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Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

Why Everyone Should Be Talking About Following Instead Of Leading

Leadership is all the rage. If you want to be a better leader, there’s a whole genre of books out there to tell you how to do it. Thousands of web articles have been written on the topic. Entire organizations have arisen with the purpose of training people how to become more effective leaders. No one ever stops to ask why we would even want to be leaders. The assumption as that it’s something we should strive for–that leading is better than following.

But is following really all that bad? We don’t see many books or articles written on “followership.” Not many people are interested in becoming better followers. The very notion strikes at our sense of autonomy and self-respect. Why would we want to learn how to follow people? What good would that do us? Well, I’m glad you asked…

1. Following Helps You Learn More

Followers are learners. The more you follow, the more knowledge you gain. As a leader, you may begin to think you’ve got it all figured out. Following brings you back down to reality and enables you to continually teach yourself new things.

Followers use social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a news feed to gather information rather than as a broadcast platform to promote their ideas. Followers go to networking events to collect business cards and learn about other industries rather than going to distribute business cards and promote themselves.

Followers are students. They’re always looking for an opportunity to learn rather than an opportunity to teach. And, as we all know, knowledge is power.

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2. Following Gets You Mentors

When you focus exclusively on being a leader, you miss the opportunities to learn from other leaders. Adopting the posture of a follower allows you to find a special guide that will teach you how to navigate life.

Mentors have the power to inspire us to become better human beings. If you ask many of the great thinkers, creators, or leaders what they attribute their success to, they will probably mention a mentor who showed them the way.

When you declare yourself a follower, you open up the door for a mentor to take you under his or her wing. There are always people out there willing to show you the way; you just have to be enough of a follower to let them.

3. Following Fuels Your Creativity

Creative people aren’t so much creative as they are resourceful. The most innovative people will freely admit that they’ve simply built on the insights that came before them.

Creative people borrow. Painters follow the techniques of other painters. Writers follow the literary devices of other writers. Superman, our most iconic of superheros, was fashioned from the creators’ obsession with the pulp fiction and detective stories of their childhood.

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If you aren’t following other people and ideas in your field, you simply will have no fodder for your creativity. Inspiration doesn’t arise from a vacuum. It comes from other creative people making things that they too borrowed from other people. If you aren’t following, you aren’t creating.

4. Following Engages You with the Community

Leaders can become detached from their communities. You don’t engage much with other people when you are on the high horse or in the ivory tower. Interaction happens on the ground level.

When you are a follower, you interact with other followers. Being part of the “fan club” is less about being a “fan” than it is about being in the “club.” You share ideas with people and build relationships that will last a lifetime.

Following makes people like you. It says to those gathered around, “Hey, I’m one of you.” When you follow, you become part of a community of followers. And we’re social creatures. The community is everything.

5. Following Increases Your Accountability

When you follow a certain set of ideas, values, or rules, you become accountable to those concepts. Whether it’s a religious group, a political group, a professional group, or a social group, you take on responsibility when you become a member of the tribe.

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When people are counting on you, you become more disciplined. You manage your time and tasks more effectively. You become less lazy and more motivated. There’s nothing quite like somebody watching you to convince you to get stuff done.

Following makes you responsible. If you want to continue to be accepted in the community of followers, you’ve got to contribute. You’ve got to be dependable. And, as you become more accountable to others, you will also become more accountable to yourself.

6. Following Enables You to Adapt

Many times, leaders will persist in a certain direction even when it doesn’t make sense. They feel like they are tied to the decisions they’ve made and changing their minds will make them look weak.

As a follower, you always have an out. If necessary, you can always abandon the cause in favor of more noble ones. You can always pivot into a more profitable direction. No one is looking at you, so you can more easily make a change.

Following enables you to be nimble. It gives you the flexibility to dodge obstacles and travel down a series of paths that make the most sense. When you are following, you choose what you follow. Leaders don’t always have that luxury.

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7. Following Makes You a Leader

The best leaders start out as followers. You become a leader, not by asserting your authority, but rather by spending a lifetime following the right things. Leaders are people who have mastered all of the things mentioned above: learning, being mentored, fueling their creativity, participating in the community, increasing their accountability, and being willing to adapt.

Leaders are people who have mastered followership. They have paid their dues and now people see them as someone worth following. Followers are leaders in the making.

As you can probably gather, I am not suggesting that you blindly follow whichever person, organization, or idea that you stumble across. “Blind” following never did anyone any good. But, if you follow with intention–with the desire to grow and better yourself as a person, the results will blow you away.

The key is to follow the right things. And when you can develop the wisdom to know the difference, following will change your life.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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