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Sharpen Your Saw: 4 Leadership Strategies to Give Your Team Think Time

When will we get back to the normalcy of a crisis-free day? To the days when we had time to “think” and communicate with coworkers outside our immediate team?

Many of us are likely asking these questions.

In less than three years, we’ve endured a pandemic, workplace transitions, the “Great Resignation,” massive supply chain disruptions, inflation, and increasing market volatility. The speed and stress of change can seem overwhelming at times.

For many teams, they can barely keep their heads afloat as they tread water throughout the day, hoping there will be relief in sight. But we can—and should—control this. Business owners and leaders can provide relief to their teams.

When business leaders tell me they know they need to become more proactive in their planning and risk management, they often say something along the lines of “we agree we need to do this, but we just don’t have the time to do it.”

I typically respond with an axiom a friend once told me: Your workers are out there sawing down trees—working all day as hard as they can to get those trees down. Yet, their saws have become dull. This doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard. It means they aren’t working as efficiently or effectively as they could.

So, are you going to have them stop sawing and sharpen their saws? Once they do, your team will likely saw down more trees over the year than they would have with dull blades. To stop and sharpen the saws, however, implies they are not “working.”

How did we get to this mindset? When did reflecting on your business, your work, and taking time to improve how we work become “not working”?


We are responsible for giving our team members breathing room to carve out time to reflect so they can improve performance.


Steps to Take with Your Team Right Now

Business leaders, take this as a call to action. We are responsible for giving our team members breathing room– to carve out time to reflect so they can improve performance.

To do this, there are four initiatives you should implement tomorrow:

  • Have each of your team members schedule two, 1-hour blocks in their weekly schedule for unstructured time. This is time for them to focus on deep work, reflection on how they are performing, and catch up on learning/development. Protect their time—don’t take them away from this unless it is urgent.  See my White Space PowerPlay™ for how to implement.
  • For managers, encourage them to go to lunch at least once a month with their team, and once a month with their peers. Use the team lunch for bonding and understanding how the team feels it is performing. Meeting with your peers will improve awareness of enterprise issues and successes to improve organizational cohesiveness.
  • Start polling your leadership team about what strategic issues are affecting the business. These are the “how are we doing” questions. Ask for these weekly and discuss them. Too often, we focus only on the tactical issues facing us.
  • Ask your team to start providing realistic estimates—estimates that don’t assume everything must be urgent. We have become so aggressive in getting work done quickly, that we find ourselves working long, crisis hours as the norm, rather than the exception.

You may be concerned that taking time to “think” will make you vulnerable to your competitors in the short-term. But if you don’t provide relief to help your team begin a return to normalcy, you risk burnout among them in the long run.

And isn’t that a greater risk to your own future?


Transform Disruption into Opportunity

Do you need help working through leadership challenges to transform disruption into opportunity? Contact us to learn about Bill’s leadership keynote speaking, executive coaching, and facilitation services.