Life really isn’t about time as much as it is about moments. If you think back on your day or your week or your last 20 years what you remember are individual moments that, for one reason or another, were more important to you. One of the skills that many of the best leaders I have worked with have developed is the ability to find or create those moments for others. They know that not every moment is one where we will allow ourselves to be taught. So they either wait for the teachable ones, or they create them.
There are certain times in our life that we are open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. The best leaders understand how to make the most of these moments to literally change the future for us. They look for those infrequent opportunities when they don’t have to fight through all of our baggage to help us understand something in a different way. They know that there are two kinds of moments where we are more susceptible to being led.
Right after impact
Impact can mean many things for us but the essence is that something dramatic just happened in our lives and the time around that moment will likely stick with us forever. It could be something as severe as the death of a loved one. It might be a success we had, or a failure. Success and failure both make impact and both are teachable moments. This is one of the reasons that true leaders allow their people to fail on occasion even though it could have been prevented. They know that in the long run what they can help us learn in those moments will far outweigh the temporary setback that the failure represented. Think about the day you got a new job, or lost one. The day you had a baby or the day you graduated college. Things that happen at times like that are a permanent part of who you are and you will forever remember them. There are many less dramatic, but still impactful, moments that happen regularly though and create a perfect opportunity for us to benefit from the presence and the thoughts of a leader who wants to help us.
At the start of something new
Your first day on the new job, the first time you are making a sales call, when you change roles or get a new boss. Real leaders will recognize these as opportunities to help you by taking advantage of these moments to help you change your perspective. These are times when we pause for a moment and make decisions about how we will operate in the new environment and how success will look for us here. We will remember moments like this and they will seem to pass more slowly because we are alive, awake, and focused on the new challenge. I even read a study once that suggested the reason time seemed to speed up as we get older is because we do fewer new things and so we have fewer truly memorable moments.
Think about the important messages that we deliver every day to others when they are clearly not in one of those teachable moments; an argument with our teenager, a rushed conversation with our spouse while we are leaving for work, a meeting where people are feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done. If the message is important, than making sure it’s heard and makes the intended difference is important too.
In business, and in life, we often focus on the message we want people to get and the behavior we want them to change. The reality is that we will only help someone make changes if they are open to our ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. Leadership is about more than sending the right message; it is also about sending it the right way at the right time. If you want to be the kind of leader that truly makes a difference for others then find or create those teachable moments and fill them with messages that will be remembered, forever.