Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to be super-responsive to requests and only felt great about my day if I was able to be highly productive. You know, getting things knocked off my to-do list or keeping my team moving by making decisions and giving them direction.
Badda-bing, badda-boom — DONE!
While that served me well in some situations, I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that “responsiveness” can often result in a fragmented, not-so-productive day, which may have others viewing you like a plastic bag blowing in the wind. The bag blowing in the wind is powerless, allowing other forces to control its direction.
That’s what I would call reactive vs. responsive. Responsive suggests there is some thinking involved and reactive is more about the “action” being taken.
Here’s the thing … thinking takes a bit of time. When we slow down to be thoughtful or listen to another’s perspective, it’s powerful. Even those people who speak more slowly and take pauses are perceived as confident and powerful.
A common conversation I seem to have with many of my coaching clients is, “I’ve been told I direct too much and need to slow down.” OR, “I’m in such a fast-paced organization, I feel like I bounce from one meeting to the next with no time to think or actually DO the work I’ve been given.” The result in most of these situations is that the leader comes out of one meeting and orders directions on to-dos for the team, without much conversation or collaboration.
Don’t you hate it when someone else’s “urgency” becomes your top priority?
I’m going to be bold here and suggest that you stop the madness by slowing down.
Slow down by being more thoughtful and deliberate in your decision-making process and tap the brakes on your tendencies to swing into action, a.k.a. being reactive. Amy Cuddy also addresses this topic in her book, Presence. It’s definitely one to put on your reading list!
So what might this look like?
- Instead of providing an immediate response to a request that involves you and your team to take a specific course of action, you respond with something like, “Let me take this to my team to make sure I understand what other priorities and projects they have on their plates before I commit to that time frame.”
- Then, you actually go back and have a conversation with your team about the request and LISTEN to their perspective. Use this time to collaborate and develop a workable solution if you cannot meet the initial request. It takes time to collaborate but you are now back in the power-position with your colleagues and team and here’s why. First, your colleagues making the request realize that you are not just going to automatically comply to every request and are less likely to take advantage of you and your team. Second, your team will so appreciate you having their backs and not over-committing. They will feel respected and truly part of the decision process.
- Another bonus in slowing down to seek input from others is that it sets up a dialogue to engage others in the conversation where you can learn more about their thought process and capabilities and take advantage of an opportunity to coach them along the way. You play a much bigger role in actually developing them when you can coach vs. direct them by just telling them what to do.
The other thing to remember is that doing nothing is actually doing something.
You do have the power to slow things down when you need more time to process the alternatives. It reminds me of the quote, “I can’t hear what you’re saying because your actions are so loud.”
We teach people how to treat us and if you always react and comply, people will take advantage of that and run right over you.
Just to clarify, I’m not saying don’t be responsive to requests. I’m just suggesting that you don’t have to provide an immediate response. Taking a day instead of a minute is a way to reclaim some power and build respect.
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at email@example.com.