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Slow Down 5% to Speed Up 50%

Slow Down 5% to Speed Up 50%

May 14, 2014

Slow Down to Speed Up

Most people aren’t prepared to do this, but for the few who do, there can be a big payoff.

Consider this. Race car drivers know that the “pit stop” will slow them down briefly, but will ultimately speed them up. By contrast, business leaders drive themselves relentlessly… but they’re missing the very balm that will heal their wounds.

The problem is this: leaders are addicted to working hard. Yet, the great joy of healthy growth eludes them because they can’t think. Eventually, they get burnt out.

But why?

It’s not because they are focusing on things that aren’t important. It’s not because they are only working “in” their businesses.

The real problem is that most leaders are focused on things that are Important and Urgent. That means they’re constantly focusing their attention on putting out fires — solving customer problems, dealing with vendor challenges, reacting to employee issues, etc.

If you want to be a real leader and get free from your organization, focus on activities that are Important but not Urgent. Dealing with things as they happen is gratifying... in the short-term. But living in the moment means never addressing the larger items and opportunities, the bigger picture. And constantly putting out fires is exhausting, not to mention stressful.

The idea that we need to focus on things that are Important, not just items that are Urgent, is a concept initially suggested by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Important activities result in achieving ongoing goals, while Urgent activities do not usually lead to long-term growth or changes.

Do you suffer from “Potato Chip Syndrome”?

This “syndrome” is when you work so hard with such a sense of urgency that by the end of the day you can’t do anything more than watch TV and eat potato chips. The frenetic, frenzied pace is unsustainable, and it leads to lethargy. You eventually plummet into burnout from everything being (or seeming) urgent.

If you keep doing this you will have:

  1. Less creativity
  2. Lousy decision-making ability
  3. Increased stress
  4. Physical and mental exhaustion

Can you define “stress”?

Here’s our definition; see if you agree.

“Stress is when perceived demand exceeds capacity.”

Yes, sometimes demand may be real, not just “perceived.” If you have a $2,000 mortgage but only $200 in the bank, the demand exceeds your capacity. But for most business owners, it’s “perceived demand” that exceeds capacity. You want to get out a proposal to a prospective client. You want to find a better supplier. You want to respond to your emails. You want to attend an important networking opportunity. The problem is self-created.

Here’s the solution - Make the big shift

Most leaders spend 80% of their time working in the Important and Urgent mode. They spend only 20% of their time working in the Important but not Urgent mode.

Think about the following Before and After story. Does any of this sound familiar to you?  

Kevin*, a commercial contractor with whom we worked, spent his time knee-deep in fighting fires that surfaced in his business. Recently, he had multiple deadlines: He had to give a prospect a price quote but, because of his familiarity with the process involved in a specific job for a client, he also had to step in personally to get it done. Kevin ended up doing quite a bit of the unplanned work himself, down to the point of when materials were missing, he ran out to buy them. Finally, late at night, exhausted, he returned to the office to finalize the price quote he promised a potential client.

This was a disaster for Kevin, who was caught in a vicious trap. He had given his word and his name was on the line, so it was up to him to make sure that his company delivered. He had to throw himself into everything to ensure that it was done correctly.

How did this happen? Why was Kevin so stuck?  

The answer lay in his addiction to completing jobs instead of building a company. His focus was all out of line. Kevin’s love of short-term task completion had him running like a gerbil on a wheel.

So what was the solution?



Make the shift: Slow Down 5% to Speed Up 50%

Here’s the After story.

When Kevin decided to slow down just a bit to simplify and codify his process, he began to build a team of leaders instead of followers. He decided to “make hay while the sun is shining.” What does that mean? First, it means bringing another person along with you. Then, you use the busy time — while the sun is shining — as a training opportunity. Simplify the art and science of how to do the job while you are doing it. Have the trainee document the process as part of their training so that you can leverage it.  Kevin had the know-how, but it wasn’t until he slowed down just 5% that he was able to build a Freedom Team. Now he was creating a system where jobs could be done in the future without him. If he had not done this, he would inevitably have faced more sleepless nights with similar disasters of conflicting deadlines.

A Great Example

A great example of this is my friend Marty Copeland. He recently sold his company, Content Management Corporation, which handles recordings of conferences.  Here’s what he did. He committed to creating a Freedom Team and a Freedom System. His goal wasn’t simply to go out and play golf, but to have a company that wasn’t always dependent on him. So he built a team that could sell and deliver on the promise of “increasing non-dues revenues for associations.”

That is what you want to do: build a company that is not dependent on you, but benefits greatly from the work that you do. To do this, Marty had to slow down enough to be able to simplify and codify his role, and train others to do it. This freed him up to do what he did best.  In his case, that was meeting with the people who run associations, enabling him to bring in bigger and better new clients.

What Can You Do?

First, try to distance yourself from saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Instead, embrace “Make hay while the sun shines.” You can only do this by:

  1. Slowing down to codify and train others to do what you do.
  2. Training your team to track your activities and learning how to handle your tasks.
  3. Making the shift from spending less time on activities that are Urgent and Important and focus instead on activities that are Important but not Urgent.  

In the end, rather than burning out early, you’ll be able to focus your attention on new clients, provide quotes for new deals, meet key people, and grow your business. You can play to your strengths and utilize the passion that got you started in the business in the first place. And, you can even enjoy yourself by working on your business rather than just in it.  

To learn how to build your own Freedom Team, contact us for a no-charge and no-obligation Freedom Team Quick Start by emailing QuickStart@BrandLauncher.com or calling 410-235-7070.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,


* Name changed to protect privacy