As we wind down the year, we’re told as executive leaders to start thinking about goals and resolutions for the New Year. But before you rush off willy-nilly into what new projects and initiatives you’re going to tackle in the next twelve months, you might need to think about what you’ll let go of so that you can make room for the new stuff.
For instance, I was in a Sunrise Yoga class the day after Thanksgiving, sweating my you-know-what off, and our instructor encouraged us to check our thoughts about the past and our worries about the future at the door. “Because, you see,” he went on, “you need to get rid of all of the toxins and all of that ‘crap’ to make space for what’s possible right now.”
I began to think about how true this is, not only in yoga class, but in life in general. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have days when we feel like the “hot mess express,” and I’ve certainly had my share of those days. Please don’t hit delete and move on to your next email or pressing item, but hang with me for a moment. I promise I won’t get all soft and new agey on you.
My family can tell you I love to do some purging of stuff around the house and office. I’m like the anti-hoarder (I think that at times my kids have been afraid that I was going to haul them out to the curb, too!). But I just love the clean, light feeling of making space in my physical environment. My mantra has long been “outer clutter = inner chaos.”
This runs true in organizations as well. We all have to clear out the clutter in our leadership practices, as well, so that we can have room for new, improved, and exciting ways of doing things.
8 tips for clearing out your leadership and organizational clutter:
1. Kick the status quo to the curb. Similar to cleaning out your closets, just because it’s familiar, doesn’t mean it’s your best look. Get out of your comfort zone. Often we hold onto shoes, habits, and ways of doing things because they’re familiar, and “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” (Or those are the shoes we usually wear with those pants/that dress.) Shake things up a bit.
2. Reassess and ditch processes and systems that have become inefficient. Tom Peters said “Over time, even a beautiful system tends to get elaborated and elaborated. We end up serving the system instead of having the system serve us.”
3. Sweep out those snarky thoughts about people. “Assume the best, and confirm the rest.” Assume positive intent.
4. Stop spending time with those soul-sucking people who drain the life out of you. This will create space for you to be able to invest in the people who add value to your life.
5. Clear your calendar of meaningless meetings. Or find a way to make them meaningful. Ask yourself if each meeting is a productive use of your time. If it’s not, could the information be shared via email? Save the meetings for the things that need to be batted around, cussed, and discussed, eyeball to eyeball.
6. Get rid of those habits that aren’t serving you. Addicted to your phone? (BTW, NO one ever admits this.) Try setting some boundaries for yourself. Put them away during more of your interactions so that you can really be present to your team.
7. Banish bureaucracy. Organization expert Cynthia Kyriazis said, “Clutter is symptomatic of delayed decision making.” Same is true in organizations. When “the boss” has to make each and every little cotton-pickin’ decision, he or she usually become the bottleneck. Bureaucracy is the clutter of many organizations today, and it slows everything down and creates resentment and frustration.
8. Dispose of the stuff and focus on creating experiences. For the past few years, my husband and I decided that instead of buying a bunch of stuff for our kids for Christmas, we instead wanted to create experiences and make memories with them. We invested in family vacations, gone to Jazz Fest, and spent a lot of time fishing and beaching together. How could you replicate this in your work? Could you be more intentional about how you want people to experience you?
Of course I’m not telling you to be a neat freak, nor do I want to insinuate that I am a neat freak, because I most definitely am not! But, just like we need to clear out the physical clutter in our homes and offices, we need to regularly clean up and clear out the metaphorical clutter in our leadership and organizations.
- How will you make this “purging” a regular practice going forward?
- What habits or practices will you get rid of to make space for new and improved ways of doing things?
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems