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Leading with Presence: The Return on Energy Matrix

📢 When Good Intentions Encounter Roadblocks 🕊️

Imagine this: a group of aspiring preachers, entrusted with delivering sermons about altruism, unwittingly become characters in an unexpected real-life drama that casts doubt on the very essence of their mission. This is the remarkable “Good Samaritan Study”, a journey through time that navigates a maze of moral conundrums and hurried decisions.

🚶 ♂️ The Race Against Time

Picture this scene: seminary students rushing across a bustling campus, fervently preparing to impart the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. But beneath the surface of their noble purpose lies a ticking time bomb – or more precisely, a ticking watch. John Darley and Daniel Batson, the masterminds behind this psychological exploration, set the stage to investigate an astonishing hypothesis: that even those tasked with preaching benevolence can turn a blind eye when the clock’s hand marches too swiftly.

🤔 A Clash of Ideals and Constraints

As the students tread the path to their pulpit, they stumble upon an actor in distress, a modern-day representation of the beaten and robbed traveler from the Good Samaritan tale. The twist? The extent of their altruism would be influenced by a single factor: time. The students are divided into groups – some are given ample time, others are told they’re on schedule, and a third group is informed they are already running late. The outcome?

In a stunning display of human behavior, the individuals poised to wax eloquent about compassion and aid find themselves at a crossroads of conflicting emotions. As if trapped in a cosmic drama, the students racing against time are more prone to breeze past the troubled man in their path.

The paradox of the Good Samaritan tale manifests in a disheartening way: the urgency of their schedules overshadows the very same principles they are getting ready to preach. As time becomes a more important criterion for modifying their behavior, the irony directly conflicts with their messages of helping those in need, and altruism misses its cue.

The Good Samaritan Study echoes through the corridors of psychology, serving as a testament to the intricate interplay of intentions, pressures, and our susceptibility to external influences. The narrative it paints is a reminder that beneath the surface of our aspirations lie the undercurrents of real-life complexity (or constraints).

🕰️ Escaping the Time Trap: Unleashing Leadership Potential ⏳

If you are a leader today, you’re no stranger to the rapid pace of modern business landscapes. Leaders, much like those hurried seminary students, are responsible for guiding their teams to success. A paradox emerges – the pursuit of courage and innovation is sometimes shackled by the very constraint that propels us forward: time. Or more specifically, a lack of time.

As a leadership coach, I often say that my role is to offer leaders the gift of time. Within the safety of coaching, leaders can choose to pause, step back from the whirlwind of obligations, and truly experience and extend the space between stimulus and response.

In that precious interim, leaders discover the oasis of clarity. The cacophony of deadlines quiets, and the contours of their aspirations sharpen. The power to choose the response over the reflex becomes tangible. No longer confined by the relentless tick of time, leaders regain agency over their decisions,  capable of discerning between the compulsions of urgency and the call of their vision.

🌟 Balancing Action and Stillness

In the realm of leadership, the pendulum often swings towards the “masculine” energy – action – the rapid ticking of the clock driving a relentless pursuit of results. Yet, leadership is not just about charting new courses and conquering summits; it’s about embodying a state of grace and mindful awareness. It’s about tapping into the wellspring of wisdom that resides in the gaps between actions, where reflection and intuition intertwine. This is the arena of the “feminine” energy.

In a world fixated on speed, the act of slowing down is a radical proposition. Yet, this is precisely where the transformative magic of presence unfolds. It’s the art of retreating to the present moment, savoring the richness of the “now,” and being fully attuned to the tapestry of emotions, thoughts, and dynamics that shape our surroundings.

🛑 The Mirage of the Status Quo

In a thought-provoking parallel, the Good Samaritan study underscores the vital importance of time and its influence on decision-making – a connection that resonates powerfully in the realm of leadership. Just as the rushed seminary students failed to respond to a man in need due to their constrained schedules, leaders entangled in time-starved routines may find themselves ensnared in a similar paradox. The urgency of time, much like a deceiving illusion, alters the path of leadership.

A perpetually stretched schedule is the enemy of progress, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, inertia wrapped in motion.

How to Win Back Time? Essentialism

In his book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, Greg McKeown offers the philosophy and practice of essentialism, which is a mindset and approach to life and work that emphasizes focusing on the things that truly matter and eliminating or minimizing the less important things.

The central idea of essentialism is to decide what is truly essential in our lives and prioritize those things while letting go of, or saying no to, the non-essential tasks, activities, and commitments that distract us from our true goals and purpose. It’s about simplifying and streamlining our lives to achieve better results, higher productivity, and a deeper sense of fulfillment.

The essential lesson from the Good Samaritan study cascades effortlessly into the realm of leadership, highlighting that time-starved decision-making erodes the very foundation of visionary leadership.

Reclaim your time with this exercise developed by my awesome team The Preston Associates.

Try This Exercise: The Return on Energy Matrix

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Developed by @The Preston Associates

Step 1. What gives you energy?

  • What are the activities in which you feel a sense of flow? Do you prefer to think about the why, the who, the what or the how? Can you recall a time when you were so absorbed in a task that you lost track of time? Do you find energy in collaborating and interacting with others?
  • Think about a recent day when you felt particularly energized at work. What were you doing? On the flip side, when have you felt drained or disengaged from your work? What were you working on?

Step 2. What activities are critical for your role?

  • Which aspects of your work make you feel like you’re making a meaningful difference? How does your role contribute to the overall goals and objectives of your team or organization? What can be delegated to others?

Step 3: On an average day or week, how do you typically allocate your time among different tasks and activities? Plot them in the matrix below.

Step 4: Adjust how you spend your time so that you eliminate and delegate tasks that are not highly critical to your role or that drain your energy.