Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #148: Questions Leaders Ask to Find or Create Margin in Their Life
Do you book every minute of your day? Do you have time to think, reflect, and renew? Today, Chris and Perry talk about how you can find and create margin to increase your value to you team, organization, and your family.
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Read the Transcript:
Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell executive leadership podcast. For our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader. Increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell, facilitator and coach.
Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede. Vice-president with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining us. Hey, just as a reminder, visit John Maxwell Company.com/podcast. There you can download the learner guide for this episode also has a link to our blog that Perry writes for us or you can leave a question or comment that you may have, that we can address on a future podcast with you. We are grateful for you listening to us and we’d love for you to share this episode. Because I think there’s many of us and I look at Perry because I was going to say, this is for me. This lesson’s for me. But he admitted right before we started that it may be for him. So we have a dual intervention going on here with each other. But what I’d love to do is just make sure that you share that with a friend of yours. If you feel like this is appropriate to them. Well, today’s topic is titled questions leaders asked to find or create margin in their lives.
Perry Holley: Let’s say it a little more with conviction. Questions leaders ask.
Chris Goede: You’ve noticed I’m like, I’m hesitantly trying to read through this. Because I think what happened was Sarah, my wife probably sent Perry an email and said, you need to talk to them about this. But naturally we default to, well, we love what we do. We just did it. Right? We’re like we enjoy it. And you’re like, well, somebody’s got to do it. And we don’t really even know what margin is. And we all just running from meeting to meeting, to project, to project, to plane, to plane, to company, to company and we don’t have far. So Perry, how are we going to do this? What going on?
Perry Holley: Well, it’s a common theme. I see it in a lot of the executives that I have pleasure of coaching. That they book every minute of every day and try to maximize their productivity. Unfortunately, booking every minute only makes you busy, not productive. And on top of that, it’s just not sustainable. It might seem like a good idea, but it doesn’t allow you to give your best. I don’t think. And to you, your team or your business to your family, it’s just not a great way to live. So I’d love to talk about other ways we can find margin or create margin through some intentional behavior?
Chris Goede: Yeah. I was talking to a leader the other day. We’ll call this leader second in charge. And he’s like, Hey, one of my challenges and I happen to be coaching the CEO, the first one in charge, we’ll call it that. In the second in charge of saying, one of my frustrations is that our leader, we have organizational structure set up in order to force, in essence, our team to take some time away and refresh, but our CEO doesn’t do it. And yet, so he’s modeling the behavior, even though we have structure it’s opposite. And now everybody’s looking at the CEO and this CEO is about to go through burnout. And so I think we all deal with it, no matter the organization and where we’re at. And this feels like a continuation of, of two podcasts that we’ve had lately. Which is the first one was on being more productive, the second one on employee wellbeing.. but now we’re talking about the leaders wellbeing while remaining productive when it comes to this.
Perry Holley: Yeah. I believe that if you really want to give your best for your team organization, your family, yourself, that you need to have some margin in a way, as a way for you to focus and renew your energy. There’s a great book on this. Dr. Richard Swenson defines margin. The book’s called Margin. I thought it was, kind of made me smile, but it’s also serious too. That he defined margin as a space between our limits as human beings and the expectations placed on us by society, by ourselves, even by the technological process. He said, it’s really the space between our load and our limits. And I just know that in my own life, as you mentioned, your wife, mine also pointed out that you don’t really have a lot of margin. You just go from thing, to thing, to thing. What are you doing for yourself and how are you renewing that energy to give your best?
Chris Goede: Listen, business and life now is faster than it’s ever been, right? We like to say fast is faster than it has been in the past. And there’s no lack of things to do on our to-do list, whether it’s our honeydew list or whether it’s our work to do list. And we always want to try to do what we can to keep up or get ahead. So let’s talk about some things a leader can do to intentionally build margin, right? And we love the word intentionally around here. And so we’ve got to be proactive, be intentional about it in our schedules. So Perry’s divided this up into two components for us. The first one, questions I asked to find margin on my calendar. And then the second one we’re going to talk a little bit about is, questions I asked to find margin in my life. So let’s talk about the calendar first.
Perry Holley: Yeah. Most leaders that I’ve found, our calendar drives our day. Every everything is timed down to 15 or 30 minute increments. I get thank you from coaching clients. When I end the call five minutes early, because now they know they can go to the bathroom before the next call starts. So I get a lot of accolades for that. But let me just let’s do a quick hitter here. I’ll share the question. Maybe you could give some insights. We’ll bounce it back and forth a bit.
Chris Goede: Hey, real quick. You don’t get accolades for the first 55 minutes?
Perry Holley: That’s right.
Chris Goede: Yeah. We got to have conversation after this podcast.
Perry Holley: I didn’t know I had a problem. All right. Questions I ask to find margin on my calendar. The first question I said, have I pre-populated my calendar with my priorities? We talk about big rocks, but have I pre-populated with my priorities?
Chris Goede: Yeah. We can easily. And probably most of us do giveaway our margin by allowing others to have the first pick of our calendar. I like to say you are your number one draft pick, right? You’re the first round. You’re the number one pick. And you should be thinking about your week, thinking about your day and making sure that you have the number one spots on those calendars for what you need and your priorities.
Perry Holley: And then I think, have I built any buffer between activities to allow myself time to process, reflect on any actions? I had a boss once, he would take to-do’s. I go, “When do you do your to-dos?” And he said, “I schedule them.” I thought, okay, there’s something to that to build some buffer in there.
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Chris Goede: Yeah. I used to, from a calendar standpoint, I used to have meetings on the hour, every hour. And then I shifted them to 45 minute meetings. And now I try to even get them accomplished in 30 minutes. Now what I want to encourage leaders out there, if you have not adapted the common language of the five levels of leadership inside your culture, I would encourage you to do so. Because it helps you be a little more productive on some of these calls. Now, some calls there’s connections, there’s relationships, like I said. But I’ll give you an example. Just this morning, I was on a call and it was from 8:30 to nine. We had a lot to cover and it was a last minute call that I’d put together. And everybody was able to make the call, that I needed to be on the call and move some things around.
So I got on and here’s what I said, Hey, listen, love you all got a lot to cover. I’m going to go straight level three, right? Production and, and went right at it. And 30 minutes was tight, but we were really productive in that. That allowed them to step away before the next meeting, whatever it might’ve been. But I think there are ways for us to make sure that we aren’t just booking on the hour every hour and then going from one to the other. How do we allow ourselves some margin, to your point, to capture some thoughts to capture our, to do’s and what that might be coming out of that meeting?
Perry Holley: Another question I had was, am I needed for every call I’m invited to?
Chris Goede: This is a tough one. Yeah. I mean, we want to be needed. I think it’s a great question, but are you really needed? I think the question here is, I think you should ask yourself what decisions are going to be made on this call? And goes back to what we’ve talked about, level four and developing people as you begin to build your team. Is there somebody else on your team that could be on that call for you? Right? Could they handle that call 80% as good as you could the first time and then 85 and then 90, 95 probably. But ask yourself what decisions are going to be made. And if you don’t need to be on that call, then I would encourage you to think about using another person on your team to be able to do that, to build some margin in your life.
Perry Holley: And that was actually my next question. Is there someone that could be on the team that could be on the call in place, but it’s, we talked in a previous podcast about seeing it work without me or seeing it work because of me. And that, are you building a team that can work without you? And that you can delegate more of that out? Am I doing the things that only I can do? Is another question we bat around quite a bit.
Chris Goede: We do. Yeah. That’s one of my favorite questions that I think every leader should be asking themselves. We get ourselves tied into so many things that other people on our team could be doing. Yes. I know that maybe it takes a little bit on the front end to get them up to speed. But man, I promise you if you could just, my word for the years is develop, because I struggle with this. Like I’m like, oh, you know what? It’ll take me five minutes, for an example, versus it’ll take me 30 minutes. But what I don’t realize is then down the road, it wouldn’t even take me that five minutes because that team member is doing it and doing it better than I’m. And so I think leaders, you need to continue to ask that question of yourself.
Perry Holley: Another question I had was have I established clear boundaries for where I should be spending my time? There’s so many things to choose from. But what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds?
Chris Goede: Yeah. There’s this quote. You may have heard it or statement and I don’t know where it comes from, but they say, wouldn’t you rather build a fence at the top of your yard, right? Than hospital down at the bottom of the cliff. And so, so many of us, when we don’t build margin in our calendar, we’re going to be in that hospital. Whether it’s a health issue or whatever might be going on. And so I think you got to, just like you fence around your yard, I think we got to make sure that as leaders, we do that around our calendars. We got to have boundaries.
Perry Holley: The last one that was meaningful to me was, and it was one of my boundaries was, have I established clear start and stop times for my day?
Chris Goede: Yeah. This is, if you don’t do this, your work will bleed over. Right? I think you have some great examples you’ve shared in the past about you being at home. Working from home and just, you naturally are gifted and passionate about writing and creating content. And you, it just could go on. And I know Bonnie has said, yeah, let’s set a time. And so whatever it is, whether you force yourself to get up and leave or, and transition to home or different places or whatever, try to set those boundaries up because man work will just spill over into that.
Perry Holley: Work expands to fill whatever time you allow to it. So I know that if I say I’ll stop at six, I have worked till six. If I say, I’m going to 8:00 PM, it’ll fill up to 8:00 PM. And guess what? It’ll be there tomorrow.
Chris Goede: It will be there tomorrow. That’s exactly right. One of the greatest things that I’ve, the self-talk is, even if I complete everything on my to-do list today, when I get there tomorrow there’s something else there. And so I make sure I get the important stuff done. And then what doesn’t it carries over to the next day. So well, let’s move on then to the questions you asked to find margin in your life. So moving from calendar to your life.
Perry Holley: Yeah. This might surprise you, but I’m just going to go with what I’m finding my own life was, so the first question was, so what time do you get out of bed?
Chris Goede: I love that question. So in my household, I’m an early riser. My wife’s not. But she’s like, I get more work done while you’re sleeping from 10 to midnight. And so it just depends on what your day looks like. Just get up a few minutes earlier than what you normally would schedule to be able to do that. To give yourself some time to invest in yourself and pour into yourself. The other thing too is, I find it for myself when I do this, I’m just not rushed. If I can just have a pace in the morning, have time to invest in myself, whatever that might look like for each of you. And then really it’s about that pace. And now it’s time for me to then leave or go on to the next thing. I just feel like, it just resets me and puts me in a good place.
Perry Holley: And then I have to ask you, did you make your bed? What time did you get out of bed and did you make your bed?
Chris Goede: No, I did not. I’m not answering either one of those questions. But this is another great thing that you talk about and written and talked about a bunch, which is starting your day with an action, with completing something. And it just, momentum builds off of that. If you start your morning with your action.
Perry Holley: Well, I do give you an exemption. If someone is still in your bed, don’t do that.
Chris Goede: I made my side of the bed. Does that matter?
Perry Holley: Another question to follow on with the same theme here is, is your morning routine working for you or against you? We all have a morning routine. Whether you like it, you do have a morning routine, but is it working for you or against you?Chris Goede: Yeah. And I think this goes back to that, not being rushed. Right? I think when you come up and you have to leave, let’s just say at 8:30, right? And you’re rolling out of bed at 8:15. And you’re rushing. I think this just sets you up the rest of the day. That just makes you feel like you’re playing catch up. You’re behind. You didn’t have any type of plan for yourself to pour into yourself or you weren’t intentional about the first couple of minutes of your day.
A lot of people, unfortunately, and I’ve read some articles on this where, the worst thing you could do right before you go to bed is beyond an electronic device. And the worst thing you do and wake up in the morning, right away, is being an electronic device. And so many people have it sitting right there to nightstand, and that’s what they’re doing. And so we got to be intentional, begin thinking through this, if you have got to make sure that you are creating margin for yourself personally. And I would challenge that being even outside of social media. Margin in your life is not when I’m sitting around checking social media.
Perry Holley: And I did have another question that I think you just answered that though, about how do you invest the first minutes or hour of your day? So great on that. Another one I had was, this was being for me. Have you learned the yes, no paradox? And to me what that means is that, when I say, just recognize it. And when I say yes to one thing, I’ve by default said no to something else. Sounds pretty logical, but I don’t think we operate by that.
Chris Goede: No, we don’t.
Perry Holley: We say yes to too much.
Chris Goede: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that if you would just explain your no, in a way. Maybe easier for you to communicate the, know about the fact that you can accomplish it when they need to accomplish. Maybe you say yes, but then you give a different maybe timeline, you don’t leave it open-ended. Because when I do that, when I say yes to somebody and I don’t put specifics behind that to give me enough cushion in that space, then I get stressed out. It sits up here in my head, takes up space and then it just takes away all margin in my life because it’s continuing on my mind about it.
Perry Holley: Well, I’ll tell you where I use this. It was a little, I felt like it was risky, but it turned out not to be was, a lot of my margin was eaten up by a boss or others in the organization asking things of me that were in my job description. But Perry, can you handle this? Perry, can you do that? And then I was, but I was already working on something else. And I would just say, yes, of course. Yes, of course. And then I, any free time or margin I might’ve had is now consumed with all these side projects that, and I’m honored that you think I can help.
But one thing, a day I just turned around to my boss and said, if I say yes, doing what you just asked me to do, I’m going to need you to say, no, to one of these three things. Which would you want me to, would you like me to, help me with my priorities? And when I said that, he looked at me and he goes, I never thought of it that way. Let’s focus on these two and I’ll get someone. All of a sudden my margin returned. And I was able to focus on the work that was important. Another one was, is your evening routine working for you or against you? And what are your thoughts on that one?
Chris Goede: Listen, it goes back to even, I was just talking about with technology. And for me, it’s ESPN or it’s some type of sporting event. And I think one of the things we ought to really think about is, are we intentionally spending and investing with time with other people? We always say that we don’t have enough time to socially do this or hang out and do this. Remember we’re talking about margin in your own personal life. But really if you became intentional about how you were using every hour of your calendar, it’d be interesting if you took away some of that time, mindlessly watching TV and just spent time or invested with other people. And then like we’ve talked about on so many podcasts, ask really good questions. Man, the richness that would come of that conversation, the margin built in your life would be phenomenal.
Perry Holley: And the last one, it’s a similar to others that we thought. But it really, I’ve just seen this happen so much in my life and others. But are you, how good are you at saying no to things that might sound nice to do but only feed your FOMO, your fear of missing out?
Chris Goede: Yeah. This is becoming, I think more and more important with upcoming generations that are tied to what I again, would call social media. And that FOMO thing is real. And it’s not even just a fear of missing out of that particular experience, but it’s in, what would that experience lead to? And your mind goes, well, if I go here then will they invite me there and will they do this, or if I go here, does this give an opportunity over here at work? Right? And I think you’ve got to go through all of that. And that strategy, the fear of missing out is absolutely a negative one when it comes to the margin on your personal life.
Perry Holley: Well, my wife is so good at this one. She’ll say, no, we’re not, I’m not doing that. I go, but it would be so great. You would meet so many people. You would, and I’d have, I got 10 reasons why she should do it. She says, no, it’s too much. It’s too much for me on that day. I go, oh my gosh, I don’t do that well. So I want you to wrap it up for us.
Chris Goede: Yeah. Just say, no, right? And be present where you are. But I, yeah, I totally understand. Well, I think these are really just two thought provoking questions for you, that Perry has really of posed for us. Multiple questions in two different components, two different areas. Questions I ask to find margin on my calendar and questions I ask to find margin in my life. I think what I love about this is that, if you figure out number one, it will take care of number two. Right? And so your calendar is so important. Now let me just tell you from personal example, I will block out time, think time. Different time for family things, whatever. And to one of our points in the conversation today, I let things bleed into those. I have an individual on my team and you know who this is, who has a hard stop.
And he comes in and first thing he says is, I got a hard stop at 1:30. And at 1:28 you see him starting to get fidgety, looking at his watch, stop it, then he gets up and leaves, it’s 1:29. He’s there at 1:30. Man, what have we treated everything in our life, on our calendar and we calendared it right, and then we’d be, and I know some of you are going well, you don’t know my schedule. And I understand all of that. We’ve got to have some flexibility. But man, if we’re not intentionally thinking about this before we know it things are just going to completely take over and control our calendar. And we’re not going to have any margin on our calendar and our personal life. And I think that would be a great disservice to you and your personal journey.
Perry Holley: I do think it would help you give the best version of you to your team, your company and your family. So well, thank you Chris. And just a reminder, I did put all these questions in the learner guide if you’d like to review those. You can also learn more about the five levels of leadership and we’d love for you to find all that at John Maxwell company.com/podcast. You can also leave us a question or comment there. We always love hearing from you. And we’re always grateful that you would spend these minutes with us each week. That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.
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