Slowing down to speed up

The world has always been one of change. But as technology evolves and speeds up our lives, something about the changes we face is different. It is a more extreme shift, more rapid and complex, and the challenges more difficult. In the face of this, leaders work harder and faster to cope. Considered virtues, we even select leaders based on these qualities.

However, in working with top teams, we conclude that just speeding up isn’t the answer. It often makes things more complex, consumes more energy and, in the best case, solves only a part of the challenge.

In fact, we find that if these top teams slow down, they eventually go deeper and faster into achieving their objectives. They deal more effectively with increased complexity and challenges – and they use less energy.

So, why are leaders initially sceptical when asked to slow down? The answer: Most leadership theories continue to be based on – and most leaders still live and work on – the Newtonian world view where leaders strive to control and structure their challenges and guarantee outcomes. Engaging in a quick discussion and moving as fast as possible from A to B in a controlled and straight line fits this world view perfectly.

But the Newtonian world view doesn’t align anymore to help tackle the challenges companies and their leaders face today. In our work with top teams, we perceive that the Quantum world view, as exemplified in Max Planck’s and Albert Einstein’s theories around quantum physics, unlocks fresh possibilities and mindsets.

In the Quantum world view – where everything connects – we accept that our challenges are complex. We recognize, too, that we need to pace the speed of our work, slowing down in some moments for a deeper dialogue and understanding of our challenges and speeding up elsewhere.

Perhaps the most important element of the Quantum world view is knowing that solutions are always available and require only that we be conscious enough to see them. If we are, we set the right attention (we’re fully present) and intention, directing our energy to the solutions we want to emerge.

To become a leader in the Quantum world view, focus on these four steps:

  1. Accept that your challenges are complex.
  2. Pace the speed of your work: Slow down to speed up.
  3. Trust that solutions are always available.
  4. Set the right attention and intention by being present and directing your energy.

Here’s how a leading global telecom company decelerated to then accelerate. Its European sales team asked us to guide them in setting a new strategy and aligning the team. They had been working on that for months without success. In just a couple of two-day sessions, we slowed them down, letting them experience the value of deep dialogues and of setting the right attention and intention.

Despite initial scepticism, they embarked on the process of slowing down their strategy setting process to focus on alignment, and during the first session, jointly defined the most important elements to move their strategy along. Reflecting on those two days, they praised their rich and open dialogues and voiced amazement at how spending a little more time on exploration sped their decision making and didn’t require as much energy or time as they had expected.

Two months after the first session, a team survey revealed that they had already realized significant progress on all prioritized elements, were busy setting new goals, and were much more aligned. They’ve learned through experience that slowing down can really speed you up!

As a CEO of a global agrichemicals company once shared, “what little time you lose in decision making, you gain in execution.”

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