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Too busy to lead?

How’s your to-do list looking for this week? Back-to-back meetings in your diary… in-box overflowing… staff appraisals overdue…

Most people in leadership roles would be fairly familiar with that state of affairs. When you’re juggling so many balls and being pulled in all different directions with day-to-day management tasks, how on earth do you find time to devote to that essential management task of leading? You know, pulling yourself out of the fray and actually taking a birds-eye view of your patch long enough to set a clear path for yourself and your team.

As someone who loves to help people, one of my steepest learning curves has been learning not to say yes to everything. After all, it’s hard to get the best quality out of yourself when you’re burdened by quantity. And while I’ve always felt I had a lot to offer, I now know that any strength, when taken to the extreme, quickly becomes a weakness.

This became crystal clear to me after winning silver at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. I was going for gold but didn’t even perform at my personal best and I was feeling really down on myself about it. But then I saw how I’d spread myself so thin in the lead up – I was completing the final year of my physiotherapy degree but getting credits instead of distinctions, working part-time, living out of home and saying yes to every opportunity that came my way, which made it impossible to be at my best during the 30 hours a week I spent training. I realised the hard way that I didn’t win gold because I was performing at a silver level in every area of my life.

So how did I go on to win gold at Athens in 2004? Well, that harsh reality ended up being liberating. I saw that in trying to check off so many things on my to-do list, I was compromising my commitment to something even bigger. The trick was to get really clear on my values and priorities and let those guide my yeses. I made deliberate choices rather than compulsively saying yes. In short, I became selective as hell!

Our values can tell us what to say yes to while our priorities provide the when. So even when there’s a lot to do, it may not have to be done right now. Like when I struggled fitting in charity work (which has always been really important to me) while training, I decided I could make time for that later in my life, which I now do.

Perhaps there are things on your to-do list that, if you were to reassess in term of your broader values and priorities, are actually negotiable so that you can free yourself up?

Of course, sometimes we may not have control over the what or the when. So when you can’t delete or delay, the next best thing is to delegate. You don’t actually have to do it all. You can outsource it. Or you can use it to build competencies in your team which, by the way, is a key part of leading. Again, it comes down to adjusting your lens. Tweaking your definition of leading could make all the difference.

Look forward to picking up on this – and more – in May!

About the author:

Katrina Webb, Katrina Webb OAM MIML

Katrina Webb is recognised and acknowledged for her unique athleticism and outstanding success as a Paralympic athlete. She has won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in athletics at three Paralympic Games.

She was the first torchbearer to enter the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games and in 2006 Katrina was selected to present on behalf of the International Paralympic Committee to the United Nations in New York. In 2012 & 2016, Katrina was selected as a Paralympian Ambassador for the International Paralympic Committee at the London & Rio Paralympic Games.

Off the track Katrina is the Director of her own business Silver 2 Gold High Performance Solutions. As a qualified physiotherapist and a person who knows how to achieve gold medal results more than once, her business specializes in improving the performance and health of organisations, teams and individuals.


Katrina Webb  will be speaking at the IML TEL Talk: Effective Habits of Daily Leadership Life on 10 May in Adelaide.
Katrina will draw from her experience as an elite athlete and professional businesswomen to demonstrate how leaders can use discipline to implement practical coping strategies into each working day.
This event includes lunch and refreshments.

Book now



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