Highly-Managed Perceived Inactivity (HMPI) Disorder
By: Venga Global-
As a community that shares know-how and information, GALA is happy to introduce the second installment in the new blog series “If I knew then …” by Kåre Lindahl, CEO of Venga Global.
The lesson: hit the pause button frequently
When your hair starts to turn beautifully grey, like George Clooney’s, it is not uncommon to look back and ask yourself what advice you would give to the (much) younger you. What would I do differently if I knew then what I know now? Probably many things, but I have no regrets. I am a person who rarely broods over what I have done in the past, aided in great part by my bad memory; even when I should truly feel regret about something, I just do not remember.
Of course, I could have done many things differently: I could have started my own business earlier, worked out more at the gym, bought Apple shares when Newton went up in flames, or more importantly, have chosen the location of my tattoo more wisely (this one always hits you way too late). The usual, you know.
But one of the more important things that I have learnt over the years, that I think could have made the biggest difference in my earlier life, is the power of doing nothing, which commonly manifests itself as HMPI, or Highly-Managed Perceived Inactivity disorder.
If I look back to my early career, I just could not let things lie still. I had an (irritating) tendency to want to fix everything (for everyone) right away. The negative aspects of this were obvious, such as putting words in other people's mouths, clearly spelling out what is wrong with what other people propose, and meddling in affairs when no meddling was needed. All signs of micromanaging.
As a younger man, I also tried to run faster and learn more than everyone else. Not because I wanted to show off, but so that I could get stuff done. In my mind, I could run faster than several of my team-mates, but what I failed to realize is that a team always runs faster when everyone is working together, and each person knows what she or he should do to contribute to the team’s goals.
So, with time I have learnt to step back, to internalize my HMPI, and to unleash the power of doing nothing! The benefits are many and have been an important part of growing my company. Here are a few worth noting:
Give yourself time to think
Allow yourself the time it takes to think through a situation/challenge before you act. Ignore the fact that you may seem indecisive, and trust your feeling that what you are pondering is not ready for a decision yet. It’s an extended “sleep on it”strategy.
The greater danger here is making an early (and potentially poor) decision just because you feel pressured to it, often times just by your own self, instead of letting it sit with you for a little longer.
Relax your brain
Another benefit is that it clears your head, something we desperately need in these days of being available 24/7, regardless of where in the world you are or what plane you might be on. Maybe, like me, you’ve been thinking about getting serious with meditation for a while. We all should, but in the meantime, here’s a “2-krona light meditation to-go”: just close your eyes, breathe deeply, and think of nothing for 5 minutes. Whenever you start thinking of something, just go back to the blank slate. If you don’t feel an improvement after your first week, I’ll refund you.
Let your team shine
If you let people get on with it – scary thought, right? – you will be enabling them to act and solve the problem. In doing so, you will allow them to rise, shine, and become leaders within your organization. How else will the company grow? No matter how highly we regard ourselves – and we do – by hiring smart people who actually know their stuff, I am still constantly amazed at the results when you step back and let them be smart. Soon, you and they together will come up with the ideas that will take the company to the next level. Back to the running: no matter how hard I tried, I could never run as fast as a well-functioning team.
Inspire instead of doing
When you have time to think and not just to do, only then can you think about leadership. Your role as a CEO, GM, or company owner is all about leadership. At the start, you set the direction, and as the company grows and strategy becomes a shared responsibility, you are still responsible to articulate that strategy. In addition to providing direction, motivation, inspiration, personal development (theirs, not yours), and oversight (cannot forget that), you are there to take away whatever obstacles stand in their way to success. It’s a bit like being an agile scrum master for the whole company.
Remember, your main job is to make sure the company moves forward and does not go bankrupt. That is hardly ever achieved by one single individual.
Watch it go away
On more occasions than we tend to realize, an issue will just solve itself over time. What was a HUGE fire-drill problem yesterday – and we freak out very easily here on the US West Coast – might not be an issue the day (or week) after. Priorities can change, perceptions can shift, or some investigation may show that there was actually no problem at all. You might well call it lazy, but I can tell you that it is highly-managed perceived inactivity at its best.
Here’s a well-known mantra that remains crucial to this date as you build a company: focus on the important rather than the urgent. Without the lessons above, I would have tried to run faster and faster without getting very far. I would have spent my time chasing the urgent and would have neglected the truly important.
When I was growing up, my parents had a porcelain plaque with a poem by Danish poet Piet Hein. It was in the kitchen and close to where I would have my meals, so I would read it very often, and it made an impression on me.
Put up in a place
where it's easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it's well to remember that
Things Take Time.
Whenever I feel rushed into some action or decision, I repeat to myself: Things Take Time, and thinking takes time.
I wish I had known earlier about the Highly-Managed Perceived Inactivity disorder and the advantages in allowing myself to think longer before taking action.
Now, be warned, HMPI is highly contagious and you might all start to ponder things for longer right after reading this blog. If you feel any such urges, please consult with your teams.