Retreat to advance

Take the time and space to become great

Business leaders can, if they are not careful, become busy fools. It's really difficult but well proven that the best leaders create time and space in their schedule to step back and contemplate their plans. And I recommend that at two levels.

Firstly take a bit of time each day to pause, consider what you've achieved, what you've learnt and what you're going to do the next day.  The Ivy Lee model suggest identifying just six task for the next day. Tasks that you will do before you do anything else.

Secondly I'd suggest it is worth taking a few days, by yourself or with others as you prefer, every six months or so to do more of a deep dive. As the religious would call a retreat.  And I recommend that is done well away from your normal environment and without interruptions. A bit like  a holiday, except it's work!

And use that retreat to plan your advance.  Look back and then look forward.  Look at what you've achieved because too often we beat ourselves up for not always reaching our goals and forget how much we've achieved.  And look forward at what you are going to achieve over the next year, three years and next hundred years.  The last is a very deliberate provocative question.  It's really asking how will the world be different because you've been on the earth?  Or what is your legacy!

Personally I don't then follow those goals religiously every day when I return to my normal environment, although I knwo some that do.  Indeed I may not look at my plan for six months.  But when I do I find I've done a lot of it.  Indeed I recently noticed a plan I produced twenty years ago and was amazed to realise I have achieved many of the long term goals I set down then. Even though my world had changed dramatically I'd subconsciously followed the path.  I'd achieved the goals, just a bit differently than I'd envisaged.  I'd been CEO of a business, just not the one I'd expected.  I'd been a Chair of Governors not a Magistrate as I planned and so on.

I was interested to read an article in the Harvard Business Review recently that seems to provide a neuroscientific basis for why this approach works.  

In summary, the article suggests that, whilst positive social interactions and collaboration are a critical to a healthy workplace, it is often through reflection that ideas are crystallized and insights formed.  We have our most innovative ideas when we’re letting the mind wander into our deep storehouse of memories, ideas, and emotions.

The article suggests that we need to make a practice of turning away from the distractions of daily life to give our minds space to reflect, make new connections, and find meaning. The article goes on to suggest that, it is by creating space, time to remember the past, think about the future and see other perspectives, that we truly understand ourselves and create meaning from our experiences. Finally, it suggests we should run our businesses in similar ways to liberate the innovative potential of our staff too.

As always, the above is my personal, summarised interpretation. Read the original here!