Last week in a conversation with Sarah, an Executive Director, she was telling me how she didn’t really feel like she was leading right now. She is extremely busy. Trying to support her team, get projects progressing and run the business as usual. She has so much on that she’s finding it hard to lift her head up to think strategically, find the space to come up with some ideas for moving her part of the business forward, and to develop her team. On top of that, she is still working from home rather than in her normal office space.
To sum it up, she Is not finding the time and space to lead.
It’s like continuing to fight the alligators instead of draining the swamp.
At a more holistic level, the World Economic Forum identified the most desirable job skills to have for 2020 and beyond, including in order:
- Complex-problem solving
- Critical Thinking
- People Management
As a leader, you need to be developing and applying yourself in these areas to remain current and employable.
Globally, we’ve all gone through this incredibly dynamic and fluid set of changes and conditions in recent months. As we get ready for the conditions to change again, as restrictions are relaxed, now is a good time to take stock and actually figure out what next for you and your leadership.
You need to be deliberate about it. You need to create the space to think, the space to be strategic, the space to step into your leadership, so you can be the leader you want and need to be in the coming months.
Here are 3 tips for creating the space to lead.
Whether you’re working at home or still working at the office your physical space needs attention. You need to create a physical space that supports your leadership.
That means clear the clutter to remove visual distraction and create the space for everything you need in order to do your work.
Do you have enough working space?
Do you have the physical working space for your devices, your keyboards, your paperwork if you have any and everything else that you need to be able to do your job?
If you don’t have enough space, then you need to clear some other things out of the way. If you’ve got work in progress all around you, that can be overwhelming, and it can be distracting. So again, get rid of or put away the things that are distracting you or that you don’t need to focus on right now.
Think about the visual clutter, whether it’s post-it notes stuck on your laptop or your Mac, or bits and pieces surrounding you. Clear it out, create much more of a streamlined environment for yourself, whether you’re still in your office space at work or at home.
The second thing is creating space so that you can think. Making sure that you’ve got time to reflect, time to dedicate to leading yourself, leading your people and leading your organisation. You need to take control of your calendar. That means, don’t book yourself solid.
Have room to breathe in your calendar. Recognise that you can’t be in two or three places at once. You can’t be doing three things at the same time. So if you’ve got overlaps of meetings in your calendar, make clear decisions about which ones you’re going to go to and decline or defer the rest. Reschedule, talk to the organiser, whatever you need to do to actually be in one place at a time.
Then really deliberately create the space to think and to lead, and to connect with your people, in your calendar. What I mean here is booking meetings with yourself to think, to do your strategic thinking, to do your creation and to spend time with your team members.
Number three is, you need to clear your mind. If your mind is chock full of, I must do this, I must get to that, and you’re anxious and concerned about what you haven’t yet done, you’re not going to be in the mind space to lead.
So what can you do about this?
Two immediate things.
- Clearing the clutter of your mind is writing down everything, all those little random thoughts, get them out of your mind and get them somewhere safe, for example onto your to do list. So they’re not forgotten, but you don’t need to actually remember them in your conscious mind. Because your mind can only really cope with about seven thoughts at the same time.
As soon as you have lots of other random thoughts happening, you lose the important information, the important idea. So, get those random thoughts out of your head and onto your to do list.
- Balanced Breathing. A quick technique for clearing your mind and bringing your mind and your body in alignment. Breathing is a really great way to take control of yourself and what you’re embodying right now.
So if you want to be showing up at your best, and you want to be calm and centred and able to focus, then doing some balanced breathing. In only a few minutes you can bring yourself into a centred and fully resourced space that allows you to be calm, focused, and able to bring your whole self to whatever you are doing.
Balanced breathing is simply a 12 second breathing cycle, six seconds on the inhale and six seconds on the exhale. Balanced on the inhale and exhale. You can use this breathing rhythm to centre yourself, your nervous system, so that you can focus, and your mind is clear, open, and accessible. Ready to be constructive in terms of the thinking process that you want to work through.
So 3 simple ways to create the space to lead. One, clear your surroundings, get rid of the clutter and the visual distraction. Number two was to create space in your day to think. You might even go outside to do your thinking or go for a walk. Be deliberate in terms of setting time aside to think and reflect and plan as the leader. And then the third thing is to clear your mind. So get rid of the clutter, the thoughts on to your to do list, and also use your breathing as a way of bringing balance and calm to your system, so you are able to access the full resources of your thinking.
Try putting at least one of these ideas into practice and see the difference it can make for you.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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