It’s an old proverb you’ve probably heard before, “You’ve got to slow down to speed up.”

Having had the chance to coach cross country athletes I’ve found it is a common way of emphasizing spending time working on proper form over speed work. Taking the time to slow down and perfect one’s form will usually bring more gains in performance than buckling down on speed training.

Pros across a variety of sports know this as they spend copious amounts of time perfecting forms of everything from golf swings to place kicks. The application of this truism spreads across to our personal and professional lives as well.

In leadership form matters as well. Positional authority certainly can make sure that work is accomplished, and tasks are completed. However, there is a point of diminishing returns. Leading through authority has a threshold and once reached, performance will undoubtedly decline. A leader, like an athlete, must be willing to “slow down to speed up.”

This can be very challenging as a leader has a full plate of things to make sure are done in their day. It’s easy to bulldoze through the task list and feel like you’ve accomplished something. Taking the time to invest in others and elevate the work, however, will ultimately bring more results. Here are some steps to make sure you as a leader are slowing down to incorporate into your leadership style:

  1. Inspiration: How much of the “why” does your team understand about the work? Do they know the ultimate purpose of their work? How is it connected to and helping to move the mission of the organization forward? What problems is the work solving and who is being helped? People by nature want to be connected to something larger than themselves. Many people are interested to know (and will become invested in) what problem the organization exists to solve. Slowing down to provide insights and strategic communications around more than just the bottom line can begin to help team members feel more connected to the work. The more connected they feel, the more invested they become. A team of invested people will take pride in their work, will tend to remain with the work, and help move it forward. Slow down to inspire to speed up the results you seek.
  2. Communication: How deeply does the team understand the goals of the work and the rationale behind them? Most teams struggle with tight alignment here. Without a steady drip of communication team members can find themselves simply showing up to get their task list done each day not knowing if they are hitting the mark or not. In my experience when people understand clearly what is expected they tend to rise to the occasion. Does your team clearly understand both their work and what is expected from them? Don’t count on them gathering this from their job description alone. The work can have a very large gap between as it exists as described and how it exists in the day-to-day. Slow down to clearly communicate expectations to speed up the results you seek.
  3. Connection: Relationships are of value to most people. We spend a large segment of our lives at work so it is natural we would want to feel connections to people there. While leaders are not certainly paid to be everyone’s friend there are important aspects of valuing people that are critical to team success. Having knowledge of people on the team, their families, their individual interests, and the like help build connections. From a practical standpoint a leader is going to need something from the team members at some given point in time. Team members motivated by a desire to help will be more beneficial for the long-term success of the work over team members responding to critical work needs because they “have” to do it. Slow down to build a connection with team members to speed up the results you seek.

In the end all three of these steps are good life strategies because they value people. As Christians we believe all people are created in the image of God and thereby inherently deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Displaying these Christ-like attributes not only help make you a better person to be around, but they can also contribute toward a stronger and better work environment.