Up The Lazy River – Leading Others
The Economist recently published a blog post with a theme sure to warm the hearts of anyone who recently shelled out some coin for the latest management treatise that screamed out the need to cram 25 hours into the day and simply work your competition into the ground. “In praise of laziness” takes to task the current generation of advice-givers who suggest that you must do more than you are doing right now. Within the article are some nuggets to which any leader-manager should pay attention.
First up is a vigorous beat down of the use of electronic mail as a barrier to completing REAL work. In our current digital paradigm, sending and answering email at work, at home, in the car, and on vacation, is becoming a serious competitor for the time that used to be spent doing something of consequence. Instead, we now measure “throughput” as emails answered, or sent, depending on your totem-pole proximity to the fire hydrant. Woe to the person within sniffing distance, who arrives at work each day needing the first four hours of the day just to respond to email.
I recently made a spot check of the four most common position descriptions in my organization to get an idea of what was expected of employees and not one of them mentioned answering emails. I then looked at my sent emails for the month. The average was 12 per day, or about 1.5 per hour at work. Check it out.
Next on the hit list was the pointless meeting. The Dutch apparently coined the term “meeting sickness” to describe their biggest devourer of time. The prospect of “leaning back” and not “in” would surely cause an O-ring to vaporize in some business leaders, but as the article notes, the alternative is to schedule ourselves to death.
Although the examples cited of Gates, and Welch and Collins are as hard to relate to as say, Lincoln, I found interesting the absence of the term “leadership” from the article, except for a reference to world leaders of the past who practiced a sort of strategic inactivity. Emails and meetings are tools of the manager and have their place but they are not the tools of the leader. Nobody ran out and conquered the world, risked their life, or flew close to the sun, after getting an epic email. If there was one affirmation for me, it was that a lot of smart people have twisted this whole paradigm around unholy technology and the illusion of progress tied to the smoke coming from the machine.
If you want to know what’s happening in the hive, don’t listen for the buzz. Check the honey. And don’t do it by email.