Last week’s post on Speed vs. Endurance generated a lot of feedback. In particular, I was struck by one reader’s comments on the challenge leaders face in playing the long game. I’ve reproduced his comments, with permission, in full below:


The tortoise and hare analogy is easy to apply when we are talking about individual endeavour.  Leadership in organisational life is seldom an individual pursuit.


The awareness skill and discipline you name becomes many times more complicated for a leader who not only has to have those qualities for self, but also sense and pace others’ and the team needs.  


In too many organisations I am working with now, within the covid context, this is lacking. It’s a ‘do even more and don’t slow down’ drive — which is unlikely to be sustainable for teams.


His view aligns with my own experience. In fact, ‘do even more and don’t slow down’ seems like a story many of us have been living with for a long time. 


It doesn’t have to be this way. I recently interviewed one leader to understand more about how she goes about shaping an environment of unhurried productivity with her team. Here are three things I learned from her that I think any leader can do to help their teams pace themselves:


  • Remind people of the long game. If all we see in front of us are lists of what needs to be done this week, getting through that list will be our focus. Whenever I’ve taken a step back and asked myself ‘what’s the long game at play here?’ I immediately feel a slight sense of relief and a reminder that it all doesn’t need to be done today. I prioritise what’s most important over the longer term. Every week, remind your team of the long game you’re playing


  • Identify your lead domino. Your ‘Lead Domino’ is the idea of finding that one thing that, if you focused on that first, it would set a bunch of other things in motion, or make everything else easier. How good would that be? It’s kind of like Pareto’s 80/20 principle of focusing on the 20% of things that give you 80% of the results. It might be an action. It might be a person. It might be a conversation. Ask your team “what’s our lead domino this week?”


  • Fiercely prioritise and protect ‘discovery time’. The leader I interviewed was committed to ensuring the team, and every team member, has weekly time to reflect, explore ideas and test assumptions. She’s a master at creating environments where people can create new frames for delivering good work without burning out. For example, she asks “What would happen if we decided to set and stick to our boundaries?” “What are we learning about our operating rhythms and what best serves us?” If we want to be effective over the long term, we need to balance delivery and discovery. Be a leader who helps people create space for both.


Which of these ideas grabs you the most?  And what other tactics do you use to help your people play the long game?





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