There’s a temptation out there just waiting to overtake you.

The power of this temptation is somewhat fueled by your ability to rationalize it (the temptation) as a “necessity.” The justification sounds something like this:

“There’s just no way to avoid the inevitable. I just don’t have the time. Too many other more pressing things happening right now.” Or the one that irritates me more than any other, “I’m just too busy.”

There are, of course, hundreds of variations on the theme of this temptation. Every one of us has our own “version,” of the rationalization. Our favorite ways to describe why we “can’t.” But the outcome is the same. What is that outcome?

Leaders are tempted to pay little attention, or completely sidestep, the rigorous journey of personal and organizational development. This tendency to bypass deep, transformative growth for the seemingly easier path of jumping from one activity to another is a phenomenon that has been discussed and debated for decades. Pioneers in the realm of time management and productivity, like Charles Hummel with his seminal work “Tyranny of the Urgent” and Stephen Covey, best known for “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” have long highlighted this pervasive issue. Yet, despite their insightful contributions, the problem stubbornly persists in the corridors of organizational leadership.

In his book, Deep Change, and with laser-focus, Bob Quinn states the end-result of the rationalization “too busy” and distraction:

Slow death begins when someone, confronting the dilemma of having to make deep organizational change or accepting the status quo, rejects the option for the deep change. This decision results in the gradual (and occasionally not so gradual) disintegration of an organization, business, or industry.

I would add, it can lead to the disintegration of effective leadership. Instead of leadership that confronts hard realties – first in self and then in the organization, the slow death leader continues to go through the motions hoping to simply make it through the day without encountering another disaster.

Is this what you want to be know for? I helped my organization live to fight another day of status quo?

Why does this temptation, with all its known downsides, continue to be so prevalent? At its core, the issue is rooted in human nature and the complexities of modern organizational dynamics. The allure of immediate, tangible tasks often overshadows the intangible, long-term benefits of personal and organizational development. In a world where quick results and visible productivity are highly prized, the slow and often less visible process of growth and development can seem less appealing, even daunting.

Moreover, the relentless pace of change in the business environment can exacerbate this tendency. Leaders find themselves constantly reacting to external pressures and immediate concerns, leaving little room for reflection and strategic, long-term thinking. This reactive mode can create a cycle where firefighting becomes the norm, and proactive development takes a back seat.

Of course knowing about the temptation doesn’t change it. Doing something about it, does. This is where you come in. You, as an individual leader, have the power to stem the tide of slow death in both yourself and in your organization. But it will take a new approach to your everyday leadership and constant hard work to stay the course of deep and real change.

There is a temptation to work hard at personal and leader development ntegrating personal development directly into daily work activities is a powerful strategy for ensuring consistent growth and progress. When coaching executives on this aspect, consider the following approaches:

  1. Link Development Goals to Business Objectives: Help the executives understand how their personal development goals are directly connected to their business objectives. For instance, improving communication skills can lead to more effective team management, or learning new industry trends can drive innovation within the company.
  2. Embed Learning in Daily Tasks: Encourage them to see everyday tasks as opportunities for development. For example, a challenging project can be a chance to enhance problem-solving skills, or a team conflict can be viewed as a moment to practice conflict resolution and empathy.
  3. Set Daily Developmental Intentions: Start each day with a clear developmental intention. This could be as simple as, “Today, I will focus on listening more actively in all my meetings,” or, “I will delegate more tasks to develop my team’s skills and free up my time for strategic thinking.”
  4. Reflective Practice: Incorporate a routine of reflective practice into their daily schedule. This could be a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on what they learned, challenges they faced, and how they can apply these insights moving forward.
  5. Use Meetings as Learning Labs: Turn regular meetings into opportunities for development. This could involve practicing new leadership styles, soliciting and giving feedback, or experimenting with new problem-solving techniques.
  6. Leverage Mentorship and Coaching Opportunities: Encourage them to seek out mentorship and coaching opportunities within their daily interactions. They can learn from the diverse experiences and perspectives of their colleagues, superiors, and even their subordinates.
  7. Continuous Feedback Loop: Create a culture where continuous feedback is valued. Encourage them to ask for feedback on their performance and to provide constructive feedback to others as a way to foster a learning environment.
  8. Time Management and Prioritization: Teach them effective time management and prioritization techniques to ensure that personal development activities don’t get overshadowed by urgent but less important tasks.
  9. Modeling and Observational Learning: Encourage them to observe and learn from other leaders within and outside the organization. This could involve shadowing a senior leader, attending cross-functional meetings, or participating in industry networking events.
  10. Micro-Learning: Introduce the concept of micro-learning – short, focused learning activities that can be easily integrated into a busy schedule. This could include listening to a podcast, reading an article, or watching a short video tutorial related to their development goals.

By integrating personal development into their daily work, executives can ensure that their growth is continuous, practical, and closely aligned with their professional responsibilities and the organization’s needs.