Bite-Sized​ Pieces

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Walk into any bookstore (okay . . . or peruse Amazon) and you will undoubtedly find a large section of books on management and leadership. Helping people hone their leadership skills has become quite an industry. Too bad generations of moms and grandmas didn’t copyright their advice to their children, because while we have dressed it up and come up with some impressive sounding new terminology, much of today’s leadership wisdom has its roots in the guidance we were given as children.

While the comparisons could fill volumes (and just might . . . stay tuned!), one important reminder for leaders who are overscheduled, with to-do lists that seem to grow of their own accord, is to cut your food into bite-sized pieces. Yes. I’m serious.

Too many of us look at the overwhelming portions on our plate and stew and stress over how we will ever get around to everything before us. We spend mental energy developing strategies for how we’re going to eat it . . . pushing things around on our plate in an attempt to make it appear more manageable . . . in some cases probably even hiding a few peas under the potatoes . . . which of course only postpones the inevitable. The only solution? Cut it into bite-sized pieces and start eating.

Sure, the proposal is going to take a lot of effort. Don’t double the time it takes, and triple the stress, by spending days fretting about how you’re going to get it done. Cut it up and start eating. Yes, reviewing the monthly reports is one of your least favorite tasks. Slice it down to size, eat it fast and get it over with rather than having it continue to stare at you from the middle of your plate. (Warning…the longer you look at it, the bigger it appears!)

Going to the other extreme doesn’t work either. Trying to take on too much at once — the equivalent of shoving giant pieces of food into your mouth — only creates a choking hazard. As a result, what might seem like the most efficient way forward can actually take longer, and cause more pain and suffering in the long run. Bite. Sized. Pieces.

Yes, this task would be a lot easier if you were the only one filling your plate. Unfortunately, leaders don’t always get to choose what lands on their platter, however, they do get to determine how to tackle what is before them. And as usual, Mom knew what she was talking about.

Bite-sized pieces.

Organizational Cardio

We’ve all read of the many benefits of cardiovascular exercise: improved heart health, increased metabolism and energy, weight loss, overall better efficiency of the body’s functions (blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin), decreased stress/psychological benefits . . . the list goes on. Has it ever occurred to you that in the same way exercise has a positive impact on your body, perhaps a bit of “organizational cardio” could strengthen your organization.

Stick with me here. A stagnant organization, much like a stagnant body, is going to be in a state of decline. Maybe it’s not noticeable on a daily or weekly basis, but chances are pretty good that you are going to wake up one day and wonder what happened. So if it’s the case — hypothetically of course — that you as a leader find your organization getting a little soft around the edges, what should you do . . . where do you begin?

First and foremost, you need to get moving. In my experience (and trust me, I have done extensive research on this one) cardio doesn’t just happen — at least not on a regular basis — simply because you understand in theory that it’s good for you. It takes a concerted effort, a plan with clear goals and expectations. And yes, it may feel like a burden when you first start, one more task piled on top of your already overscheduled day . . . but the payoff is worth it, so start with baby steps.

Maybe you begin by tackling the treadmill of systems and processes that tend to bog your organization down. Is there a way to travel the distance in 3 steps instead of 10? Turn your people loose on finding a way to be more efficient and see if their energy level doesn’t move up a notch or two. Or what about starting with the cycles that impact your ultimate outcomes? Have you asked those closest to the front lines how they think you could improve your performance? The adventurous among you might choose to hike through the mountains of obstacles that others place between you and your ultimate mission. There are all kinds of ways you can start. It is up to you as a leader to chart a course, commit to it, and then support your organization as it puts one foot in front of the other.

Sure the effort might cause you to sweat a bit, and your “body” might occasionally push back with twinges of pain that come from waking once-dormant muscles. But in less time than you might imagine, you will start to see changes. Maybe you will lose the organizational weight of redundant layers of effort. The “heart” of your organization will be stronger as the can-do attitude of your staff grows with each little victory. Before you know it, that insurmountable health issue/distance/ goal starts to feel attainable as your momentum continues to build . . .

And it all starts with a daily dose of organizational cardio. Maybe it’s time to get moving.