Raquel García via Unsplash

Want to Learn Something About Leadership? Get in Line.

A study once found that American’s spend about 37 billion hours each year waiting in line for something. That’s roughly 125 hours per person each year waiting to do such exciting things as pass through security at the airport, get a cup of coffee, or explain some problem to your internet provider.

The study is a decade old, but it resurfaces anytime someone wants to write about how to improve customer wait times. For me, however, that stat gets me thinking about the challenge of making the most of my time – not just when I’m waiting in line but in all of life.

I regularly try to answer questions about how I use the time I’m given. What have I been doing lately that turned out to be a poor investment of time? What are the things that help me achieve the goals I feel called to accomplish? What are the things I enjoy most? What do I need to do even though I don’t enjoy it?

Ideally, of course, the things I enjoy most align with the things that help me achieve the goals I feel called to accomplished. It’s in those activities that I typically try to keep investing – or increase my investment.

For instance, a couple of years ago we began a series of LinkedIn Live events where I spend 30-40 minutes having a discussion with a guest on topics that can help other leaders have a more positive impact.

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I liked the idea of it because I knew I would enjoy the conversations, but early on I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the time. In addition to doing the actual interviews, I knew I would invest a good deal of time preparing. And that certainly has been the case. Most of my guests have written at least one book, so I read or re-read it to familiarize myself with the details of their message. Then I spend time preparing questions. And the guest and I typically have a call prior to the actual interview. So I routinely spend several hours getting ready for an interview that last less than an hour.

It didn’t take me long, however, to realize this was one of the most enjoyable parts of my work. In early December, as I was evaluating 2021 and thinking about our plans for 2022, I brainstormed a list of things I like to do and things I don’t like to do. The “like to do” list included such things as interacting with people, learning new things, tag-teaming with others on a message, helping others promote their ideas, sharing stories of how others have been successful, and being in environments that are casual.

The LinkedIn Live interviews checked all of those boxes.

They also checked the important box of helping me accomplish my goals. I have a passion for influencing future leaders to be the best at what they do. That’s why I wrote a book. That’s why I occasionally give speeches or appear on panels. That’s why I mentor other leaders. I believe the things I’ve learned in my career as a corporate executive can benefit others, and it would be irresponsible not to help when and where possible. But I also know the best advice often comes from collaborative discussions with other veteran leaders.

With all of that in mind, my team and I made the decision to effectively double-down on formats such as LinkedIn Live. I plan to do as many of these interviews as possible, and I also plan to share what I’m learning in other formats like a blog series that focuses on “one thing I learned” from each interview.

I’ve been going through the previous interviews to remind myself of the key lessons that were shared, and it’s pretty amazing how much I learned from Sally Helgesen, Drew Dudley, Joel Peterson, Brad Deutser, Deanna Mulligan, Cheryl Bachelder, Annie McKee, Tommy Spaulding, Steve Farber, Susan Packard, and Anita Moorjani.

For instance, I’ve learned how gratitude cultivates an others-focused attitude, how organizational alignment applies to personal as well as organizational decisions, and how acts of civility reinforce civility in others. I can hardly wait for the next one (which is today, January 10th, at 11 AM EST with Michael Stallard. Join us here).

I believe these broadcasts and the articles based on them are not only a great investment of my time, but yours, as well, because you are sure to learn things that will help you have a more positive influence as a leader. If nothing else, maybe it’s something you can do while you’re spending all that time waiting in line.

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