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Leadership Paradoxes that Will Put You Ahead
Source: www.karlinsloan.com

You’d think common sense could solve many of your workday challenges. Need to get more work done? Just pick up the pace and maybe add a few hours on the weekend. Need to solve a pressing problem? Devote more time and energy to researching it. Simple, right? 

Wrong. The surprising solution to many management challenges is to do the opposite of what you think you should be doing, says Karlin Sloan, an executive coach and leadership consultant and author of Smarter, Faster, Better: Strategies for Effective, Enduring and Fulfilling Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2007). Try the following “counterintuitive strategies,” says Sloan, and you’ll not only see results in the short-term, you’ll also create enthusiasm and endurance for the long-term. 

1. Strengthen your strengths. Many leaders believe getting smarter and better is about fixing weaknesses. Fix your problem spots and you won’t have any problems – you’ll be a leader who can do it all, right? It doesn’t work that way. Those who spend their time trying to turn weaknesses into strengths wind up mediocre in all areas, says Sloan. Instead, she says to focus on your strengths. Know what they are and build on them. You’ll not only become a better leader, you’ll find greater enjoyment in your work. 

2. Slow down to speed up. People often believe that to get more work done, they need to work faster or harder. Often the opposite is true. As Sloan points out, when you work at warp speed, putting in late nights and weekend hours, your brain never gets the downtime it needs to recharge. As a result, it is rarely at its sharpest and most creative. Instead of wishing there were more hours in the day, try ending your day promptly at 5:00 p.m., and don’t work on weekends. Take short breaks throughout the day; just close your eyes and rest for five minutes. You’ll find that stepping out of the fire more often gives you a better perspective, helps you focus, and gives you renewed energy. 

3. Be dumb to be smart. Some managers think they need to have all the answers and if they don’t know something, their reps will think less of them. Not true! The best managers surround themselves with smart people and frequently brainstorm with them to seek out their expertise and perspective. As Sloan puts it, “The smartest people are those who know that others may be even smarter. Ask questions – lots of them.” 

4. To do more, do less. Face it: we all multitask. We figure if we talk on the phone and send emails at the same time – or attend a meeting while monitoring our BlackBerry – we’ll get twice as much done. The reality is that neither task gets done well. Moreover, it can actually wind up taking uslonger to get things done because we dilute the brainpower we devote to each task. To get more done, Sloan says to stop multitasking and instead focus on one thing at a time. Give each task your full attention, and then move on to the next task. You’ll get more done and you’ll be more satisfied with the quality of your work. 

5. To solve a problem, don’t think about the solution. How many times have you been “in the zone” on the treadmill or riding a bicycle and suddenly, when your mind is totally elsewhere, you have an inspiration about a problem that’s been vexing you? This is a common occurrence, says Sloan, because our most creative thinking often happens when our brain is checked out – when we daydream, relax, and just allow ourselves to “zone out.” So next time you’re faced with a tough business problem, don’t over think it – stare out the window or go for a walk or take a short nap. You’re likely to be rewarded with a flash of inspiration. 

For more ideas on becoming a better leader, visit www.karlinsloan.com

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