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Leadership Unlimited

Leadership Unlimited is a career column by Terry Wall, MBA '97. Terry is a recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, who will share his experiences and tips each month.

Alumni are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for future column topics to

"You Want Me To Do What?!"
February 2015

My outraged friend seemed to be coming through the phone, which I held a little away from my ear as he said, "You want me to do what?!"

This happened several years ago. All I had done was give a suggestion on how he might improve his effectiveness as a manager. He was one of the best managers I had come across. I can't even remember the specifics of what prompted my suggestion. All I know is Bill considered it pretty radical.

My suggestion was, "Bill, you need to periodically shut the door, put your feet up on the desk, lean back, and...think."

"You want me to do what?!"

"Think." For a fast-paced, bottom-line, action-oriented guy like Bill, this was hard to take. Like a lot of capable managers and leaders, Bill was always busy, too busy to take time to just sit back and think. And he told me so in no uncertain terms. The next week, he called back and said that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all.

This is important, especially in today's world of 24-7 connections to technology. With computers, cell phones, pagers, beepers, Blackberries, and iPads, iPhones, not to mention old-fashioned technology like TV and radio, when do we ever get time for the solitude of thinking?

Sure, we feel that the work we're doing is always more important, but it's not. Not always, anyway.

We need time, uninterrupted time, to just think. And what do we think about? For starters, what is it we're doing, how well we are doing it, and how can we improve. Lots of times, we'll come to the conclusion that we're doing too many of the wrong things, and not enough of the right things.

As someone once said, efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

I think about this when I'm on a train, and see everyone on cell phones, or their heads buried in books, or their glazed eyes glued to the laptop screen. I wonder, what's wrong with just looking out the window, and watching the scenery sweep by?

In this information age, we're so into audio and visual stimulation. Sometimes we just need to sit back and think.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against getting things done, or taking advantage of downtime. I just feel that sometimes we need to step back and look at the bigger picture of what we're doing, and how we can be more effective.

If you're a manager, you can think about how you can do a better job of motivating your employees. Or, how you can tap into the employees' vast reservoir of experience to come up with innovative ways to create, or manufacture, or market. The possibilities are endless, but it requires quiet time.

For other leaders, you can think about improving the relationships you have with others. How you can do a better job of promoting teamwork, employee engagement, building trust, or achieving goals.

You don't have to wait till the end of the calendar year, or the fiscal year. Any time is always a good time to evaluate what you've done in the previous 12 months, and to develop goals for the next 12 months. And one of those goals should be to schedule time to think.

Time really is precious. Use it wisely.


About the Author

Terry Wall

Terry Wall, MBA '97, accelerates success for individuals and organizations. For individuals, he accelerates success through coaching. For organizations, he accelerates success by building winning teams, working with management teams in groups. Either way, Terry teaches people how to improve how they manage and lead, so that they and their direct reports are more engaged in their work, more committed to organizational goals, and more productive in what they do.

That accelerates success. That improves profitability.

Terry specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, change management, corporate culture, and productivity improvement. He works in a wide range of industries, including service and manufacturing, non-profit, and large and small organizations. He is a skilled facilitator who provides coaching on individual, executive, or team levels.

A recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, Terry has a B.A. in psychology from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, and an MBA from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is a professional speaker, and a professional writer who coauthored a book on teambuilding, and has been published in many publications.

Terry Wall accelerates success, and improves profitability, for individuals, teams, and organizations.

Issue Archive

October 2009
4 Best Practices to Destroy Employee Retention

January 2010
What is Responsibility Based Management, Engaging Leadership?

February 2010
Do You Have a Leadership Deficit?

March 2010
Trust is the Foundation of Leadership, Teamwork, Sales

June 2010
Look in the Mirror First, but Beware of Blind Spots

August 2010
Five Strategies to Improve Company Profitability

October 2010
The Leader's Role as Teacher, and the Threat to Put My Hand in the Shredder

December 2010
The First 48 Principle of Conflict Resolution

January 2011
Talk Makes People Do Awful Things

March 2011
3 Reasons to Pursue Social Responsibility

April 2011
Visibility is a Great Leadership Strategy

July 2011
Casey Anthony and 4 Dysfunctions of a Team

August 2011
Choice is a Key to Motivation, Engagement

September 2011
Labor Day, and Engagement's Missing Ingredient

February 2012
3 Trends, 4 Questions for Developing Innovative Strategies

September 2012
Mastering the Art of Public Speaking

December 2012
Leaders Use Purpose to Increase Profitability

January 2013
Leadership Model Accelerates Success, Focuses on 5 Areas

February 2013
Look in the Mirror First, but Beware of Blind Spots

March 2013
The Most Powerful Phrase in Leadership

June 2013
Public Speaking As an Important Leadership Skill, and Three Improvement Tips

July 2013
5 Tips to Avoid Snore-Filled Meetings

August 2013
The Adapt or Get Zapped Approach to Innovation

October 2013
Relentless Communication About Purpose
Engages, Motivates Employees

December 2013
3 Rules to Uncover Your Purpose

January 2014
Increased Employee Engagement Leads To Improved Profitability

February 2014
Leaders Should Embrace Conflict

March 2014
To Promote Values, Preach What You Practice

May 2014
Avoid Death by PowerPoint Presentations

July 2014
14 Strategies for Better Time Management

October 2014
Four Best Practices to Destroy Employee Retention

December 2014
Building Trust Requires the Human Touch

January 2015
5 Strategies to Improve Company Profitability