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Going slow is about working smart, not about doing less

Coach's Corner--February 9, 2009

The Client
Name: Jason
Age: 38
Title: Manager, Data security
Industry: Telecommunications
Issue: Working slower but better

Q. Your advice is always to slow down and take a look at a situation before acting. But my team and I are up to our necks in alligators and we're supposed to do more with less. Where do we find time to slow down? We need to produce.

A. Measure twice, cut once. This deliberate approach makes sense for building a house or making a dress. It's harder to see when working with people, but it's just as important.

The inner game
Slowing down is not about doing less; it is about working more effectively and efficiently.

Understand the cost of haste. For many of my clients, much of the pressures they face comes from fixing mistakes. Look at the projects that you and your team work on. What happens on rush jobs when you have insufficient time to plan? Consider the impact on quality and cost, along with the effect it has on morale when people know that they can't do their best work.

Picture a better way. If you had the time, how would you operate?  Recall initiatives where you've had time to plan. Or remember back to a time when you've felt even a little less pressed.  Notice what is different in how you gather information, anticipate issues, organize people and do quality checks.  Then, visualize how your current environment would feel if you adopted some of those strategies. Picture a slower, more deliberative approach that is also more productive.

Consider your skills. Assess your ability to manage ambiguity -- going slower can require you to deal with some uncertainty.  In addition, you'll need to know how to proceed more intentionally. Some people fight fires at work because they don't know how to plan. Doing things differently can cause anxiety. Look at your inner reactions so that they don't pose a barrier to working in a slower but more effective way.

The outer game

Engage your team. Once you've made an inner shift to slowing down, share the perspective with the team. Have regular -- but brief -- discussions about different ways to work. When launching a project, anticipate and discuss issues. Let your team share what they can do -- including ways that they are underutilized or stretched too thin.

Draw the line. As the manager, it's your job to educate your boss and peers about what can be done well. This won't happen overnight, but over time the benefits of a less-frenzied approach will become apparent. Take the time to really understand priorities, so you can help ensure that the right work is getting done.

Adopt a "slow" lifestyle. Realistically, the pressures at work will take time to ease. Becoming more centered and relaxed outside of work will reap benefits at work, too. You'll be more resilient and able to help your team cope. Many of us load more and more activities on ourselves and our families. Consider whether these are really contributing to quality of life, or if they are "shoulds" or just filler.

The last word
Slowing down and doing work once will help your team -- in their morale as well as in delivering the desired results.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted February 8, 2009
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