Last week I had the pleasure to participate as co-trainer in a two-day leadership workshop with 80 executives of a highly dynamic company. In this blog post I will share my key insights from this fascinating experience, which was quite different to other executive retreats I have experienced in the past.
Insight 1 – Keys to an effective workshop with 80 executives
First of all I was amazed that a highly interactive two-day workshop with 80 executives is possible. This was thanks to the experience of the team from Stucki Leadership and Team Development, who organised the workshop. What the participants appreciated was the ideal mix of practice and reflection, with only little theory. As a co-trainer I appreciated the level of preparation and interaction among the team. The workshop consisted of two main elements. The first related to leadership culture, and the second to leadership skill.
After a short presentation of the strategy by the CEO, the teams discussed and refined a set of leadership principles that had been developed before the workshop. Then the executives split into teams and came up with good and bad examples of each leadership principle. For instance, one team had to present good and bad examples of “be a role model”, which was one of the leadership principles.
Besides the work on the leadership principles, the teams had to complete several challenging tasks. The tasks typically consisted of a tricky problem the teams had to solve within a time limit. These tasks – which have nothing to do with role-play – are at the core of the Stucki Method for leadership development. The central idea is that learning from doing is more effective than learning from theory.
My first insight was that besides a good organisation and very strict time keeping, the key was to find the right balance between top-down inputs, team activities, and thinking time.
Insight 2 – The mindset of the CEO
The second thing that amazed me was the mindset of the CEO. This is a highly visionary business founder and CEO, who shaped the strategy and culture of a company that is now one of the most successful companies on the Swiss stock market. Yet, despite his strong influence of the company, this CEO’s declared vision for himself is “to be able to walk out of the company, and nobody takes notice”. With other words, he aims to make himself redundant.
According to him, a great leader is someone who can afford to spend hours looking out of the window, thinking about the business, rather than spending time in the business, solving day to day problems.
These statements may sound radical, but during the workshop I could feel to what extent this CEO had already empowered the next level of leadership.
Insight 3 – The power of thinking time
The third thing that intrigued me was the the way different teams approached the Stucki Tasks. It was interesting to see that regardless of the task, some teams were consistently more effective than others. What was the main difference between the teams that succeeded, and the teams failed?
What I observed was that the successful teams found a good balance of action and reflection. Before jumping into action, they asked themselves questions such as:
- What is our objective?
- What are our obstacles?
- What are our resources?
- How should we organise ourselves?
However, winning teams they did not get bogged down in lengthy discussions. Once they had a rough plan, the started acting, testing their plan, and adjusting it if needed.
The teams that failed did just the opposite. Either they jumped into action without any time for reflection, or they got paralysed in the planning stage, leaving them with not enough time to act.
In other words, successful teams found the right balance between reflection and action. They reflected before and after their actions and adjusted them when they realised that they were not leading to the desired results.
Invitation for action
If what I shared above resonates with you, I invite you to reflect on the following questions.
What type of leader do I want to be?
Do I want to be a leader who is indispensable, even for solving day-to-day problems, or do I aspire to make myself eventually redundant?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
But it is a choice you need to make, be it as leader of a company, the head of a department, or the leader of a team. Your choice will have an impact determine how you will spend your time and energy in the future. Will you spend most of your time and energy solving day-to-day problems, or will you spend on developing strategy, people, and systems?
If you chose to spend most of your time on the former, the growth of your business, your department, or your team, will be limited by the number of hours you put in. If you chose to spend your time on the latter, clarifying strategy, developing people, and building systems, you won’t become a bottleneck, but rather a catalyst for growth of your business, your department, or your team.
The choice is yours.
But what if I don’t have the time to think?
As I wrote the above lines, I could almost hear my clients say to me, “Andreas, I understand what you say, but the reality is that I simply don’t have time to think. Just look at my agenda, and at all the things I must do simply to keep the business running. I wish I could delegate more, but my people are simply not ready.”
Indeed, many executives are insanely busy, working 60 to 80 hours per week, with literally no time to think. But the problem is that if you have no time to think, either before or after your actions, your ability learning with be limited. Without time to think, you and your team risk making the same mistakes over and over again, which is insane.
To get out of this hamster wheel, the starting point is to
answer the next question.
Am I willing to do something?
So how do you get out of the situation? In my experience, getting to the point where you have time to think requires doing three things.
- Recognise that having no time to think is a real problem for you and your business. Like the alcoholic who has a drinking problem, it all starts with accepting that you have problem you need to solve, event if you can’t see the solution yet.
- Choose to do something about it. This is a choice you need to make for the situation to improve. Without this conscious choice, nothing will happen.
- Decide to act. This is where is makes sense to work with a partner who can help you make the right moves to change your situation.
- If you are ready to act, reply to this email. We can then have a 15-minute chat to look at your situation and see if we are a good fit.
I have helped many clients get out the insanity of having no time to think.
- If you are not ready yet, no worries. Sign up to my mailing list to get informed when I publish new content.
- If you found this memo useful, share it with a friend. It only takes 15 seconds.
In the meantime, take care, stay safe, and get meaningful work done.