“What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”
W. H. Davies
Working with a group of senior managers, this quote kept buzzing around and around in my head, as the day was constantly punctuated by the sound of ringing mobile phones. Each ring tone seemed louder and more outlandish than the previous one. Each ring made everyone stop and look as someone dashed out of the room to answer it, or even worse, sat there and talked over everyone else. Every call was treated as “urgent”, every call had to be answered, every call was followed by profuse apologies; “I just had to take that.” “It’s manic at the moment”. “We are just so busy.” “We just don’t have time at the moment.”
Interestingly, viewed another way, what was really being said, could be interpreted as …look how important I am…I complain at those around and below me for not taking responsibility, but they cannot cope without me…my importance is proven by how busy I am…if I treat the call as urgent, then it must be important.
In the middle of such hustle and confusion, decisions are made or not, on the hoof. There is no time to reflect, to connect with the overall vision and purpose of what you are doing at the moment; checking the alignment with current objectives; giving yourself the space to allow your wisdom and experience to come into play.
Robert Holden says: “Leadership is learning to stop, if only for a few minutes, in order to take control.”
A few years ago, I had the privilege of working with a board of directors, one of whom was from Senegal, whilst he had sought education, and had become a lawyer; his twin brother still remained in the same village in Africa. Regularly, when faced with change, doing something different, particularly changing how the board worked together; the response was “we don’t have enough time”.
Catching a twinkle in his eye, I invited Joseph to comment. He said;
“Well Paul, it is very interesting, in the western world you have many watches, but no time; in Africa we have no watches, but lots of time.”