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Going Slow To Go Fast

Sometimes a slow pace can be downright infuriating. In our instant-solution, instant-communication society, many love to drive fast, walk fast, talk fast, and act fast. But as a leader, taking the time to proceed more slowly can sometimes be the secret to being more effective.  In any leadership role, there’s a choice to make: jump to the answer alone and save time (which may entail facing roadblocks in the future), or take the time and effort required to bring the team along, so that they are more efficient and can get the job completed. 

In order to build relationships, a leader must ensure that his/her people are on board. Leaders must get to know their team members and learn their motivations. An effective leader explains the vision, the reasons for action and their people’s roles in that plan or initiative. Great leaders seek to win the hearts and minds of their constituents; although this takes time and it does slow them down, paradoxically, without going slow, the team cannot execute fast.  

As an example, I am a member of our home owners association landscape committee. Last year the committee had great intentions, but then jumped in too quickly, without consulting any experts, had a short term approach, got mired in the details. They executed on a few things, but did not look at the bigger long term effects of their decisions.  They needed to slow down, gain consensus, and get necessary stakeholders on board with a master plan, all of which was necessary to go fast later.

Sometimes a ‘going fast’ approach will work, i.e. making a quick and dirty fix to a problem, or cutting corners when necessary. For example, sometimes a software patch is all that is needed vs. a complete rewrite, feeding the kids what’s on hand vs. creating an entire meal from scratch, or charging ahead in an emergency situation with a less than elegant solution to plugging the hole. But when it comes to leadership, the speed of execution is about being effective, credible, patient and willing to listen to all the options, and helping each member of the team define his/her desired outcome in order to gain buy-in and commitment.

When starting a running regimen, you train your body at a slow pace in the beginning to prevent injuries, and then increase your distance gradually so that you can speed up the pace on a conditioned body that is injury-free. Similarly, taking a project in small steps will help the team get on board. This means getting their true commitment to the plan vs. simple compliance to your wishes.

Even though going slow can be infuriating at times, working effectively with others often requires ‘going slow to go fast.’

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