5 things that take 5 minutes and will make you a better leader.

You don’t need lots of time to practice good leadership. In fact, there are a number of super effective leadership practices that take less than five minutes. You might think that if something takes so little time, surely it can’t have a super big impact. Not true. Practiced consistently, these speedy leadership initiatives pack a big punch when it comes to improved engagement, productivity, and the general performance of teams.

In short, they’re quick wins to help you lead your team better. And at this time of year, who’s not for that?

Here are five examples:

  1. Give someone some positive feedback. Write, say, text or email a short note to a direct report, thanking them or giving them positive feedback on something they did. Be sure to make it specific. “Good job on the project workshop yesterday” is ok. But “Thanks for the way you planned and led the workshop yesterday. You really put lots of effort into the facilitation techniques and pre work and I could see everyone was really engaged as a result” is way better. Remember the SBI method of giving feedback – – outlining the situation you saw, the behaviour they did, and the impact that had – is useful whether you’re giving positive or redirectional feedback.
  1. Acknowledge and support your team when it’s tough going. If it’s a turbulent and challenging time for your team or you’re in the midst of rough waters, take some time during your next team meeting to acknowledge that and let them know you’re in it with them. Thank them for their ongoing efforts, resilience or persistence when faced with headwinds. It can be something as simple as, “I know it’s been really tough over the last few months because of [insert challenges] and it may feel like [insert metaphor] So I wanted to let you know I see the hard work/resilience/persistence etc you’re all putting in and I’m with you/sharing in this experience. I really wanted you to know how much I appreciate it etc.”  The relationship between a direct report and their manager plays a huge role when it comes to burnout too. The 2020 Cogo Workplace Wellbeing Survey found that those who feel that their direct manager genuinely cares about their mental wellbeing were less likely to show signs of exhaustion, isolation and lack of engagement. Importantly, they are also less likely to leave because of stress.
  2.  Identify your top three priorities for tomorrow. It sounds simple, but getting clear on your maximum three ‘must do’s’ for your next day can help you prioritise the important, not just the urgent.Write down your three must do’s for the next day before you shut up shop. And hold yourself to no more than three! (No sneaking ten items of importance onto your list – this means you’re no longer prioritising effectively!) Then, if possible, schedule those three things for as early in the day as possible.
  1. Get clear on key messages from your next leadership meeting. At the end of your next leadership meeting where you’re a particiant, practice cascading communication. This is a great leadership team practice from Patrick Lencioni and it goes like this.

At the end of every meeting, a team should explicitly review the key decisions made and agree on what needs to be communicated to employees or the teams led by the participants in the meeting.  

In it, you ask:

  • What three things would we tell people in the response to the question “so, how was the meeting?”
  • Is there anything we believe should not be shared?
  • What 3-5 items will we share with our teams?
  1. Connect and listen. The next time you have a conversation with a direct report or colleague, ask them “how are you going today?” before jumping into task mode. Listen actively – with all your senses – to the answer, not interrupting or trying to fix anything. Just be fully present to the person as they answer. This feels like non-doing (uncomfortable probably) and excruciatingly simple (too good to be true perhaps) – but you’d be surprised at the power that lies in 4-5 minutes of active listening – for them and for you.

We often think that leadership is ‘on top of’ our day-to-day job. But, as a manager, this IS your job.  It’s not good enough to lament that “I just don’t have time to do that leadership stuff’.

Even five-minute actions like those I’ve listed above can be done when you’re super busy.

So, this week, as well as reading this blog (which also took you less than 5 minutes, I suspect) do yourself and your team a favour and implement one or all of these ideas. I’d love to hear how you get on.

5 Comments

  1. Sally Marr on February 15, 2024 at 11:09 am

    I love this – what a great tool card for all leaders but especially new ones. It’s the small things that matter and build trust and connection.

  2. MA Ibrahim on December 21, 2023 at 2:06 am

    It is a good reframing by you. The idea is simple but very effective. “You don’t need much time for leadership”. Interestingly when you spare five minutes you can spend 30 minutes without thinking. This mindset breaks the laziness inertia.

    Excellent article Suzi.

  3. Kate Crowther on December 1, 2023 at 10:44 pm

    Superb article, meaningful directives, and achievable tasks. Thankyou!

  4. Lisa Whittle on December 1, 2023 at 8:47 am

    Love this rapid fire refresher Suzi, Kia Ora!

  5. Peter Bonisch on November 29, 2023 at 9:05 am

    Great read thanks ! Simple but so effective!

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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