It’s been a reoccurring theme this week from dozens of leaders overwhelmed with their responsibilities. But, what has also come up is the more frequent use of words that never used to fall in the category of professional, or escape a leader’s lips. Yes, profanity. Hell may be more of a place for some, versus an offensive term, and in the scale of profane words, is mild by comparison. Still, between the time we spend, the drama we allow to fill it, and the stress our perspective causes, that leads to venting with words sometimes seen as blasphemous, leaders are struggling. The struggle is showing. Today’s Monday Moment speaks to the struggle and how we can see it, but from the angle of what value we place on the time we’ve been given and whether or not we’re spending it on what’s most meaningful.
It was said to me long ago that you can always tell what a person finds truly important based on what fills their calendar and their check register. Maybe now it would be what’s on their Apple Pay or credit card statement, but the essence is this: what we find important gets our time and our money. Where do you spend yours? If you are leading others, chances are good you share the common complaint of spending too much time in employee issues, employee drama, employee complaints, or managing employee conflict and performance. While complaining, the reality is that if you didn’t find your role in those efforts to be of utmost importance, you wouldn’t participate, or complain about the need to manage the behavior. For some leaders, the belief is they should be addressing these actions. Our beliefs and following them are extremely important, thus we allow ourselves to spend time on what we believe we should. The same is true of spending money. If we believe we should send flowers, because that is what someone told you was the right thing to do, we’ll be compelled to place the order and pay for it. Where do you spend your time and your money? Irrespective of what you say you really wish you could do or did more often, or had time to reengage in, your answer to that question will reveal what you feel is really most important.
Enters then, the internal conflict. A leader may say she really wishes she had time to exercise and lose weight, but never make the time because she’s always working. The conflict stems from a nice to have and need to have, differential. Being more healthy could be a nice to have, while getting more done at work is a need to have based on what she values. Look for these conflicts and begin to make some tough decisions. Part of being an effective, and even better leader is paying attention to your own internal voices and internal conflicts. Part of being a better coach of employees and team members is looking for those similar internal conflicts in others. What they tell you is the reason for their lack of performance may be false, but easier to say than the truth, which could be they don’t find it to be an important part of the process or understand the point or a host of other options. Uncover conflicts so that all can move forward.
What begins as merely internal conversation, often creeps out in the form of external expression. The more conflicts exist, the more stress and frustration. The more stress, the less patience to use a larger vocabulary. Screw it… or some other creative version comes into play. It comes out once, then twice and a third or fourth time and then it sticks. Maybe we are simply becoming more casual as a culture, because such words are also showing up on the covers of magazines and titles of books. Either we’re being more casual, or people are becoming more and more stressed with less bandwidth to say things in a way that is less expressive or has less effect. What does it matter? A large part of leadership is communication. Internal communication leads to confidence or the lack thereof. External communication feeds or prevents engagement, motivation, and understanding at a minimum. How a leader speaks matters. How overwhelmed they are and the time they take to develop others, instead of simply addressing the poor performers, matters. Whether a leader is clear on what matters to him, her, the team, or the company, or is internally conflicted will show up in his or her external conversation. Get clear. Prioritize. Make the tough decisions and synchronize what you value most with what you’re doing most often.
So, when the hell do you have time for that? Whenever you clarify what is truly most important. Whenever you decide to acknowledge what you believe you should do is nearly always of more value to you than what others say you should do. Whenever you delineate the nice to haves from the needs or musts of the moment. Whenever you decide to lead yourself in the direction of what you deem, truly, to be the most important and give yourself permission to have it.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, helping them to become a better boss. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.