of leadership conferences and events. A few years ago, I began to see a theme emerge, or perhaps, it was more of a sub-plot. Over the years, I heard one presentation after another on the importance of leaders doing LESS. Here are some examples:
Peter Drucker – The “Discipline of Abandonment.”
John Maxwell – “You have to give up to go up.”
Andy Stanley – “The less you do the more you accomplish.”
Henry Cloud – “Nothing that is alive will thrive without pruning.” Ouch! Henry wrote a classic on the topic entitled, Necessary Endings.
Jim Collins – “Every leader should periodically make a ‘Stop Doing List.’”
As I think back on my leadership journey, ALL the leaders I admire attempt to maintain a high level of focus on the critical few activities where they can make the greatest contribution. As a result, they are willing, as Collins encourages, “…to create a STOP DOING LIST.”
How do you decide? What should you stop doing? Here are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking.
What others should do. Take a hard look at your calendar. How many of the activities on your calendar in the last week were things that someone else should or could do? How many meetings did you attend because you wanted to? Did you book your own travel arrangements for an upcoming trip? Could an assistant do that? No assistant? How about a travel agency?
Activities which might help someone else grow if he/she did them. Did you make any presentations in the last month? How many of them could have been a development opportunity for an emerging leader? Did you facilitate a meeting because you thought it might be a tough group? Those are good venues for others to learn and grow.
Work that doesn’t give an adequate return on your time. Are there things you do that USED to add tremendous value but not so much today? Are there things you do that you aren’t sure whether they add value or not? If so, stop doing them and see what happens.
Things that are not aligned with your personal and organizational goals. For me, this may be the most important. What are your personal goals? Are there things you’re currently doing that don’t contribute at all to the accomplishment of your goals? These are candidates for your Stop Doing List. The same line of reasoning can be applied at work.
Here’s a bonus idea – Have a Stop Doing Meeting at the office. The price of admission: everyone in attendance has to have at least one idea regarding something you can potentially stop doing. Talk about it and make some decisions. I’ve done this before and it works!
As leaders, we need to make it okay in our organizations to stop doing things. Not only will our teams will be stronger, we’ll be able to maintain higher levels of focus on what matters most.[GLS_Shield]