Some months back I was watching a game in which one team found itself in a big although not insurmountable hole. The color analyst – a former coach – used a great phrase to emphasize the point that the team needed to pick up the tempo but without panicking – they needed to be quick but not in a hurry.
The Atlanta airport on a Monday morning has to be quite amusing for disinterested people watching – right in front of you, hordes of travelers from all over converge at once, all seemingly grumpy, sleepy and going about their business in a big damn hurry. In a recent experience, I apparently took a few milliseconds too long in removing my belt at the security checkpoint, which frustrated the guy behind me in line so much that he nearly trampled me in the process of rushing around me to go through the metal detector.
You can imagine the size of my Cheshire-cat grin when, moments later, I sauntered up behind him as he waited in line for the train out to the concourses.
The pace of life today is blinding – and business is even worse. Given the speed of communications, it’s very easy to get caught up in the trap of working too fast. Entrepreneurs in particular are notorious for a “just get it out there” mindset – this is ok as it is part of the trial & error/creative destruction process, however, it can also be very counterproductive. Among other things, being in a hurry causes:
- Mistakes – running too hard generates a lot of mistakes, from plain errors to gaffes like copying the wrong person on an e-mail, etc. (In my haste to get to early meetings, I’ve hit the garage door with my car’s rearview mirror twice in the past couple of years). In contrast, doesn’t it seem like the revisions you make to a presentation after you’ve allowed it to “get cold” are the ones that take it from being just ok to great? Like a good pasta sauce, the flavors need to rest and meld a little to bring out the best of our work.
- Stress – being in a hurry adds a ton of unnecessary stress to our lives, from weaving through traffic to jumping out of one con call to another. Some of this is inevitable, but it’s also worth asking – do I really need to send this e-mail at 11:30 pm, when the recipient is likely in bed anyway? Must this call take place on Saturday afternoon when I’d rather be hanging out doing nothing? Sometimes the stress of deadlines can be a good thing – the pressure enables us to avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand – but being chronically in an artificial hurry is downright dangerous (this week I observed two people presumably on their way to work speed through long-red stoplights – would it have really mattered if they were three minutes late?).
- Miscommunication – whether it’s a cumulative effect of mistakes & stress or just the added tension being in a hurry brings, the risk of miscommunication rises exponentially when we’re flailing about and trying to do too much too fast. When we’re in a hurry, our verbal communications lose their nuance – we write and speak in short, blunt fashion because we’ve gotta go. Also, our nonverbal communications convey all kinds of bad messages – we look & act bored, frustrated, or inconvenienced – even if that’s not truly the case, because we’re already thinking about the next meeting, task, flight, etc.
The ironic net result of being in a hurry is frustration of purpose – our mistakes, stress and miscommunications lead to re-work, conflict and – worse yet – lost opportunities. So many entrepreneurs who are hung up on the ABC (Always Be Closing) mantra insist on pushing their customers hard to sign the deal – any deal – NOW, but this actually drives them away. Nothing conveys desperation like being in a hurry, and nothing repulses a customer like desperation.
Business does demand that we work at a faster pace today than in previous times, and responding quickly to opportunities, e-mails and market conditions can position us for success. However, we’re all still ultimately paid for the application of our talent, wisdom and insights, which takes a little time. Take an extra few minutes, hours, even days (especially the weekend), to think things through and deliver a well-reasoned and polished presentation, to prepare for and actively participate in an appropriately-scheduled conference call, or to engage in a comfortably-paced, consultative sales process. Being quick but not in a hurry, or efficiently deliberate and contemplative in our work, can enable our success, or “close the deal.”
So, slow it down a little – your car’s rearview mirror will thank you – and your personal and professional life will improve too.
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