Slow Down to Speed Up


Last week I was talking to Rachel. Rachel was recently promoted to CFO of her company and was now experiencing a lot of stress. Together with her new job title came 26 new direct reports and Rachel felt the pressure of having to “manage” them.

When we got together I could see the tension in her face and hear it in her voice. She said “I don’t know how I can possibly make the time to speak to 26 people for an hour every month on top of everything else”.

What Rachel couldn’t see was that it was exactly this kind of thinking that caused her to be stressful (down on the ladder) and not see other, more productive, options.
When people are stressed they look at the world in a very single minded way. They limit their own creative brain to see better options and they are not able to work well with others.

And stress, or rather stressful thinking, is everywhere and invisible when you’re doing it!

After Rachel and I talked for 10 minutes she started to slow down and became more reflective and relaxed as we explored other, more insightful, options that could work for her. At a certain moment Rachel realized that some of her direct reports don’t even need to speak with her every month. That simple, yet, for her powerful realization was not visible for her when her mind was caught up in stress. She gave a big sigh of relief and thanked me.

But I wanted to go a little deeper with her.

I asked her “What if you learn to listen more deeply to all of your people in meetings so that you can actually hear if they need to talk and then invite them to a conversation?”. “What if you listen beyond the words people are speaking and listen for a feeling?

The best leaders I know aren’t that interested in the actual words people are speaking. They rather wanna hear what that person really wants to communicate, sometimes without that person even knowing it!”

Rachel started to laugh and said that that would be a miracle for her.

This whole conversation lasted 20 minutes and Claudia saved herself at least 13 hours per month.

What it comes down to is 2, counterintuitive ideas. And the faster you run the more you will discard them. In fact, most teams and people I work with take a long time to see the enormous value in these 2. But when they do… o boy!

Here they are:
1. Slowing down to speed up is the ultimate productivity strategy.
2. The 2 ultimate productivity tools are called left ear and right ear.

Have an insightfull day!