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How to Upgrade Your Leadership

By August 13, 2015March 31st, 2016One Comment

A few weeks ago, I enrolled in a program for entrepreneurs. The first two weeks of this program are about decluttering your life–your physical space; including files, closets, and drawers, and your mental space; including negative beliefs and information overload. The premise is that by decluttering the things you don’t need or that don’t serve you anymore, you make room for better things in your life.

As I’ve been working through this program, it feels great to give away old clothes, clean my office space, and make room for a calmer and cleaner environment. The program facilitator also has us creating an “Upgrade Plan,” identifying incremental changes to upgrade our life. These don’t have to be big changes–one of the things I upgraded are my pens! I had a bunch of old pens that I’ve collected (and were free) over the years, and they just don’t write as well as a nice, smooth Bic Atlantis. In the past I felt guilty buying pens when I have so many free ones, but I decided this was a small upgrade. I spent less than $10 to upgrade something I use every day. It’s a small change, and it feels better and reduces the frustration I feel when I find a pen that doesn’t work or write well. I also got rid of the old workouts clothes I don’t use and that were taking up a lot of shelf space (because I convinced myself I might need them one day), and replaced them with new running shorts and shirts.

This program is really about upgrading your life so you can let go of all the old “stuff” to create space and time, reduce stress, and really be able to live and work at your best.

This got me thinking about leadership. If we don’t declutter our physical and mental space, we can’t serve our organizations to the best of our ability and work at peak performance. We will be bogged down by all the things in our space that don’t serve our bigger goals.

Are there things you need to declutter or upgrade around your leadership?

Here are some examples of areas to consider when decluttering:

  • Your office or workspace
  • Your email inbox (a game-changer for me has been the website; this site can put all of your email subscriptions like newsletters into one daily digest, and allows you to unsubscribe from multiple emails at one time. Now you don’t have to filter through all your subscriptions to find important messages)
  • Your schedule (don’t accept every meeting request, and leave space for actual work)
  • Your filing cabinets (my assistant helped me reorganize and throw away a ton of old files, and I felt relieved to get old documents out of my space)
  • Piles of magazines or articles
  • Piles of papers or files on your desk
  • Your electronic folders and files
  • Your mind (write down all the things in your head you need to do and then organize them by priority. Keeping ideas and tasks in your head takes up mental space and energy, and perpetuates a state of overwhelm)
  • Your negative beliefs (things like, “I’m just not organized” or “I don’t have time to develop my employees”). These beliefs do not serve you, so replace them with empowering beliefs.

When you clear the physical and mental clutter, it leaves room for the more important areas in your leadership. You no longer feel bogged down and overwhelmed by stacks of papers, magazines, emails and clutter. This exercise clears your space and your mind so you can focus and bring forth your best effort and contributions.

One you have decluttered, you can look at the areas in your leadership to upgrade. Upgrading doesn’t have to cost a lot of money (it doesn’t even have to involve money). Sometimes the simple things can make you feel more organized and focused. Perhaps you seem to never have time to formally coach your employees because you can’t find the space in your schedule. Decluttering creates space to upgrade areas of your leadership that are most important and can have a significant positive impact.

Below are some areas (with examples)to consider upgrading:

  • Physical environment : a shelf to organize your books, a better phone, or just a clean space
  • Supplies: notebooks, planner, organization system, or new pens!
  • Personal development: great leadership books, a professional development workshop or conference
  • Employee development: creating time in your week to give feedback, and to coach and develop
  • Employee engagement: send a thank you note or email to an employee, and create a consistent plan for keeping your staff engaged
  • Morning and evening ritual: rather than jumping into your day (like I used to do), creating a ritual to set yourself up for peak performance and to decompress after a long day. For example, starting the day with gratitude, planning your day the night before, using the morning hours to focus on important projects, carving out a half hour for reading, or anything else that sets you up to work at your best.

I’d love to hear from you: what is one thing you want to declutter this week? And what is one thing you want to upgrade?

Laurie Maddalena

Laurie Maddalena is CEO of Envision Excellence, a leadership consulting firm that provides leadership development programs for managers and executives, keynote speeches, teambuilding, and leadership assessments. Learn more about Laurie:

One Comment

  • Trish says:

    I have been wanting to buy an organizer / day planner just because I have some notes and dates on a work calendar, some on my phone, some on a personal calendar and collecting everything in one central location seems like it would make my life just a little bit less crazy.

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