I’ve learned at lot about leadership and management in my time, but the one thing that I really learnt through practical experience, is that leadership (or management) is a minute by minute experience.

I can set goals in the morning for my intended outcomes; I can be meticulous about my time management to ensure that I reach my daily goals, (which of course are stepping stones to my weekly goals – which are stepping stones towards my monthly ones and so on and so forth!), and I can begin the day with a sense of optimism, which usually proves to be unfounded.

Because even  before I start the world conspires to create unexpected obstacles and minute by minute my carefully crafted daily routine is in tatters.

So one day I set some general ideas of where I would like to be at the end of the day and set off to achieve them minute by minute.  I was surprised at the difference that attitude made.

Previously, when I was committed to a set routine and a time-table, any deviation from that caused me stress.  If I had to sort out an unexpected problem, I worried that I was taking time away from my important tasks – the ones I had set myself to achieve that day.  The most important thing in my day was that time-table carefully worked out to make sure I achieve the set programme.

I am sure that you can see the fallacy of that approach!  Eventually, so did I.

Setting goals is really important; creating a time frame to achieve them in is equally important – but making them the most important thing in the day is foolish.  It impairs your ability to be flexible and open to the needs of the day.  Set timetables for set outcomes that do not take heed of the need to change focus causes rigidity – and that can lead to some disastrous mistakes.

I began to view my staff as impediments; they impacted on my ability to keep to my schedule.  Sorting out their problems threw me behind time; responding to different outcomes than I had envisaged hampered my ability to address those issues I had planned for.  I became unwilling to deviate from the schedule and unresponsive to the realities of the workplace.

Luckily I had a good mentor, one who took me aside and explained the inevitable outcome of continuing this rigid practice – and the impact my attitude was having on the rest of the team.

So, as I said earlier I changed my attitude, and I became much more responsive of the immediate issues of the working day.  I realised that I cannot dictate the outcomes of the daily routines just by setting goals.  Inevitably something would come up that changed the situation, created more urgent tasks than my set one or created a complete different set of conditions. I needed to be flexible enough to change direction when circumstances changed.  

More like the Willow tree that bends before the wind; rather than the oak tree that I admired for its strength and rigidity.  But come the storm winds, being unable to give, it breaks.

So now I don’t set rigid deadlines for myself; I try to set achievable goals with the flexibility needed to change direction and even to suspend them if something more important turns up. My original schedules had my day planned almost to the minute, and every minute was accounted for and if I deviated from that timetable I worried for the rest of the day that I would never make up that ‘lost’ time.

Now I only look that proverbial minute ahead. Yes; I still have desired outcomes and I still have a time frame in which to achieve them, but now the timeframe is much more sustainable because I build flexibility into it. 

I am no longer driven to distraction if a team member is unavailable or resources are late, or any  other of the one hundred and one things that can go wrong.  Being committed to flexibility I can work around the problem, often redirecting efforts to other more achievable outcomes, building time available when the original task become viable.

The affect on my stress levels has been quite dramatic … oh, and my team are much happier too!

Learning to commit only to this minute has certainly improved my output.
Michele @ Trischel

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