Why You Need to Slow Down To Speed Up
Listen to Episode 132:
Episode 132 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s exciting to join you again for another episode of Growth Igniters® Radio. And as always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves — and their companies — to their next level of innovation, growth, and success.
Now, one of the enduring themes that we all face in this business world is the unrelenting pressure that constant competition and change puts on us. That’s sometimes a real headache.
Pam Harper: That’s right. And the pressure is only growing more intense.
Scott Harper: You bet.
Pam Harper: Think about it. New technology, fast-changing markets, changing customer expectations, changing employee expectations. My stomach is turning.
Scott Harper: It’s mind-blowing.
Pam Harper: Yes. In fact, one CEO recently told me, “We’re already moving fast and we have to move even faster, without the wheels coming off.” And he looked like he needed Rolaids or Tums. But of course, just as he was feeling pained, all of that pressure comes at a very high personal, as well as a professional cost, especially for leaders.
Fortunately, there are ways to address this so we can accelerate our companies and still live a purpose-centered life. And that’s why we’re happy to be speaking with our colleague and friend, Doctor Liz Bywater.
She’s the Founder and President of Bywater Consulting Group, and the author of Slow Down To Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World.
Liz helps C-suite leaders increase influence and thrive, despite the pressures of our 24/7 world. Her clients include top tier executives at Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Thomson Reuters, Bristol Myers Squibb and more. Liz provides expert commentary for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Fast Company, and she’s been a featured guest on CBS Radio, Philadelphia Agenda and Remarkable Women.
She’s a long-standing member of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Advancement of Consulting, where we know her. And of course, you can read her full bio by going to Growth Igniters Radio, episode 132, and scrolling down to the Bio section.
Liz, welcome to Growth Igniters Radio.
Liz Bywater: Thank you Pam and Scott. It’s wonderful to be here with you.
Pam Harper: Tell us a bit about yourself, and also why you wrote this book.
Liz Bywater: Happy to do that. I will give you just a brief snippet about who I am and the work that I do, and then we can roll right into talking about the book, because they’re very much related.
I work with C-suite executives and other top level leaders, often at Fortune 50 or even Fortune 20 organizations, and sometimes somewhat smaller, typically billion-dollar and up organizations, helping them to lead successfully, drive innovation, increase creativity and engagement, grow their organizations, and be successful amid the incredible pressure that you mentioned, the intensity of getting better, faster, more sustainable results without the myriad mistakes that can come along the way when you’re just going too quickly.
And that’s really why I wrote the book, because I’m seeing with my clients all the time the intense desire and pressure to be successful, to beat the competition, to drive innovation, and all of that important stuff, without really a heck of a lot of time to breathe, much less think or be proactive, and strategic, and thoughtful despite best intentions.
And that really is part of what drove my desire to put together some of the thoughts and concepts and activities that I use with my clients in my consulting work, and consolidate them into a quick read highly actionable pragmatic sort of handbook, on how to be effective in that climate.
Pam Harper: I definitely see that. I recently read this book − it’s only a couple of months old − and I was thinking about, as I was reading it, the truth of how you really have to slow down to speed up. It must’ve been a little bit like that for you too when you were putting it together.
Liz Bywater: Absolutely. It’s interesting. Much of the reason for putting together the book, as I say, was related to what I’m seeing with my clients, but frankly, it wasn’t only about that because as a business owner, as a working mother, I find often myself feeling quite busy, excessively busy and uncomfortably so. And I realized, hey, I really need to practice what I preach. And part of that process was blocking out time, being thoughtful and strategic in the way I was creating tools and ways to implement a more strategic and effective approach for myself, as well as for the clients I work with.
Pam Harper: What’s interesting too is that you use yourself in your examples. So you are willing to go through the exercises and exemplify what you’re expecting others to do.
Liz Bywater: Well, I think it’s important. Nobody wants to be preached to, nobody wants to read kind of the management or leadership thought of the day that might seem like it’s too academic, or a fad or a trend, and I thought, you know what? I think this thing really works. I think these concepts are really true, not only because I see the impact with the executives I’m working with, but also because, like you said, I went through this thought process myself. I sat down, I did the work, and I realized how really applicable these activities are to helping accelerate success and drive us to the goals that are really meaningful, important, and to use your phrase, purpose-driven.
Scott Harper: Both Pam and I were in the corporate environment before we did Business Advancement Incorporated, and it definitely was go, go, go, get it done, get it done. And as I looked at your book the old aphorism came to mind, “If you don’t have time to do it right, do you have time to do it over?” So, what happens when business leaders and teams move too fast and get ahead of themselves?
Liz Bywater: Well, I think there are a number of difficulties that arise from moving too quickly. Certainly one is that mistakes get made. Really preventable mistakes get made because there isn’t enough time to think it through, to be proactive, to strategize, to anticipate where problems may come, to communicate and align with all of the partners that need to be part of the solution. So these regrettable repetitions happen, and they cost time, effort, money, and sometimes they lead to a real impact on morale and even retention of key employees.
I think you also miss out on important opportunities. We’re so busy rushing and putting out fires, that we forget to focus on what are the things that are really going to have an impact. What are the way to get ahead of the market, rather than just trying to keep up and survive?
Pam Harper: Liz, one of the things that I also liked about your book is that you had all these stories of people who were experiencing what you’re talking about. Can you share a story?
Liz Bywater: Sure. I’ll tell you a story of a business owner I was working with. I primarily do work with senior executives in corporate America, but this happens to be one of my private mentorees, and she has been in her business for many years. Very accomplished, really bright, talented person, and she came to me at a point where she had an incredible opportunity to sell an important project to a client that would not only have a remarkable impact for the client, but it would be a game changer for her and her business. It would allow her to open up new markets, new opportunities, and sort of create a legacy for herself, something that would last many, many years to come.
She was very excited, and she was also overwhelmed, because she had been going so quickly, and had so many different things happening at the same time, that she wasn’t giving this opportunity the time, attention and kind of proactive thought that she needed to.
As a result, she was really on the cusp of potentially losing the project. She hadn’t properly engaged her new client. She hadn’t engaged with the proper partners, she hadn’t laid it out effectively, and she was frankly not as available as she needed to be for this particular project to hit the ground running. So she came to me for some advice on how to … she didn’t frame it this way, but it turned out this is what she needed, how to slow down and get control over the situation, get control over her business.
And we worked really closely together and gave her not only a leg up on this particular opportunity, which she successfully was able to sell and implement, but also a much more strategic thoughtful approach to running her business, and in fact approaching her day-to-day life.
And she came out feeling in better control, happier, more satisfied, more optimistic, and of course landing this really incredible legacy project.
Pam Harper: That’s a wonderful story. Is it often that people are in that almost crisis situation, in order to get to that point? Or could somebody approach it more proactively?
Liz Bywater: I think people sometimes come to the work or come to the revelation when they are in near crisis, but it’s always better and more effective to be proactive about it. So why wait until things are on fire all around you? Why not engage when there’s a new opportunity that you want to make sure that you are maximizing it, and you’re optimizing.
For instance, if you are an executive with a new job opportunity, and you want to really hit the ground running, or if you’re a CEO and you’re looking at buying a new business and you want to make sure you’re doing it right so that the purchase and the integration goes smoothly and well and you’re able to maximize all of the benefits, to come to this approach and perhaps to engage somebody like me or like you and Scott, to say, “Hey, how do you help us do this more effectively without making mistakes that we then have to backtrack and fix?” That’s the best time. It’s really the most effective time to embrace this mentality.
Scott Harper: So you really have to take a step back from being busy, and slow down. What are the advantages to that?
Liz Bywater: Well, yeah. I call it taking a break from the busyness of business. And we all know this. Whether you are a Fortune 500 executive or an entrepreneur, we all get caught up in the everyday busyness.
And the advantages of slowing down are a multitude. The advantages include being able to pursue the right opportunities and let go of the wrong ones. They allow for you to feel in much better control of your day-to-day life. They allow you to pursue longer-term goals rather than simply grabbing at short-term results. I fact, I see with my clients quite frequently, there is a lot of pressure to hit the numbers, hit the number. While that’s important … we never want to minimize that that is important. Business is about being able to make some dollars and make your investors, and your corporate partners and all of that, feel comfortable and satisfied. At the same time, when that is the primary focus, you really lose sight of how do we grow this business in a way that catapults, that transcends, and isn’t simply about surviving day-to-day.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. And on that note, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back we’ll talk more with Liz Bywater, author of Slow Down to Speed Up, about three ways executives and teams can protect their time in a 24/7 world. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper, that’s me, and Scott Harper. Scott and I are talking today with Doctor Liz Bywater, Founder and President of Bywater Consulting Group, and author of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World.
Liz, how can people find out more about you and your book?
Liz Bywater: There are a few ways they can do that, Pam. The most straightforward way is to go to my all-new website LizBywater.com, where they can read articles, check out podcasts, look at videos, sign up for my newsletter, which is Liz On Leadership, and they can even download a sample chapter of the new book Slow Down to Speed Up.
They can find me on Twitter, which is @DoctorLizBywater. They can read my column on Life Science Leader magazine, which is called Doctor Liz On Leadership. And they can also go to Amazon and check out the new book itself, and it’s called Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed, and Thrive in a 24/7 World.
Pam Harper: You can also find more in the resources section for this episode, by going to GrowthIgniterRadio.com and selecting episode 132.
Liz, we’ve been talking about finding and protecting our time in this 24/7 world. Let’s talk about the three top ways that executives and teams can do this. We’ll go one at a time.
Liz Bywater: Well, I’ll tell you, Pam. All three ways are going to be related to taking time to be strategic, focused on what matters the most, and really deliberate about saying no to things that are less important or a lower priority.
So the first one requires being thoughtful and very deliberate about scheduling what I call strategic pauses. And these are breaks in the action that can occur on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis, where you are taking time, and this is individually as a leader, and it can also be with your leadership team and your organization, to think, I mean, really think. Slow down from the busyness of the everyday, consider, reflect, plan, be more proactive than reactive.
This might be time when you are meeting with key stakeholders to align on an approach, where you are preparing an important presentation for the board, where you are getting yourself in a calmer, more peaceful confidence state before you have an important conversation.
But these sort of strategic pauses often get ignored or neglected as sort of perceived luxuries, but in fact, they are essential tools for being effective in today’s busy world.
Scott Harper: Now, the advantage of doing this is removing ourselves from a stressed mindset, because we know that if we get too stressed we get overwhelmed. We get into that fight or flight sort of thing, where we reach for the easy thing to do, the habitual thing to do, and we don’t think as strategically. We make so many automatic decisions that we could lose out on something that would be an even better decision.
So slowing down calms the mind, as you say, and bring up a whole new realm of creativity.
Liz Bywater: Absolutely true, Scott. None of us does our best work when we are ducking under the desk for cover because there’s too much coming at us too quickly, and there’s too much pressure. So this does it, unleashes our creativity, it lets us make good decisions, it allows us to communicate clearly and effectively. It’s just important stuff to do.
Pam Harper: Just one quick follow-up to that before we get to the second point. How do you help people to get to a place where they’re willing to reframe it that way? Because that’s a big leap.
Liz Bywater: It is. And I think when you help your clients understand … we’re not talking about taking enormous amounts of time. So maybe you’re blocking in 15 minutes at the beginning of a workday, or maybe you’re taking a half hour before you get in your car to go home, or you’re taking an hour on a Friday at five. But you’re finding a time that’s not terribly intrusive into what you’re trying to accomplish every day, but that little bit of time really saves you time. It saves you from making mistakes that you have to fix, it prevents you from going in inadequately prepared, and calm, and focused, and present.
Actually, I found that in talking to my clients about this. In fact, these conversations with my clients are really deliberately scheduled strategic pauses, except it’s not independent. It’s in conversation with me. But it doesn’t really take too much convincing because once they try it, they see how really effective it is. At that point, it’s not such a difficult sell.
Pam Harper: What it sounds like you’re saying is, if you reframe it so that you’re helping them to see that they can work it right into their day, it’s not too intrusive. That’s an important place to start. You start where somebody is.
Liz Bywater: Absolutely. That’s the way to start.
Pam Harper: So let’s talk about the second way that executives and teams can protect their time.
Liz Bywater: The second way is to be really diligent about adhering to strategic priorities. And we talk about priorities all the time, and one of the things I hear from my clients is, “Well, there are so many priorities. We have 50 different priorities. Just take a look at our strategic plan for the year or our goals for the month.” You may have said this to your clients as well, that if you have that many priorities, then you really have no priorities. You just have a lot of things to do.
So one of the activities that I do with my clients and with the leadership teams that I work with, is to get very clear on what truly is most important for driving your goals as an organization and narrow it down, narrow it down to three. Now that’s painful. That takes a lot of work and effort. How can we do that? But it is incredibly liberating because once you figure out what’s really most important, you can craft the way you spend your day, your week, your month, your year as an individual, as a team, as an organization, to drive the most important objectives.
And then you make some decisions. What are the things that happen later? What are the things that you simply take off the plate altogether? What are the things that you personally are going to take care of? What are the things that somebody else can take care of? I call that “Me, not me,” and the former activity I call, “Now, later, never,” very straightforward activities that can help be a reminder and a tool for staying very closely aligned with proceeding with your strategic imperatives.
Scott Harper: And I think you make a really good point with this, in that if everything is important, nothing is important, and the idea that I don’t have to do it all myself. I don’t necessarily have to just throw all my priorities out the window, but if I can distribute them and make sure that other the people in the organization have the strategic awareness, and the strategic framework to think about things and make good decisions, then I can check back every now and then. I don’t have to be hovering over it all the time. That gives me, as a leader, room to breathe, and it also develops other people so that they are even more productive and more effective in what they do.
Liz Bywater: Exactly. It’s really a win all the way around. It allows the leader to operate at a strategic level, to drive those important partnerships and relationships, to step out of the operational execution of the work, and it does build a very strong bench because now you’ve got people who not only can step in and do the work but who ultimately are becoming prepared to take your job, which is good thing, because then it frees you up to take your next opportunity.
Pam Harper: Now, here is a little bit of a wrinkle because a lot of the clients we deal with are growing very, very rapidly, they’re short-staffed, so they don’t have these other people to delegate to. That’s what they say.
We address it, but I’d like to hear what you say, because I have a feeling that what we’ve been talking about would go with that as well. Would you say that’s right?
Liz Bywater: I absolutely do, and I do hear this. And even in the large companies where I’m working, there are fewer and fewer people available to do an ever-growing amount of work. So the physics of the whole thing doesn’t seem to work terribly well.
What I say is this. I think that in those circumstances, it is even more important to be clear about priorities, to take things off the plate that are not essential. And it really leads into kind of the third strategy that I would suggest for staying particularly productive in a 24/7 world, which is to have your no list. Start saying no to things that you simply cannot tackle in the moment. And if you really don’t have anybody else you can delegate to, if you don’t have someone you can outsource the work to, in that case, there are very diplomatic and appropriate ways to say no, or simply not now. Let’s talk about when I can get this for you and just how much of a priority is this request at the moment.
Scott Harper: So how do you prioritize the noes?
Liz Bywater: Well, the noes go back to thinking about what’s most important for achieving your goals, where are the places and to whom can you most productively say no. The reality is, any organization has some politics. You have to be organizationally savvy, so you may not want to say to your boss’s boss, “Hey. I can’t do that for you.” There might be times that you have to say yes even though you don’t want to, but you might be able to employ your boss, for instance, in what’s an effective way around this. How do we make sure that your boss gets what he or she is asking for, but I can still achieve what you’ve asked me to do and what I’m looking to achieve?
I think the more you communicate with the different people involved in decisions and pushing forward priorities, the less you ruffle feathers inappropriately or unproductively, and the better you can all work together to drive a successful outcome.
Pam Harper: So it’s focusing on what we can do, as opposed to what we can’t do.
Liz Bywater: Absolutely, Pam. And I’ll tell you what. One of the frameworks I’ll give you a quick peek at is something I call CIA, and it’s not what most people are thinking. But CIA stands for Control, Influence and Accept or Adapt. There are things that are within our control. There are things that we can comfortably say no to because we have the authority to say no to, things that are not within our direct control. We may simply be able to influence, and influence is done through relationships and communication and having those important discussions.
And frankly, there are some things that we can neither control nor influence, and for those things, we have to figure out an adaptation. We have to accept, this is my situation. How do I adapt? What else might I push back or take off my plate, or do more quickly and effectively so I create time to do this other thing that has landed on my plate?
Pam Harper: So it ultimately comes down to being mindful and making choices about what’s going to serve everyone best.
Liz Bywater: That’s absolutely right. Being mindful, being thoughtful, having key decisions so that the decisions that you are making fit well with key stakeholders.
Pam Harper: Exactly. We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back we’ll talk more with Doctor Liz Bywater, Founder and President of Bywater Consulting Group and author of Slow Down to Speed Up, about immediately useful ideas for slowing down and speeding up. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com
Now, Pam, we’ve been talking about slowing down to speed up, and sometimes the reflection that this takes brings us face-to-face with confronting an issue that everyone sees but nobody wants to face. It’s that elephant in the room. But leaving these issues unaddressed can be a huge cost in time, energy, and resources. That’s why we’ve written a Harper report called Taking Control of the Elephant in the Room.
Pam Harper: This is one of our more popular reports because it’s practical and addresses an issue that every leader and team faces at one point or another, especially when we’re moving fast.
In fact, one executive team was able to shave six months off the time of their product launch and save millions of dollars by taking control of the elephants that were in their room.
Scott Harper: So go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, select episode 132 and request your complimentary copy of “How to Take Control of the Elephant” in the Room, by going to the resources section. And while you’re there, check out our other free resources and episodes of Growth Igniters Radio.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Doctor Liz Bywater, Founder and President of Bywater Consulting Group, and author of Slow Down to Speed Up, about leading, succeeding and thriving in a 24/7 world.
Liz, can you remind us again how people can find out more about you and your book?
Liz Bywater: Yes. Absolutely, Pam. Readers and listeners can go straight to LizBywater.com, where they can download a sample chapter of the book, sign up for my newsletter Liz On Leadership, and also check out all kinds of though leadership videos, podcasts, articles and more.
They can send me an email if they’d like to speak directly. Liz@lizbywater.com. And Bywater is just the way it sounds, B-Y-Water. They can also check me out on Twitter, which is @DoctorLizBywater.
Pam Harper: And of course, you can find out more by going to the resources section for this episode, GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 132.
So, we are at the part of our podcast where we talk about the immediately useful ideas that somebody could apply. Somebody’s just finished listening, they’re on an airplane. What’s the first thing they could do, Liz?
Liz Bywater: The first thing they can do is take a good, close look at their calendar, and find places, or probably more realistically create places, where they have unscheduled time, where they block out their strategic pauses.
And I do recommend taking some time each day, even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes, blocking out more time on a weekly basis, maybe half an hour to an hour, on a monthly basis maybe it’s a couple of hours and so forth, where on an annual basis maybe you’re meeting with your organization, with your leadership team for a couple of days, where you’re really doing a deep dive into what’s most important for success moving forward.
So that would be the very first thing to do, is to take a look at your calendar and block in your strategic pauses.
Pam Harper: And it’s very important for it to be something that would be natural for somebody to do. You’re not making it up, it’s not something you have to go, “Oh my gosh, now I have to create this time.”
Liz Bywater: Well, exactly. And if you work in an organization and you have many people trying to get time with you and simply putting meetings on your calendar, then engage your administrative assistant, or you yourself block out time that looks like you are doing something that cannot be interrupted.
Scott Harper: Okay. So what’s a second immediately thing people can do after they block out this time?
Liz Bywater: The second thing they can do is take a look at everything that’s on their list of things to do over the next week or even month, and start taking things off the list, so they can create what we can call and no list. I’m going to say no to the following, the following meetings, the following requests, the following … Maybe have some ideas of your own that you’d like to pursue but they’re not really the most important ones, or the most pressing.
So create the list of things that you’re going to take off the list or start saying no to, and when you do that you can decide, am I saying no because it’s something I’m doing later, or something I’m never going to do now, later, never? And you can also decide, am I saying no because I’m going to give this to somebody else. Is it me? Not me? And if it’s not me, then who will I be able to delegate or offer this opportunity to?
Pam Harper: That’s right. We don’t have to do it all ourselves. And that’s the most important thing that some people feel like they have to do it. They’re the only ones who can do it, but you’re saying and we say, no, that’s not true.
Liz Bywater: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Yeah. The one thing that you can’t delegate is that reflection time, the downtime.
And going back to that, just a moment, how does someone … you schedule it, but how does someone structure that downtime, so that they’re not just sitting there going, “What do I do now?” How do I focus in on making that a productive reflection?
Liz Bywater: Well, Scott, if people take a look at the book Slow Down to Speed Up, I have plenty of prompts that will help them figure out what are the right kinds of reflections, what question should I be asking, what should I be looking at.
I can hand you a couple right now that people can start using, including if it’s a daily strategic pause, you can start the day by saying, “What is really most important for me to accomplish today? What do I need to achieve? How will I best achieve it? What will I say no to? Who do I need to meet with?” and so on. So that can be a daily reflection.
On a weekly or monthly basis, you can start looking out a little bit further into the future. And on an annual basis, what you’re going to be doing is looking at what were the successes of the year gone by, what made us most successful, what are the things I need to do to really have impact in the coming year, what are some of the pivots we need to address and how will we best address them.
So those are just a few that people can start thinking about. Again, plenty, plenty more ideas in the book Slow Down to Speed Up.
Pam Harper: And that would be the third immediately useful idea. I would say, go out and order Slow Down to Speed Up, because again, what I liked about this is that it was very practical, and a lot of these exercises and tools that you’re referring to are actually contained in the book. That gives people a chance to access that and some of the other things that you were talking about.
Scott Harper: And put it in practice.
Pam Harper: Liz, this has been great. The time has flown by. Is there any final thought you’d like to leave us with on this?
Liz Bywater: Well, the final thought would be for everyone who was listening today, don’t think of this slow down to speed up mentality as meaning you’re simply slowing down. This is not about taking your time, dragging your feet, missing opportunities. It’s not a luxury. What it really is, is finding a very thoughtful, proactive, strategic approach, to getting the right things done, doing the things that drive value, that give you a sense of satisfaction, that ultimately will allow you to have the impact and leave the legacy you’re looking to lead.
Scott Harper: Focus for high performance.
Liz Bywater: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Pam Harper: Thanks, Liz.
Liz Bywater: It’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me. This has really been a lot of fun.
Scott Harper: It has, Liz. Thanks so much. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper.
To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, read Liz’s bio, or open a conversation with us, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com and select episode 132.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: … and Scott Harper …
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to reflect upon:
Scott Harper: What are the ways that I am going to use so slow down so I can speed up?