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Business Growth
Feb 4, 2020

The Busyness Mindset - Too Busy To Lead?!

Sponsored Content provided by Lynn Whitesell - Managing Partner, Harris Whitesell Consulting

Let’s face it. We live in a time that glorifies the state of “busyness”. It seems that the most common response to, “How are you?” is “Busy”.

With some people, it is all about perception. They confuse busyness with success. They want to feel, and for others to view them as being successful − so they boast about how many hours they worked, or the number of meetings they attended, or the number of projects they are working on.

When someone tells you “I’m so busy” or “I’ve been in back to back meetings all day”, they are signaling that they are valuable, because they are in demand. In reality though, many people waste a lot of time in unproductive or unnecessary meetings and on other low value tasks.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be active. Working hard is admirable. Through our leadership coaching and development, however, it has become clear that many leaders confuse being busy with being productive. The truth is, when you’re willing to take an honest assessment of your days, to-do lists and time management, you’ll find that the things keeping you busy often tend to also be the things keeping you from real progress.
Do You Struggle to Lead Your Team Because You’re Too Busy?

Leaders are often stifled by the “busyness mindset” in the workplace. Yes, it’s true that successful leaders are busy. But they didn’t get to where they are because they are busy. They got there by working hard and being strategic with their time. We all have days that are busier than normal. If you constantly find yourself unable to undertake general leadership tasks such as reviewing your team’s work and coaching them, or if you are routinely cancelling your one-to-one meetings with employees, you’re falling into patterns of poor leadership. When “too busy” becomes an excuse, you have a problem.

The One Thing Leaders Cannot Delegate

Let’s think about what it means to be a leader. As your sphere of influence grows, so does the demand for your attention and your time. In our coaching, we find that even experienced leaders can become overwhelmed with this extra demand. We know that delegation is a skill that every leader must embrace, and also that it must be executed mindfully. Effective leaders delegate and equip others for the work of the organization. But they must not delegate the one thing that will make the largest difference and determine the future.

Leaders must constantly cast the vision and develop others to reach it. While leaders spend much of their time on multiple tasks and initiatives, none of them should supersede the need of mentoring, nurturing, upskilling and guiding future leaders toward a common vision.

How Do You Know if You Are Too Busy to Lead Effectively?

Many leaders want to do a better job at leading, but they get bogged down doing tasks that take away their time from interacting with their teams. Consider this question – if you are too busy, what are you NOT doing and what is the impact of that?

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you may want to assess how the “busyness mindset” is affecting your leadership effectiveness.

  • Are important items falling off your list?
  • Are you lacking follow-through on commitments to your team?
  • Are you cancelling (or not even scheduling) coaching time with team members?
  • Is turnover on the rise?
  • Have you been “too busy” to increase skills or knowledge for yourself or your team?
  • Is the quality of your team’s product or service on the decline?
  • Are you spending the majority of your time in reactive “fire-fighting” rather than proactive problem-solving?
  • Do you just feel out of control, and stressed out?   

You Decide What is Important

Are you a leader who is very busy all the time? Who stays in the weeds, striving for absolute perfection? Who takes on projects that could, and should, be delegated? Do you feel like you aren’t making any real strides? Does it all feel – hectic? Chances are it is because you are spending too much time focusing on the wrong things. The good news is, you get to decide what is important. You do that with how you allocate your time. You don’t have to work longer hours to work hard. Arguably, the opposite can be true. Think about it − what would you change if you spent 80% of your attention on things that matter to you most?

It takes your energy and attention to appropriately manage your time and ensure your strategy of execution is optimized in a way that most benefits you, your team, and your company. But the value is there and it’s worth investing in. If your aim for your team and for yourself is to be effective – rather than just busy − be a role model for the type of behavior you want to see. You will start to change the culture of your team. 
Harris Whitesell Consulting – Helping Successful Leaders Become More Successful
The Certified Executive Coaches at Harris Whitesell Consulting help CEOs and senior executives achieve positive, measurable, and lasting change in leadership behavior for themselves, their people, and their teams. Our clients also include successful business executives who want to step up their effectiveness, managers transitioning into newly appointed leadership roles, and emerging talent who want to be groomed for succession. Clients achieve success from boosted leadership effectiveness, enhanced reputation, better teamwork and more motivated teams. Their organizations realize increased employee engagement, customer loyalty, business performance, competitive advantage, and stakeholder return.

Lynn Whitesell provides advanced expertise in leadership solutions, organization and culture transformation and executive coaching. In both her role as co-founder and Managing Partner of Harris Whitesell Consulting, LLC, as well as global head of organizational effectiveness, leadership development and enterprise learning for large global organizations over the past 25 years, Lynn has helped create cultures that engage and perform, coached hundreds of teams, leaders and executives, and developed thousands of professionals around the world.

When she is not working, Lynn can be found volunteering at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington - mentoring students as an Executive Mentor with the Cameron Executive Network, speaking at International MBA classes, attending Swain Center for Executive Education Advisory Board meetings, and acting as Vice Chair of the Alumni Association. Lynn also enjoys mentoring and developing leaders as a volunteer with the WILMA Women to Watch Leadership Initiative. 

For more information visit

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