Leadership in five

A first-up five-minute focus to kick start your leadership week.

Monday can be a challenge for leaders … a busy week ahead, teams suffering from varying conditions of Mondayitis and, of course, your own level of post-weekend fatigue all upon you in an instant.

I’ve been there! Inevitably someone rugby tackles you with an issue before you even reach your desk and before you know it you are torpedo punted into the working week.

I want to give you a five-minute must-do process that will help set the scene for a focused week to come, setting you on track to achieve some wins and positive progress.

There is an important rider for this process…

It has to become a HABIT, the first thing you do when you get to your desk, a non-negotiable, walk in the door, not to-be-distracted-from routine.

When we embed small habits at work, they can over time collectively create more powerful change. By deliberately keeping this process simple and setting a time limit for completion, you are more likely to stick to it – and to see results.

What you will need:

  • pen
  • paper (coloured if poss!)
  • a smiling face.

Why write instead of type?

Research has shown that we process information more deeply when we write it down rather than type it. Although it may take a little longer, recording this way will commit the list to your memory more readily.

Why the smiling face?

It sounds cheesy but when we smile, it has an interesting effect on our mood. Again, research supports that our moods are actually reinforced by our facial expressions. Smiling could therefore in fact set the scene for a happier week at work.

“When we embed small habits at work, they can over time collectively create more powerful change.”

So here goes – make this your must-do weekly manifesto.

Write down the number one work and personal priority you wish to achieve by the end of Monday. Then, write down the number one work and personal priority you wish to achieve by Friday.

Record how you will self-develop your leadership skills for at least 10 minutes each day during the week, e.g. reading a leadership book, sourcing and reading a new article and talking to a colleague about an issue you have.

List three ways you will endeavour to boost engagement within your team during the week, e.g. I will ask for feedback, give feedback, run a values-building activity, schedule an interactive meeting and award three people for small wins.

Stick the paper prominently in your draw or somewhere where only you can see it – but somewhere that it will be in your face regularly such as in your stationery draw.

Simple. Quick. A commitment and focus

We are at work for a third of our day, so we deserve to make it as enjoyable for ourselves and others as possible. Stop and read what you have written. Try not to spend more than five minutes writing your list. It’s important to keep it concise and actionable.

In their book The Progress Principle: Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer describe how when we set small goals and make a series of small wins, we feel more engaged and happy. This is, therefore, a great exercise to introduce with your team as well.

The power of “progress”…

Advancing, making progress is a fundamental need we have to feel content in the workplace. For both you and your team, making headway on work that matters is a big motivator.

One final thing: don’t forget to re-address the list on Friday before you go home. Assess the decisions you made to assist you in advance to set the focus for leadership the following week. Reward your success!

Lexie Wilkins, Culture and Employee-Engagement Expert and Director, Lexie Wilkins Consulting

This story first appeared in issue 24 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.

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