Lean In or Lean Over? Leading with Balance

No one has time.  Everyone is super busy.  In fact, in today’s world that seems to be a badge of honor.  Think Angie’s List ad:  “I’m busy, busy, busy,” says the spokesperson.  “Ask anyone.  Well, I’m super busy, but I guess that’s good, better than the opposite.” Making time and finding time for the RIGHT tasks and meetings are requirements for leading.

Consider this: we could work 24/7 and never be finished. To add to this problem the fact that success breeds more work.  With the new book by Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In putting women’s leadership and balancing act all over the news, we are once again reminded, in our female-dominated profession, that making time for what is “urgent and important and just plain important,” (as Stephen R. Covey taught us) is critical toTime1 our success.  As male and female leaders, this is not only essential to getting our work successfully completed, but also to modeling what we expect from our teams.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment, recently told the Harvard Business Review (and reported in CASE Advancement Weekly, March 11, 2013) that “many managers feel guilty that they are in so many meetings, and so they try to compensate by having an open-door policy for their staff.”  But leaving the door open is a bad solution to a real problem.

Here are some tips for making time and finding time to lead.

  1. Get a handle on what is important and what is devouring your time that isn’t important. Fill in the grid! imagesMost of us handle pretty well those activities that are either “Urgent and Important” or “Not Urgent and Not Important”.  We get into trouble by ignoring or giving short shrift to important items that are not urgent like: thinking, strategizing, writing contact reports, planning, donor strategy development, and staying current.  And spending too much time on “Urgent but Not Important” activities like some emails, meetings, phone calls, and other people’s urgent priorities can cause additional problems.  Identify what’s not working and make a plan.
  2. Perfect balance isn’t achievable.  Balance tends to be uneven and messy.  Balance3Sometimes, life needs more of our attention; sometimes having the door closed all day is the right thing to do.  Leadership requires us to figure out and set clear priorities for ourselves and for our team so we are making time and finding time for the RIGHT things.
  3. Learn how to say, “No.”  This is a tough one but probably this most important. We tend to be “Can Do!”, people pleasers.  “Yes, I can do that.” “Sure, I’ll make it happen.”  We over-promise which can lead to burn-out and/or under-delivering, both of which lead to a work-life balance so out of whack we become ill, or drop a “glass ball” that breaks.  “No” isn’t a bad word.  Saying no to other peoples’ urgent but not important activities, to meetings that will be too long or not productive, to a 30- minute conversation with, “I’d love to speak with you.  I have ten minutes.  How can I help?”  That allows you to say yes to you, yes to making time and finding time to what really matters.

By Karen Osborne

One thought on “Lean In or Lean Over? Leading with Balance

  1. Karen–this is such an important message, about work and balance. I encourage people to spend more time thinking/doing things about what MATTERS-to-them as opposed to what appears to matter to others. What really matters? In ones’s work as a leader, in one’s personal life, in our world….love your grid, thanks for sharing. I suggest applying it to all parts of life in order to achieve that balance, not just to work as a leader. PS….me, last night watching the Biggest Loser finale? that was really me spending time with my 22-year-old daughter who wants to be a personal trainer; that really mattered. Me watching endless episodes of NCIS? not so much!

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