I was in a meeting with two executives discussing group training for some of their managers and department heads. In bursts a woman to inform one of the executives about a change in appointments. With rapid-fire words she explained the schedule change. Then as quickly as she had come in, she was gone. I asked, “Is she the assistant to one of the level I’ll be working with?” They smiled and said, “No, that’s who we report to!”
Boy, was I wrong! My opinion was based on her appearance, a hasty nervous-looking person who zipped in and out with hunched over posture, saying nonverbally, “I’m not that important and I really shouldn’t be here, but…”
Men and women up and down the ladder must slow down for efficiency and effectiveness. Harness your energy. One executive I know says he tries to “start out slow and taper off.” It’s difficult to master when you’re in a hurry. Slow down so you don’t stumble and so you don’t leave gaps.
A big advantage of going slowly is that if you’re headed in the wrong direction, you won’t go too far before you realize it.
Slowing down does not mean putting on the brakes, being lethargic, or squelching your energetic spirit. It means pacing. Pace yourself so you are fast enough but not frantic, so you have a quiet speed that makes you relaxed, calm, and trustworthy. Speed tends to make you appear unsettled, upset, flustered, confused, and suspicious. The actions of effective people do not seem rushed.
The more time you give yourself, the more status people give you.
As people around you speed up, try the opposite, slow it down. A client from a software company told me this story:
I always speak fast – on the telephone, in person, giving speeches – all the time. But I was in Germany recently and had to speak to a group through an interpreter. After every sentence I spoke, I had to pause and let the translator restate what I said. I was slower than I had ever been in my life. It made me very calm. My English-speaking manager came up to me later and said it was the best speech he’d ever heard me present. Many people in the audience came up and congratulated me also. Now when I speak, I just imagine someone is translating my words into their language and I slow down to let them catch up. I’ve found I’m much more effective.
A lot of people believe the busier they are the better they are. But if you want to be memorable, impressive, credible, genuine, trusted and liked, don’t “run around the track” for anybody.
To get things done more quickly while slowing down, ask yourself, “If I had to leave town tomorrow for a month, what three things would I need to get done?” Do those three things. Controlled reaction thinking is the goal. Slow down your body, feet, and hands. Quick thinking is necessary, but pace your physical response.
For practice, do a silent drill. Rehearse in your head what you’re going to say. Listen to how it sounds. Then speak accordingly. Slow down, let people wait a little. Whatever you say or do will be valued that much more. Try to do this silent drill at least once a day. By the way, this is incredibly difficult to do. We just blurt things out 90+ percent of the time.
You don’t want to be viewed like one client, who was sent to me for coaching with this description: “He thinks he’s so thoroughly trained he doesn’t have to think before he speaks and acts. I can’t trust him, he’s so fast.”
Slowing down does not mean you’re boring, listless, tedious, or lazy. It means doing things purposefully, like you intended to do it that way. It means patience, then acceleration, then patience. You see, 95 percent of business is waiting; waiting for the opportunity to do the right thing. If you’re going through life so fast, you’ll miss the chance to execute well.
When you slow down, you buy yourself time and you can think things through. And when you think things through, you can give yourself the time of your life. When you slow down and think, you align attitude and action, and you appear calm and confident. You’ll feel more composed too. When you appear calm, people think you know what you’re doing. They think you must be right. They are much more likely to listen and follow you.