Graham Allcott has an amazing podcast called “Beyond Busy.” We had an absolutely delightful conversation, and a theme emerged as we talked: leadership hacks that help us get from “beyond busy” to balanced and controlled (we look pretty chill, don’t we?) Here are three ways we discussed to becoming that leader who never looks too busy.

Emily Chang | The Spare Room | Graham Allcott

What leaders in the West can learn from those in China.

Graham asked me what the West can learn from China (around the 7:00 mark). My thought was: agility.

In the USA, we often define, design, and qualify with care and precision before launching a new product. Meanwhile in China, an MVP is put together and launched so that we can quickly gauge in-market reaction, learn, and improve.

As leaders, it may all come down to our appetite for risk and our definition of failure. For instance, if a new product doesn’t do well in the West, it may quickly get labeled a failure. However in China, a new product quickly rakes in the complaints and we celebrate for having learned quicker – it’s deemed a success! So, redefine success and go for it.

That boss who told me I had to work 3x harder than everybody else.

Graham initiated a new topic by asking about my philosophy as a leader (just before 10:00). I shared my experience working in Guangzhou with Procter & Gamble. Our VP, Ravi, told me I was 3x more expensive than a local hire (as an expat). He suggested I should therefore, deliver 3x the value!

Actually, this challenge was really fantastic. It pushed me to get intentional about what I hoped to achieve in my new role. And it cemented a simple formula in my mind – how do I contribute more than I consume?

That question has become a straightforward and ongoing KPI I’ve maintained for myself since then, a way to measure my effectiveness as a leader and as a human. So, consider how you might become more approachable and see what conversations arise.

Taking the awe out of leadership

Graham asked me if I consciously take down the wall between my real self and my professional veneer (~29:00). The answer? Absolutely!

A wonderful mentor, Ravi, once counseled me to take the awe out of leadership. Because if our people are in awe of us, that feeling creates a distance between us. Then, if we don’t get close, we can’t know each other well, or build trust… which are all required to do great work together. By the way, there’s a fine line between awe and fear.

This is why I walk around a lot. In fact, I build “walk around time” into my schedule, just to ensure I’m being visible enough to the broader organization. What happens when I do this? Sometimes, I get to address the small questions or feedback, which I would normally not get to hear (“Can the company order tissues for every floor?).

Other times, I observe pain points and find ways to make our teams’ lives easier or more comfortable (“Our water machines need to be replaced”).

Today as I walked around, I got my head measured. Long story. But very fun and incredibly hilarious. So, walk around and see what happens.

Emily Chang | McCann | Fun

Hotel stationary as a key leadership tool

Graham and I touched on this fun tradition I created for myself just after 33:00. While working at IHG, I spent a lot of time in hotels. One day as I pulled opened the desk drawer and flipped open the leather bound binder, I wondered, when’s the last time someone used this stationary? Right then, I decided that every time I stay at a hotel, I’ll write a letter to someone I’m grateful for. Just a small gesture, takes no more than five minutes. But a handwritten note means a lot! And that nice, thick paper is just sitting there… free and waiting to be used.

Because sometimes it’s in the grand gesture, and sometimes it’s in the little moments. So today, consider what gesture you can add to your repetoire and become that leader who never looks busy.

You can watch the full podcast here. To check out all my podcasts, go to this page.

Photo credit: China photo