Why The Minimalist Executive Wins And You Don’t
Cast your eyes up from the screen and look around.
Do you feel overwhelmed by what you see? A messy desk? Amazon and Grubhub boxes piling up? Reminder Post-It notes on every piece of desk equipment you have? And how long have those cashews been sitting there?
A general “too much” might be the reason.
I’m not talking simply about too many physical things in your way. While taking the time to follow the teaching of practitioners like Marie Kondo will surely help you clear up your home and workspace (a must-do for any effective lifestyle), minimalism can play an important role in leadership as well. Minimalism in leadership necessitates a method a bit more blunt than the Kondo method – not that I have anything against a tidy sock drawer with all the folds looking up with smiling faces. If that’s what it takes to move you forward then more power to you, my friend.
Somewhere along the way our society has come to pray at the Golden Statue of the Person With Too Much On Their Plate. If you aren’t dangling perilously on the precipice of the point of no return just hoping you’ll somehow pull through while simultaneously continuing to lead the conference call and smiling as you willingly offer to hold someone else’s 52-pound bag you aren’t truly successful. There is no rule in the book of powerful leadership emphasizing the importance of “too much”.
In fact, modern leadership emphasizes quite the opposite. Here are four behaviors you need to practice if you want to evolve beyond your Kondo sock drawer. Too blunt? Hey, I warned you.
- The minimalist executive purposely works with less in order to be more.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Less is more”. The phrase causes many people the intellectual equivalent of an organ rejection. I know what you’re thinking, “less is more” is advice for poor people (they can’t afford ‘more’), or the rich crowd (they already have ‘more’). But it is actually advice meant for you. Yes, you.
I know you (hey thanks, Google Analytics!) because you’re me. We’re both in the bulging middle of that wealth curve, and we have too much of everything. Too much noise, too many distractions, too many calories. We are the ones who have the most to gain from “less is more”, as repeatedly proven by the scientists working day and night in the basement of the Falconer & Associates Lab.
And no, we haven’t tested it on lab animals – that would be cruel. We’ve tested it on unpaid interns. Here is the highly scientific formula we’ve developed:
You + Less Is More = Most to Gain
OK, a bit less technical now:
You + Less Stuff = Most Success
De-cluttering your physical space allows for the freedom to also de-clutter your mind. Some of my most successful clients understand the valuable practice of mindfulness and meditation. Mindful leadership naturally requires a minimalist mindset along with a minimalist workspace.
- The minimalist executive ditches distractions.
There is nothing more counterproductive than unnecessary interruptions. Whether it’s social media notifications, junk emails, or a public calendar without boundaries, the opportunities for unwanted distractions are endless. In order to truly become an effective leader, you must minimize these distractions in order to create room for growth and fresh ideas. Take purposeful breaks from the constant stream of information available. The endless download eventually leads to overwhelm and stifled creativity. You simply have to ditch the distractions.
- The minimalist executive is all about quality over quantity.
If you live in a neighborhood anything like mine, there is a relentless gloat festival over who has the busiest schedule. “I have soooo many meetings today”, says Tara. “I’m not sure how I’m ever going to wrap up this team session in time to get downtown to my dinner meeting and then back across town to Finn’s soccer practice.” A jammed (and totally unenjoyable) schedule is worn like a badge of honor as if “Let me tell you how crazy my day was today!” is the new “So let me tell you about the new car I bought!
This will be the dividing factor between those who grind and hustle with little or no reward and those who dig in, do the work, and rise to the top.
Clients are always coming to me languishing beneath their limited belief that there isn’t an hour during the day where there aren’t two or three “To Do” entries for that time on their calendar. That pervasive mindset is leaving them unfocused, unproductive and unfulfilled. Clients have said it feels debilitating – one even describing it “like a quasi-coma”. To be blunt: you must be deliberate with your time and boundaries in order to succeed in a meaningful way. Sorry, you “life-hackers” out there. You can’t cheat on this one.
- The minimalist executive leaves time to experience.
More than anything, a successful leader knows when to unplug. Real life experiences and interactions allow for a greater sense of self. In turn, you’ll find yourself with more inspiration, new creative ideas, and a more powerful drive than before. Leaving time for experience allows for the growth of a minimalist mindset. This provides the necessary room for those stretch goals I’ve recommended in a previous post.
So where do you fall on the minimalist spectrum? Is there a little room for growth? A lot?
No matter where you are or where you want to be, we’ll help you get there.
We know you – remember?
Photo credit: Leslie Haas, Co-Founder of Paper Airplanes Co photographed by Angela Zion.