Speed is everywhere. Fast cars, high-speed Internet connections, fast food, quickie divorces, “The One-Minute Manager.” We’re constantly told that faster is better. “Instant” is added to product names as often as “New” and “Improved.”
Is faster always better? I doubt it, especially when you’re dealing with people. We may want to get our burger quickly, but who wants only a few moments of someone’s attention? Doctors, for example, are so rushed and overworked some now employ nurses to handle the time needed to get a patient history and discuss symptoms. Since people crave time and attention, alternative practitioners are increasing their impact, often simply because they can offer patients enough time to accompany their treatments. Some of the boom in life coaching is because of people’s need to experience encouraging attention. They’re paying for the coach’s time as much as their expertise.
Leadership is obviously a people business. Yet today’s leaders are so burdened with other demands many of them find it impossible to give their staff what they want most: informal training, personal attention, time with the boss and careful thought about their needs. Good decisions also demand time for proper reflection and judgment. If there’s an instant answer available, that’s not a decision anyone in a leadership position should need to get involved with.
That’s why I’ve decided to launch a new website devoted to helping leaders find ways to slow down and create the space they need to do their job properly. Like the movement for Slow Food that’s spread across the world, Slow Leadership is all about regaining the genuine flavor and enjoyment of being a leader. After all, if you’re going to savor your leadership role, you’ll need to feel you’re doing it well. Like instant mashed potato, instant leadership is an artificial creation with neither the taste, the texture nor the benefits of the real thing.
What do you want from your leaders? The time and reflection needed to make sound decisions — or instant judgments using cookie-cutter thinking? Full attention, helping you develop your potential — or a quick appraisal interview once a year?
It’s time to fight back. Unless people stand up for what they need, the urge to cut costs by limiting time for “non-essential” activities like thinking, developing new ideas and building relationships might be come irreversible.
Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within.