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The Counter-Intuitive Nature of Slowing Down to Speed Up

When you push people to move faster, shorten deadlines, and bring in more efficient technology, productivity will increase, right?

We all know productivity is important. It fuels growth and bottom line results. So when you push people to move faster, shorten deadlines, and bring in new, more efficient technology, productivity will increase, right?


There are some things that you might have neglected in your quest to be more productive. The biggest one is people and whether they are inspired, motivated and engaged. All of these are impacted for better or worse by you, their leader.

I know it doesn’t seem possible, but when you slow down (bringing your team with you), magically, things speed up. Productivity will increase, deadlines get met (sometimes early) and that new technology you brought in actually gets put to good use.

Take a moment to consider how much more productive you can be when you slow down and take the time to:

Think. You now spend your days reacting to problems and enjoying the rush that this gives you. Spending time alone in thought is something you might be avoiding because it doesn’t seem productive. I would suggest that you spend time with yourself to consider your current impact and your intentions to get better at your leadership and to envision your organization’s future. As you do, notice that spending this time in thought actually creates clarity -- exactly what is needed to speed things up.

Coach people. One of the most common push-backs I hear about coaching (which requires you to slow down to listen and ask questions that will help others find their own answers) is that it takes more time than simply telling them. However, what gets missed in the telling is that connection that coaching provides to help people learn and become more independent. And the confidence they develop in themselves when they discover they are smart enough to think through things on their own will increase productivity and have a bottom line result.

Include others in collective thinking. Instead of handing down edicts, take the time to bring those who care and matter to the decisions that need to be made. When those who are impacted by decisions get to actually participate in them, they gain a collective sense of wisdom. And that means less time training, explaining, defending and pushing to get things done. Even if you have to make a final decision, bringing people in on the ground floor of thinking through the decision will make everyone more productive.

Encourage people in the work they do. Instead of spending so much time pointing out what’s wrong (creating dispirited employees, which can hurt productivity), slow down enough to look for and call out what’s working. Yes, you need to correct things when they go sideways, but interestingly enough, when you notice (out loud) what’s working well, people automatically self-correct and move in that direction. Less time analyzing what’s wrong and more time noticing what’s working means that people learn to move (productively) toward the light of what’s working.

Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? How can you possibly slow down to speed things up? Try it, you’ll see.

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive consulting firm.