working too fast

In 1891, the Anglo-Irish playwright and author, Oscar Wilde, wrote, “We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.”

Over 100 years later, the tradition of industrious stupidity continues. During these times of crisis and frantic change, we can get caught running flat out with our heads down. We can race down dead-end roads and right over a cliff. We can be too busy running to watch the signs or stop and look at a map.

In “Need Speed? Slow Down,” Jocelyn Davis and Tom Atkinson report, “In our study of 343 businesses (conducted with the Economist Intelligence Unit), the companies that embraced initiatives and chose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge ended up with lower sales and operating profits than those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track. What’s more, the firms that “slowed down to speed up” improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period.”

We often find managers and their teams are so busy working in the business that they have little time to work on the business. That often means:

  • The team isn’t united in strategic priorities
  • Conflicting messages ripple out to the organization
  • Behaviors don’t model the desired culture or values
  • There’s little personal feedback on leadership behaviors
  • It’s not safe to discuss moose-on-the-table (touchy or politically sensitive topics)

In his book, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni writes, “…one of the most challenging obstacles that prevents teams from taking the time to work on how they work together: adrenaline addiction. Many if not most of the executives and managers I know have become so hooked on the rush of urgent demands and out-of-control schedules that the prospect of slowing down to review, think, talk, and develop themselves is too anxiety-inducing to consider. Of course, this is exactly what they need, which is what addiction is all about — doing things that are bad for you even when confronted with evidence that they are, well, bad for you.”

Tomorrow we publish my August blogs in the September issue of The Leader Letter. This issue starts with a look at zooming out to see where you’re going. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll end up where you’re headed. Is that what you want? Is it time to step back and change direction?

Disruptive technologies are stressing, distressing, and misdirecting many teams and organizations. On the other hand, innovative technology has brought huge advances to our lives. Like fire or water, technology can sustain and enhance life. Or it can bring death and destruction. This issue looks at how companies rushing to leverage breakthrough technologies can lose their way.

Do you work for a bully boss? Is it time to reassess your approach and relationship with your boss? Are you a bully boss? How do you know? Are you me-deep in fooling yourself about your leadership effectiveness? Is this the time to step back and truly pinpoint the blinking blue dot that shows “you are here?” This issue looks at both sides of the boss issue.

Are you taking care of busyness and hurting your business by working overtime? Take our Mind Your Own Busyness quiz to pinpoint where you are.