The 1990 hip-hop song ‘You can’t touch this’ by MC Hammer made a surprising appearance in a Walk & Talk coaching session I had recently.
I was catching-up with Jon Ritchie, the Director of Resources for North Tyneside Council, and we were walking along the stunning Whitley Bay esplanade and beach, itself a great testimony to the Council’s capital investment strategy. It was a warm, early summer morning walk and we were blessed with some splendid sunshine and of course fantastic views. Our dogs were having a great time and all was well with the world…
We got on to talk about the time pressures Jon faces in his senior leadership role. I was listening to the all too common refrain that ‘Operational work’ and low-value meetings have a sneaky ability to appear in his calendar, demanding attention as they always show-up dressed in ‘urgent and important’ clothes. Jon is not alone, this is an issue I hear a lot when coaching senior leaders.
To combat this apparent force of nature, Jon mentioned he and his executive assistant Louise Hasson, had come up with a great wheeze. Lou books regular ‘Hammer Time’ sessions in Jon’s calendar. These sessions are sacrosanct and cannot be seized by anyone and enable Jon to have some time to think during the working week.
Imagine, time to think during the working week! The sea twinkled in the background as it caught the morning sunshine and the waves gently broke on the sand…..
Jon likes his music and the use of such a positive metaphor creates a mental shift in his weekly schedule. I thought this idea was a touch of genius! The songs chorus is a complete earworm and it is hard not to smile and move your body as you sing it in your head. This is precisely the mind-set you need when you free-up time to think. Clear the clutter, let the mind wander, for a bit anyway.
Music in the background and walking in the fresh air are both great stimuli for shifting mind-set and are much underused in our busy worlds of work. It is one of the silver linings of the recent pandemic that we are all used to de-coupling work from place and recognising that being ‘at work’ is, and always has been, a state of mind.
I have covered in previous blogs the power of changing the working environment to help stimulate new thinking. All senior leaders need time to think and to change mental gear during the working week. The mind-set needed for effective Operational work is fast and focused; for Leadership work it should be curious and reflective and for Strategic work creative and visionary. These mind-set shifts do not come without conscious thought and a will to change mental gear.
Switching mental gear is easier said than done. Operational work is like a gravitational force, always present, but rarely consciously thought about or resisted. A pattern interrupt is needed. Putting some Hammer Time into all our calendars is a habit worth stealing with pride. Thanks for agreeing to let me share this Jon!
If you want to take advantage of some Hammer Time in your own calendars please reach out. I walk Boo my dog every day and, with the wonders of modern technology, (headphones and a mobile), we can do walk-and-talk coaching sessions whenever and wherever you like.