In his article titled Solitude and Leadership, William Deresiewicz describes thinking as, “concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it.” Deresiewicz goes on to say, “Not learning other people’s ideas or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas.”
Many people claim to be masters of multitasking – the ability to do many things at once. Researchers look at multitasking very differently than those who purport to have mastered it. Researcher clearly shows that multitasking is a fallacy; it distracts us from deep thinking. The more we multitask, the more cluttered our minds become. For many of us in leadership, this is a tough pill to swallow because we are constantly juggling multiple tasks at the same time.
There is a substantive difference between purposefully managing multiple tasks and our default responses to multitasking. By default we make decisions without much cognitive engagement . . . generally speaking when multitasking we simply respond without much thought. On the other hand, when we deal with multiple tasks independently, when we press pause and get our mind right first, we take the time to think. We take the important time to develop an idea about the response required of us.
Our instant information world – the immediacy of everything we face from minute to minute – has changed expectations. As leaders, it is imperative that we intentionally take the time to concentrate on each task long enough to develop an idea about it. Of course, there are predictable events that we encounter on a daily basis. Our preparation for these events, our experiences, all help shape the speed and course with which we respond. Nevertheless, we must be discipline-driven in our thinking. We must fight each and every day against default-driven, below the line responses.
I was recently speaking with a good friend about managing our professional schedules. It seems that we sometimes have days that “get away” from us. You know those days – when meeting after meeting seemingly leaves us feeling completely drained. I find myself on these days being unproductive. I find the exhaustion of the pace, the lack of time for thinking, and the stress to be “in the moment” keeping me from being productive.
Our conversation turned to the concept of maintaining margins. Margins are the time we purposefully and intentionally put in the day for recharging, refocusing, and catching-up. Think of it like you are writing (yes . . . with a pen or pencil) on a good, old-fashioned piece of college ruled paper. There are margins – simple lines to delineate between the written work and the edge of the page. Margins help us keep things neat; they provide some order.
As you plan your day – as you schedule future days – give yourself some margins. Plan 10-15 minute times throughout your day – time between commitments – for you to reflect, catch-up, and maintain your focus. No one can be “on” every moment of every day – it takes intentionality and skill. Be purposeful in your work day – build in margins, add travel time, add 15 minutes after long meetings so you can be prepared to be productive for what comes next.
You can’t be at your best unless you are disciplined in the schedule you keep. You can’t make everyone happy; you can’t take every meeting. We have Power of the Team – ask for help when you need it and give help when you can give help. Let’s work together to be at our best by maintaining margins in our lives.
In Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus he shares, “You got to be strong enough to tell people that you will not allow any negativity on your bus.” In fact, Rule #6 says, “No Energy Vampires Allowed” on your bus.
There are “energy vampires” that threaten our work. These “energy vampires” blame, complain, and defend their pessimism. It is easy to be negative – it becomes an organizational default if it is permitted to plant roots. We must be purposeful in our actions; we must be intentional in our actions. We must, with skill and purpose, tell people with negative energy that there is no place for negativism in our organization.
Leadership is tough in good times; it takes discipline and skill during challenging times. The tough conversations require us to get our minds right and to step up.
You know the energy vampires on your team. I bet you are identifying them in your self-talk right now. So, what are you going to do about it? Next time you are confronted by these energy vampires, how will you press pause, get your mind right, and step up? It is predictable – be prepared.
You are strong enough. I have confidence in you. Leadership requires you to be purposeful with your expectation for optimism, to be intentional in demands for behavior, and to be skillful sharing clear expectations. Leadership isn’t easy – be prepared.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller
I have faith. I have faith in our vision, in our values, and in our mission. I have faith in you – in our team. I have faith that we are creating a better future for the next generation of Americans. I am an optimist; I can’t imagine living my life any other way.
We live in challenging times. Pessimism, complaining, and blaming are made easy – for many it is their default. We hear those squeaky wheels and we read those know-it-all critics. From the stands at a sporting event to the talking heads on television, from the editorials in the paper to the posts on social media, there are venues for those with grievances.
We must drown out the voices of negativity. We must overwhelm the pessimists with our energy, with our purpose, and yes . . . with our optimism. Folks, you are in the wrong business if you don’t believe in the work. Your optimism, your leadership, will lead to great achievement.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
We are on a journey together . . . a journey to ready today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges. Our work is simple, yet incredibly complex. Each day is a battle to stay Above the Line; each day is a struggle to live our lives with intentionality, on purpose, and with skill.
We are going to be successful; we will grow with our successes. We will experience failures; we will learn from our failures. What we will not do is stop. We will face critics, we will face those who want school to look like it used to look, and we will face those, even within our ranks, who resist our passion for growth. These people – those who operate by default and resist change – will not bring us down.
We have the courage to continue. We are committed to our values; we will be relentless in our pursuit of excellence. The time is now . . . the journey has started. Each and every day summon that courage to continue – that is what counts.
“I am not perfect and strive to fix the problem areas in my life.” – Urban Meyer, 9 Units Strong
No one is perfect; no one is even close. We are all broken; we all live lives of imperfection. We make mistakes each and every day. We fall below the line, we operate by default, and we take the easy road.
Living a discipline-driven life, living Above the Line, is about identifying our weaknesses and relentlessly striving to improve. It is a journey without a destination; we will never live lives of perfection. We fight the battle each and every day to be the best we can be. We continually strive to fix the problem areas in our lives and to live our lives on purpose.
We have a huge advantage – we are not fighting our battle alone. We are created to live and work in relationships. We are created to be connected; we have a higher purpose and calling. We have a purposeful community; our work isn’t individualistic.
Build trust and relationships; be disciplined in your desire to grow your community. There is no reason to be alone in your work; live your purpose through and with others.
“My actions, my words, and my attitude are all in alignment with our purpose.” – Urban Meyer
Do what you say and say what you do – this is how we build trust and relationships. It is easy to pontificate about beliefs and expectations, but if our actions don’t match our words it is simply hot air. The events we create for others, the way others experience us, is how we are judged. In education, we create experiences for students, parents, and peers. Are you trust worthy? Are the events you created for others based in integrity?
Now take it a step further – embrace our passion for growth – your attitude must also be aligned with your words and actions. To be elite, to truly inspire others to follow your lead, three aspects must be in alignment.
It is about heart and inner core . . . it is about a presence . . . when your words, actions, and attitude are all in alignment you reach another level of leadership.
Are you here yet? If not, what will it take for your inner core – for your attitude – to embrace our focused vision? It’s not easy; it’s too important to be easy. If you are not there yet, don’t give up. Keep working, keeping asking questions, and keep fighting each and every day to live a discipline-driven life.