I wish I could do more.
I hear that statement a lot from leaders around the world. The demands on their time, their skills, and their presence are always escalating, always making it seem like there’s never enough of the leader to go around.
Usually, the emphasis is on the more in that sentence: I wish I could do more. More meetings, more coaching, more decisions, more vision-casting. The escalation is in outputs, checked-off boxes that make those around us feel better. We end up scheduling ourselves to the nth degree, increasing our activity while not necessarily increasing our accomplishment.
The more that we’re chasing isn’t wrong. It’s the impulse that leaders have when they’re chasing their best. I define it in The 15 Laws of Growth as The Law of Expansion: Growth always increases your capacity.
It’s part of our journey as leaders—as we grow, we expand our capacity, and with expanded capacity comes increased output. But increasing our output doesn’t correlate with increasing our impact—sometimes, to do more, we need to do different.
In my teaching on the The Law of Expansion, I cover the two areas where leaders must increase their capacity: thinking and action. I’ll talk more about thinking in my blog next week, so let me spend some time on how you as a leader can increase your capacity for action.
There are three steps you must take to expand your capacity to act:
- STOP Doing Only Those Things You’ve Done Before and START Doing Only Those Things You Could and Should Do
The first step toward success is becoming good at what you know how to do, but once you’ve mastered what you know, you begin to discover other things you could do. Doing what you’ve done before increases your efficiency, but it doesn’t do much for your capacity. Doing new things leads to innovation and new discoveries, which yields new things that you should be doing—things that likely replace those things you’ve done before.
- STOP Doing What is Expected and START Doing What is Unexpected
Let me go ahead and clear this up: what most people never expect is to have their expectations exceeded. What others define as a ceiling, you define as a floor, and then seek to go up from there. Being a leader who gives in to the inertia of the daily routine, the same old same old, may allow you to be efficient but it will never allow you to be effective. You must push past the minimum and seek to do something beyond what’s expected. Show up early. Stay late. Listen well. Praise more. Reward faithfully. Share willingly. In a world where leaders are expected to disappoint, be the leader who delights.
- STOP Doing Important Things Occasionally and START Doing Important Things Daily
If it’s important, it’s worth doing. That’s the leader’s mindset. Yet so often we surrender our time to the urgent or the pressing or the “needed” instead of to what’s important. To do what’s not important each day yields nothing for you or your leadership; it merely uses up your time. And to do what’s important only occasionally doesn’t lead to the consistency that compounds into results. You must do what is important daily if you want to achieve expansion in your capacity.
Have you been feeling the pressure to do more as a leader? If so, let me encourage you to intentionally invest time in expanding your capacity to act. Doing the things you should be doing, doing them beyond anyone’s expectations, and doing it daily is the key to expanding your capacity in ways you can’t yet imagine.
I’ve said it for years and it’s still true: the world is not made better by our intentions; it is made better by our intentional actions. As leaders, we must do more, but we must do more of what makes us better. We must increase our capacity for helpful and productive action.