“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What House Are You Building? (Part 2 of 4)


Ineffective leaders

Most leaders say the resource they lack most is time. But if you really observe managers for a day, you will see them rushing to meetings, constantly checking their Blackberry, dodging fires, believing they are attending to important matters.

For 10 years, Bruch and Ghoshal observed behaviours of busy managers, and their conclusions: 90% of managers squander their time in all sorts of ineffective actions and activities. A mere 10% of managers spend their time in a committed, purposeful, and reflective manner. These 10% are usually classified as great leaders.

Worst still, psychiatrist John Diamond found that 90% of people “hate their work.” They come to work to punch their time clock and can't wait to go home. The difference between leaders who love their jobs and those that don't they take time daily to re-energise themselves and focus through reflection.


The practice of reflection goes back centuries and is rooted in numerous institutions including the Japanese samurai. Ben Franklin, had a rather systematic approach to reflection, which was a fundamental part of his daily life. He developed a list of 13 virtues and each day he evaluated his leadership relative to these virtues.

A sincere examination of ourselves is never easy. It involves the willingness to face and acknowledge our mistakes, failure and shortcomings. Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Prize winner, believes reflection in life is critical to leadership as it allows you to take into “account what you have neglected in thoughtlessness.”

In business, reflection provides an opportunity to consider the ramifications of the services they provide and how to keep raising the bar. Business grows when they look within.

So, what does one achieve by reflection and contemplation? Productive action relies on a combination of three traits:

1. Focus the ability to zero in on an objective and see the task to completion
2. Energy the vitality that comes from concentrated personal commitment.
3. Learning the ability to correct past mistakes and improve oneself

Focus without energy results in lethargic execution or burnout. Energy without focus leads to aimlessness or artificial busyness. And not learning from your mistakes ensures you repeat them.

All three pieces can only be obtained through reflection. Procrastinators are usually people with low levels of energy and focus. Leaders with high focus but low energy never inspire and generally end up ostracising the troops. Managers with high energy but low focus confuse their employees with chaotic activity.

Reflective managers are purpose-driven with high energy levels, learning from their mistakes. They start their day in reflection to ensure purposeful execution and action.

To be continued

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