By Kathy Poehnert, M.Ed.Psych., PCC
Pretty simple title……pretty big concept in the business world.
“I don’t have time”…”there is not enough time in the day”….”What’s the time-frame for that?” “Where did the time go?” “The timing was all off” …. Time takes a rather significant place in our lexicon, as well as in our psyche. For most managers and leaders, time management and time awareness are top priorities.
I love learning from my clients, and I recently became familiar with some concepts around this topic that I find interesting and helpful in my own life, and in my work with managers and leaders. It is based on the ancient Greeks’ understanding of Time, for which they had two types: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to the linear, more quantitative concept of time such as seconds, minutes, days, weeks, etc. (think “chronology” or “anachronism.”) Kairos refers to a more qualitative, “unique moment” in time. The word itself literally means opportunity.
Great leadership of course relies on the use of both of these concepts of time. Unfortunately, there seems to be a much stronger emphasis on Chronos time in leadership than on Kairos time. Chronos leadership is about getting things done in an orderly fashion, which is very important, particularly when dealing with any kind of project management or deadline driven situations, or when outcomes must be measured. A Chronos leader is structured and tactical. In many ways, it is about using the left, logical brain.
The Kairos leader, however, tends to be more right –brained in thinking; relying on intuition, creativity, and flexibility. This type of leader is very helpful when change or innovation (however small) is needed for a team, business unit, or organization. The focus is on knowing when it is “the right time” for something to occur. Kairos time is also thought of as the times during a day when things are going really well, or you are “in the flow” of creativity or positive feelings.
I have dealt with leaders who, at times become discouraged, stuck, and even depressed. Helping them to look for and expect Kairos moments in a day that, when seen as a whole may feel negative and discouraging, can be incredibly transformative. There are always Kairos moments in any day- it takes practice and self awareness to notice them. Rick Hanson (Buddha’s Brain) calls this “taking in the good” – we know from his research that the brain must focus on these moments for at least 20 seconds to deepen our neuro pathways.
Here are two ways to start to integrate Kairos thinking into your leadership toolbox.:
- “Prime” (ask) your brain every morning to notice any Kairos moments in the upcoming day. This calls into play your RAS (Reticular Activating System) which is the information gatekeeper in your brain; this will support you in developing awareness of these moments.
- Count those moments at the end of the day. This actually uses your more familiar Chronos skills in service of developing Kairos thinking!
Innovative, successful leaders use a combination of both of these approaches to time… leaders who really stand out are those who are not only aware of Kairos time, but train their brain to notice and utilize it effectively and with consistency.
For more on working with time or your challenges with time, consult with Kathy today.