Let's explore simple ways you can unlock your leadership potential by investing in your most valuable leadership assets.
Imagine if I asked you about your greatest leadership assets. What would come to mind?
You’d probably mention your strengths and abilities, which are indeed valuable assets. However, I’d like to propose that there are three even more valuable assets that leaders often overlook: your brain, your time, and your relationships.
I mean can you think of anything more valuable to you than your brain, your time, and your relationships?
Your brain is where your brilliance is.
Your time is a non-renewable resource that you prioritize to reach your goals.
And your relationships are what give you access to opportunities to leverage your brilliance and optimize your time.
Unfortunately, these leadership assets tend to take a backseat because many leaders are convinced that the day-to-day demands of their work must be job one. Everything else needs to wait until they have more time.
But they never have more time because they always prioritize something else over intentionally investing time in their most important leadership assets.
It reminds me of Habit 7 in Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”; Sharpen the Saw.
Mr. Covey tells the story of a man struggling for hours to see down a tree. It’s suggested that he take a break to sharpen his saw so the tree can come down faster, and the man answers; “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing”.
Similarly, many leaders don’t prioritize nurturing and investing their key leadership assets because their too busy “sawing”.
I want to show you how investing just a few minutes in sharpening these assets can deliver better ideas, reduced stress, improved focus, increased enjoyment, and decreased rumination and self-judgment.
Let’s explore simple ways you can unlock your leadership potential by investing in sharpening your brain, using your time, and building relationships.
Sharpen Your Brain
Your brain can get overloaded. In order to keep it sharp, you need to clean up the overload because when your brain is overloaded it doesn’t function optimally. So much space is taken up with replaying the day’s events, remembering to do things, being annoyed with people or when things go sideways, worrying about deliverables, being confused about the “right” decision to make, etc.
And if you keep adding to the overload, you’ll get burnt out. And you’ll blame it on the work. But the truth is, you’re not investing time (and sometimes money) in sharpening one of your most important leadership assets.
The best way to keep your brain sharp is to;
- Journal: Get all thoughts out of your head on a daily basis. Not only is it a cathartic process, it allows you to see your thoughts in black and white which makes it easier to observe them and decide if all the drama is really necessary.
- Focus on what’s working: In Dan Sullivan’s book The Gap and The Gain, he reminds us that when we focus on the gap (what’s not working) we create more gaps. And when we focus on the gain (what’s working) we create more gain. No matter what happens, take a moment to feel whatever comes up and then ask yourself, how is this working for me (and others on my team)? This will help you let go of “the junk” and move forward.
- Hire a coach. This changed my life because it taught me to unwind a lifetime of useless thinking that slowed down my success. You’ll develop stronger emotional intelligence and self-awareness to not only limit the messiness in your brain but clean it up and get refocused.
Lead Your Time
People think their to do list is happening to them. They think they have to say yes to everything. That is not leading your time… that’s letting time lead you. These are the people who you hear saying “I don’t have enough time”.
Great leaders align their tasks (and their teams) to their objectives and defer or decline everything else. They have a strategy for using their time. And as I always say, a great strategy is about knowing which good ideas to say NO to.
As a leader, it’s your job to lead your time. Here are a couple of strategies to get you started:
- Prioritize ruthlessly: Distinguish between urgent and important tasks. In The 7 Habits, Stephen Covey shares a quadrant map that helps you prioritize. So often, you say yes to everything because you think you have to. But you can use this map as a tool to prioritize your work, and to get the buy-in of your stakeholders.
- Set boundaries: Establish boundaries around your time. I like to suggest people decide how many hours they will work in a week, and make that non-negotiable. By doing this, you stop saying yes to everything and start being more thoughtful about what you commit to and what interruptions you’ll allow.
Develop Trusted Relationships
Inside your organization, relationship building creates a positive and supportive work environment AND when you need help making something happen, the quality of your relationships can be the difference between achieving your goal effectively or not.
Outside the organization, taking the time to nurture and build relationships can help you find work or bring opportunities to your current role. Having a strong relationship network is priceless.
The good news is it doesn’t take a lot to build trusted relationships with people. Here are some simple things you can do
- Care personally: Take a genuine interest in people. Dedicate a few minutes each day to following up on how people are doing. Understand their aspirations and challenges. Show empathy and provide support when needed.
- Be trustworthy: Be reliable and consistent in your actions and communication. Follow through on commitments and maintain transparency.
- Create time for connection: Schedule coffee chats with people inside and outside your organization. These conversations provide an opportunity to listen, connect, and offer support if needed. Doing one of these a week is enough, and by the end of the year, you’ll have 52 intentional connections that have led to so many unintentional opportunities.
Bottom line: If you don’t invest time in nurturing your brain, leading your time and building relationships, your ability to “saw” becomes weaker and weaker.
Remember, these are things you’ll never have time for. You need to intentionally create the time by prioritizing this work as #1. That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours on it each week. But it does mean is the thing you plan first, and the thing you never cancel on.
Prioritizing these leadership assets will make you a more effective leader, reduce stress, enhance focus, and bring greater enjoyment to your work… sounds like a recipe for success to me!