In a new column for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard share some of the best thinking from their recent leadership livecast on Doing Still More With Less where over 40 different thought leaders shared tips and strategies for getting work done during a time of limited resources.
Feeling a little overworked and under-resourced yourself? Check out what the experts recommend.
Make time to think. Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn and Associates and best-selling author of eight books including The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, suggests a simple ritual.
Whenever Sanborn is in his office in Denver, he’ll schedule some time to visit his favorite coffeehouse with one intention in mind–some quiet time to think. In Sanborn’s experience, most executives don’t think as much as they react to their environment.
It’s harder than you think, says Sanborn. “Within the first 10 seconds, you’ll think of a phone call you need to make or a meeting you need to attend or something else you need to do. You will find, as I do, that proactive thinking about your business and your life is far more difficult than it seems.”
In Sanborn’s experience, taking the time to think and evaluate your progress will almost always turn up a couple of areas where you are spending time on projects and activities that are not generating much in the way of return. The question now is what to do about it.
Learn to say no. Charlene Li, author of the New York Times best seller Open Leadership and founder of Altimeter Group, says that achieving focus means knowing what you will do and also what you won’t do to achieve a particular strategy.
As Li explains, “In so many ways, it’s the very first and most important thing. In order to get more done, you actually have to do less things but–very importantly–the most important things.”
Leadership coach, speaker, and writer Tanveer Naseer shared that this can be tough, especially when there are so many seemingly important tasks in front of today’s leaders.
For Naseer, the answer to maintaining his focus is to discipline his attention. In addition to getting more done, Naseer has also noticed a great side benefit: consistency, because everything he does is centered around a common objective instead of a reactionary response.
Communicate efficiently. Elliott Masie, an internationally recognized futurist, analyst, researcher, and organizer who heads The MASIE Center think tank recommends frequent—but shorter meetings. Masie believes that leaders often default into 30 or 60 minute meetings when something much shorter would suffice.
“When was the last time you scheduled a five-minute–or better yet, four-minute–meeting with a colleague or direct report? At first it might feel as if there’s not enough time to collaborate, but in a busy organization, five-minute conversations might work well. Used correctly, that five minutes could focus on working on a theme or a title for a new product, or talking about the upcoming meeting you are going to.”
Avoid organizational anorexia. Finally, consultant, speaker, and multimedia designer Steve Roesler recommends that leaders take a closer look at the whole concept of doing more with less to make sure they haven’t slipped into a distorted view of what’s normal. Roesler believes that many organizations have reached a stage of organizational anorexia—basing their success on just being as lean as possible. That might make them appealing to Wall Street, but it’s shortsighted and potentially dangerous to their long-term health.
Roesler’s advice? If you’re a manager, next time the phrase “do more with less” pops into your head as you begin a meeting or make a speech, pause for a moment. Consider what your objective is. Then, instead of simply reacting with a doing more with less shrug, say:
“Here’s our situation. This is what our strategy is all about and here’s what our company is all about. How can we achieve the goal that goes along with this strategy and be as satisfying to our customers as we possibly can, make this as profitable for ourselves as we possibly can, and [yet] keep our costs down?
“While we’re doing all of this, who can be included and what can we do with this particular situation or project so we’re building talent at the same time?”
As Roesler sums up, “If you’re the person in the room who stands up and does that instead of using the [doing more with less] phrase, people are going to know that you’re the one who is the leader.”