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Leadership Hack: How Sticky Notes Can Help Your Career

Sticky notes have been my savior. And I don’t mean in a “don’t forget the milk” kind of way. True, sticky notes are great for grocery lists, but what I’m talking about here is how a few small squares helped me become a better leader, and dare I say, a better person.

Here’s how it happened:

Early in my career, I would head into meetings and could rattle off all my thoughts.  I could come up with ideas faster than you could say, “Hatzikostas.” I didn’t have the patience to wait.  The patience to slow down and let others catch up. There was too much to get done!

I remember the first time this came up in a performance review.  You should work on slowing down when you talk. Let others catch up. Don’t talk over other people.

I figured she had to come up with some area for improvement. If that was my worst flaw, I’d take it.

But then it came up again with a different boss. And then another one.

This was starting to sound like more than an annoying habit. It was beginning to seem like a major character flaw.

When I took a new position, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to really work on slowing down, stepping back and letting others not only catch up but lead.  I did ok. I would give myself a solid C+.

It wasn’t until a leadership training session with The Alchemy Group that I finally got it. One of the principles they teach is, “You have to slow down to go fast.”

Picture yourself on a bike in first gear.  You’re pedaling really fast. You’re working hard and making progress. But you’re also exhausted.  Now put that bike into 3rd or 4th gear.  You’re peddling slower, but you’re going further. 

You see, all those years I thought that slowing down meant taking longer to get to the destination.

Instead, it’s really about slowing down in order to hear others’ thoughts and opinions. Slowing down to figure out which big levers you need to focus on to move the business forward - slowing down so that people understand you and can more easily follow you.

Simon Sinek said it best - “Leaders eat last.”

Eating last is really hard, though.  It’s just like changing any other habit.  You know you should. You know why it’s better.  But it’s really frickin’ hard.

To be successful, you often find small hacks to help you change.

My hack? You guessed it: sticky notes.

This simple hack has significantly helped me break (well, at least improve) my bad habit.  I knew I needed to slow down, and I needed to let others speak first and more often.

Instead of just trying to change, I first needed to diagnose why I had this bad habit.  Why was it so hard to change?

I found that when I was in a meeting or on calls, my speed was driven by two, primary factors. 

  1. I have a lot of energy and passion.

  2. I was worried that I would forget my thoughts.

Once I knew this, I realized it was easy to change.  I just needed a private outlet. I started writing down my ideas and questions on the sticky note.  It immediately relieved the “I have to say it, or I will forget it,” anxiety.

I slowed down, listened, and observed.  It was amazing how often I could cross off things on my list of ideas before it was even my turn to speak. Others would introduce the idea (as the leader, this is gold).  The question would be answered. Often, another better idea would come along. An idea that may not have surfaced if fast-talking, crazy lady in charge Erin had talked all over it.

I encourage you to find ways to slow down.  Assess – are you leading, or are you managing?  In what ways are you potentially detracted from growing your team and business by moving too fast?  What small changes can you experiment with to change the dynamic?

What leadership hacks can you use to help you eat last?

Erin Hatzikostas is a former Corporate CEO turned Career Coach, Speaker and Podcast Host. She is the Founder & CEO of b Authentic inc and is on a mission to empower more authenticity in the workplace. Take her free, fun and insightful “What Dog Are You at Work?” quiz here.

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