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Setting an alarm on her stopwatch for her fitness.

It’s the little things, that over time, create big results.

Setting an alarm on her stopwatch for her fitness.

Over a glass of cool, clear water, I looked at my schedule.  Zoom call 7-8 am, coaching call 8:30 – 9, prep for the workshop at 11, meeting downtown at 1. I thought ‘no way I can get a work out in on a day like this…or can I? Well if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the little things, that over time, create big results.

It’s the little things that make the difference

In the olden days, I would have thought ‘If I don’t have 90 minutes to work out, then what’s the point’.  As my coaching call completed, I made my notes, closed the file, and slipped into my workout gear.

20 squats, 15 push-ups, 10 chin-ups, 10 sit-ups, repeat. Within 12 minutes I’d squeaked out 3 sets, heart pumping, and hit the shower.  12 minutes!  Now if you’re a cross fitter – this type of workout is nothing new. But many people believe if they don’t have 60 minutes or more, there’s no time. There’s time.

My friend Hugh Culver, author of ‘Give Me a Break – the Art of making time work for you’, is a master at finding creative ways to get more done.  As he says, it’s those small habits that done consistently over time, create big results.

He’s a great example. Though he’s run marathons, Ironmans (yes plural), and won ultra distance canoe races, most of his workouts these days are short, 15 minute bursts done in a hotel room before a big keynote.  He’s fit, lean, and has the energy of someone in their 20’s!

So, what does this have to do with Leadership? 

Most leaders know that the success of their organization and teams depends on the engagement and performance of their people. Though they might underestimate how important their role as a leader is in inspiring engagement, at some level they know that it’s the relationship with the leader that can have the biggest impact on an employees experience.

Leaders already know what to do to inspire higher engagement.

  1. Connect with your employees
  2. Help people see a clear and compelling vision.
  3. Provide meaningful feedback and recognition.
  4. Provide opportunities for development and growth.

But there’s no time to do it.

As I’ve worked with leaders around the world from Uruguay to Japan or from England to Canada,  one of the most common complaints I’ll hear is ‘I just don’t have time to coach or mentor my employees’.

No wonder – these days – every leader has their own deliverable’s; Creating new strategies on the fly, analyzing key metrics, meetings with key stakeholders, board meetings, budgets, emails, not to mention your home, family, and community life.  It’s challenging.

But there is a misconception.  Many leaders think that connecting with an employee takes a one hour meeting in a formal setting, or that sharing the vision means a 1-hour All Hands meeting or company wide Video Conference. They may thing that feedback has to be a 1-hour performance review, or that employee engagement means an expensive survey, focus groups, and a new recognition program. While these initiatives can help, there’s another way.

It’s the little things

4 ways to inspire engagement in just 5 minutes a day.

1/ Talk about the vision in your daily conversations

“I was thinking about our vision and how important it is for us all to be challenging the status quo – looking for new ways of doing things.  This will help us to be the ‘best …., or the most environmentally…., or most profitable… [fill in the blank]’.  A great example is our warehouse and distribution team who have ….. .  What are some ideas that come to mind for you?”

When I read the above quotation s-l-o-w-l-y, it takes about 30 seconds – don’t have time to wait for the answer?  Re-frame it;  – ‘hey, I’m really interested in your thoughts on how we can be more innovative, shoot me an email with some of your ideas.’  The best leaders in the world, get people talking  about the vision and their role in it.

Here’s a quick resource on one way to communicate a vision.

2/ Give a piece of Positive Feedback to someone

Whether it’s an employee, a colleague, or even your boss, let someone know you see them, their good work. Give them some positive feedback.

“Diane, thanks for always being so resourceful.  Like that report you pulled together yesterday. I didn’t give you much notice yet you still got the data, did the analysis, included a summary, and gave it to me in power point form. As a result, I was able to share the numbers with the board virtually and get the approval we needed for the abc project. Thank you.”

I read it s-l-o-w-l-y – and it still only took me 30 seconds.  Person works virtually? no problem – phone them. Can’t get a hold of them? email them, and copy their boss.  Then add it to their performance plan – it will save you time later.

The most inspiring leaders in the world take these small moments that over time, earn peoples trust.

Here’s a quick resource on how to give powerful feedback.

3/ Provide opportunities for growth

People often think of growth or development as training.  Yet when I ask executives and employees alike, ‘what was one of the key learning experiences you’ve had in your career?’ – rarely does someone say ‘a course I was on’. That hurts a little cuz I do a lot of training, but it’s true.

Usually, it’s some challenging situation they had to overcome, a special project they were on, or a mentor they had.  Growth can be learning on the job, taking on a new task, or being part of a project team.  The best leaders in the world, find ways to continually develop their people, especially during times of change.

Here’s a resource on creating development opportunities easily.

4/ Simply check-in

Your staff and colleagues know your busy. So when you take the time to check-in and ask how they’re doing, it can be even more powerful. A short zoom call, face-time, or phone call. ‘Hey I just thought I’d check in and see how you’re doing’, or ‘…see how it’s going with the abc project’ or ‘to see how it’s going with home schooling your kids’ – whatever.

If you’re worried the call might go on too long, you can frame it by saying something like, ‘hey I had a few minutes in between meetings and wanted to check-in…’. The employees thinking, ‘wow, she’s this busy and yet still makes time for me?’

Not sure what to ask? Here’s an article with 5 questions you can ask.

I know the metaphor is a bit cliche, but I’ll use it anyway. You wouldn’t expect to be fitter, stronger, or leaner after just one workout at the gym. But if you were to stay with it – over time – those small workouts add up, and the next thing you know, you’re investments have paid off.

Next time you’re thinking ‘I’d like to coach my employee, or talk with a colleague ‘…but I just don’t have time’ – think of the 12 minute work out idea.  and remember

Its’ the small things, that done consistently over time, create big results.  You can do it!  You have the time.

At Lidera, we provide leadership insights and techniques that are easy to use, and get results. Give us a quick call or check out one of our flagship workshops like Coaching for Engagement.


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