I would not consider myself a lazy person. In fact, I have been described as a "workaholic." So it was a surprise when I realized that laziness had affected some parts of my life. It had even begun to affect my goals and dreams.
This is often the case when the demands of your life go up. I used to be able to knock out my extensive To-Do lists with very little structure. I wandered from one job to the next, finishing at my pleasure. However, as new doors began to open for me, this lack of structure stopped working. I ran out of time at the end of the week. I began to have to "wing it" in my talks and writing. I was always rushing to get yesterday's stuff done today.
Surprised by laziness
I didn't feel lazy. I was traveling, speaking, and writing more than ever had before. However, in one of our senior staff meetings, a young man had the courage to tell me, ''Michael, all your talks and writing lately seem very dry and uninspired." Someone else said, "Yeah, you're really sucking it up lately." Ouch!
I wanted to defend myself. But deep in my heart, I knew it was true. As the conversation went on, we all realized that I had to structure my days, meetings, and life in general in a way that maximized my time. My assistant began to talk about how I often ignored her when she shared how I could stay on track each day. She explained that all her planning and structure was a waste of time if I chose not to work hard at following it. My wife talked about my need to prioritize my health and family. It was like an episode of Intervention.
As a free-spirited leader, I relished my laid-back style. I did things when I felt like it. I couldn't imagine the horror of a scheduled life! But as the meeting went on, it was clear that I needed to grow. I saw that I had become comfortable with putting off tasks. In fact, I procrastinated long enough that some opportunities just went away. I was being too lazy to grow.
Laziness is a funny little creature. I used to think it was why people don't get jobs or why houses stay dirty, but I have found it to be a cleverer foe than I ever realized. True laziness just says, "Things are fine." Laziness rewards you for what you have done and encourages you to stay in that moment. Laziness reasons that tomorrow will be a more fruitful day. It convinces us to rest before we even get tired.
In a leader, laziness often looks like "movement," while preventing meaningful action. Like a ship anchored in a storm, the ship rocks and rolls with the waves but it never goes anywhere.
So what kills the cancer of laziness in a leader? Education and new habits.
I began to read everything I could about leaders who experienced growth: Hybels, Maxwell, Welch, Jobs and other biographies of other men and woman who have excelled. I began to give those under my leadership more voice in my daily duties. I asked my wife to use harsher words to get my attention. I learned to say "this meeting is over." I began to turn things down (even some good things!). I wrote during the time outlined on my schedule. If I didn't feel inspired, I lied to myself until I did. But I always kept typing. I built a team of staffers to help me develop my talks with their honest feedback. And I learned to stop at the end of the day.
In short, my life got structured. I cannot tell you how much peace and inspiration it has brought me. It's a funny thing about constantly educating ourselves; it inspires us to perform at new levels. I have come to see that those I admire have one thing in common: They never stop learning. Laziness cannot exist in the bright light of learning and growth.