Next week I am leading an offsite strategy advance for a leadership team (board and executives) of eleven people in rural Victoria. The following email is part of a daily series I sent to the participants, to help them prepare for the offsite event that is a key component of the strategic planning process we are working through together. This instalment focuses on the opportunity of doing some “deep work” together during the strategy advance, which I thought that you may find useful as a reader of The nLIVEn Blog. Perhaps you’ll enjoy looking over my shoulder if you’re considering how to help your board and executive leadership get the most out of your next strategy retreat.
It seems yesterday’s provocative instalment (The Throughput Analysis Graph) struck a chord with a few members of the leadership team, who sent me some encouraging feedback.
Thanks Mary and John for your reflections – good observations and insightful questions for the group.
So, on to my next mini briefing. I think that it is an opportune time to start thinking about how you / we can all get the most out of The Strategy Advance 2018.The challenge is that we have a relatively short amount of time together next week to do some important thinking. The kind of thinking and decision making that has systemic, long-term implications for our business and our stakeholders. We’ll each need to bring our A-game, which is easier said than done in a very distracted world.
Let’s Do Some Deep Work Together
Have you heard of the concept of Deep Work before?
In “Deep Work”, author Cal Newport’s premise is as follows:
Deep work, the ability to concentrate deeply, increases one’s value as a worker and brings more meaning to life
It is possible to increase one’s deep work capability by training one’s brain and changing one’s work habits.
Here’s a seven and a half minute explainer video which will quickly introduce (or refresh) you to Cal’s big idea:
I’d really encourage you to grab a drink and check it out on your morning or afternoon tea break.
If you enjoy it, here’s a one-page summary I found on the web with some great quotes from the book like:
“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time that it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” Cal Newport
Interesting concept Glenn – and thanks for sharing – but what does this have to do with the strategy advance, you may be wondering?
Well, I am declaring next week’s strategy advance to be a deep work zone. However, I need your help to achieve that.
Here are some of the things that I’ll be doing at TSA 2018. I invite, encourage and at for at least #1 will enforce that you do the same:
1. Designing the sessions to be device free.
No personal electronic devices will be required for any of the sessions, including both the classroom sessions and mealtime discussions. Therefore, you will need to leave your laptop, tablet and mobile phone in your hotel room. Paul and I may use a laptop to present ideas to the group, but rest assured that the email application will remain closed.
2. Not using my devices during the day.
You are permitted to access your electronic devices during breaks, outside of the classroom and dining room. However, you are also permitted (even encouraged) to put yourself into “Do Not Disturb” mode for the duration of The Strategic Advance, by turning on an email auto-responder and updating your voicemail message bank.
3. Not checking or responding to any of my email for the duration of TSA.
From the time I leave my car in the carpark to check into the hotel, until the time I return to my car in the carpark after I check out of the hotel, I won’t be checking or reading my email. That takes some self-discipline and planning (I’ll actually tell my devices to stop receiving email).
4. Not checking or responding to any of my voicemail messages for the duration of TSA.
Again, from the time I leave my car in the carpark to check into the hotel, until the time I return to my car in the carpark after I check out of the hotel, I won’t be checking or responding to any voicemail messages. That potentially takes even more self-discipline and planning (I’ll advise the important people in my life and implement a temporary voicemail message and only use my phone to call home once on Wednesday afternoon / evening)
That may all sound pretty severe, even pedantic, but I regularly come across executives that are experiencing a low-level form of attention deficit disorder because they don’t regularly go into do not disturb mode to ensure they have sufficient time to focus on the things that really matter to them.
Let’s celebrate the opportunity of working together by being deeply respectful to each other.
Consciously establishing, managing and maintaining your boundaries well for the duration of this event will significantly support you in reaching and sustaining your most resourceful strategic self over the duration of the retreat.
TSA 2018 is a special opportunity to deepen our thinking as well as deepen our working relationships.
I hope you’ll join me in making a concerted effort to help your team go deep, and go deep quickly, when we convene at the RACV Torquay Resort next week…
Glenn A. Williams
Making Deep Work A Regular Habit
A commitment to deep work is a pragmatic recognition that the ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done.
Here are some final parting thoughts (that were not part of my email to the leadership team) that might provide you with some helpful reflections on how to incorporate more deep work into your routine, making it one of you winning habits.
For many entrepreneurs and executives, weekly or fortnightly business executive coaching sessions create an opportunity to consistently do deep work.
As David Allen wrote in the book Getting Things Done, “…the most important meeting you have each week is the meeting you have with yourself: your weekly review”. Zealously guard this appointment in your diary each week to do deep work with yourself.
See Management and Board meetings as an opportunity for your team to do deep work together by using some or all of the suggestions I outlined above.
Invest in your leadership team making a strategic advance to plan for tomorrow at least once a year by taking themselves offsite to escape the relentless demands of today.
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