woman leaning back into chair with hands resting on the back of her head

The Virtue of Laziness

Why being a bit of a slacker can make you a better leader.

If I asked you to rank the top 10 lead­ership qualities, you’d probably include integrity and accountability. Perhaps you’d throw in resilience and empathy. Here’s one quality I’m sure you wouldn’t list, but I want you to consider: laziness.

To lead and influence others, you have to give them the support as well as the space to do their work. Most of us are remarkably bad at that. Laziness can help.

Sometimes, the best advice is counterintui­tive: Don’t feel like you have to do something—just stand there.

Win-Win

When you as a leader slow down, every­one wins.

Your team members win because they get to figure out the solution, own the idea, and in doing so, become more con­fident, competent and self-sufficient. You win because when your team members are doing the work, you’re able to give your attention to the items that have more impact and meaning—and spend less time doing others’ tasks for them.

The Advice Monster

Many of us love to jump in and help get things going with our answers, solu­tions, ideas and advice. Sometimes that’s the right thing to do. But much of the time, it’s not.

Most of us are advice-giving mani­acs. As soon as someone starts telling us what’s going on, even though we don’t really have enough detail, insight or context, our Advice Monster appears and starts to roar.

I’m not saying never offer ideas and advice. What I am saying is to slow down the rush to offer advice. Slow down the rush to move things to action. Stay curious a little bit longer.

The Question to Ask

It’s time to break out what I call the Lazy Question: “How can I help?”

Of course, that question sounds like the opposite of lazy. It sounds like you’re asking for more work. But actu­ally you’re creating a pause button that slows down your need to jump in.

Slowing down that instinct to immediately leap in is important. Your Advice Monster is sure you fully understand the challenge and have the perfect answer. But in actuality? Not so much.

When you ask the Lazy Question, you’re doing two things: You’re taming your Advice Monster, and you’re ask­ing your team member to tell you how you can be most helpful in this situa­tion. That makes them smarter, and it makes you more effective.

That’s perfect, because being helpful probably made your list of top leader­ship qualities. Get advice on building your career at staplesworklife.com/professionaldevelopment.

 

Photo by Jetta Productions/David Atkinson/Getty Images