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A masterclass with Sophie Devonshire on how to balance agility with resilience and the need for pace and pause.

In this webinar Sophie shares some of the most powerful insights she gleaned from speaking to hundreds of highly successful businesses leaders, and what it means to be a 21st Century Leader.

Sophie is CEO of The Caffeine Partnership and the Author of Superfast – Lead at Speed, a best selling leadership business book on how pace can drive performance.

Her insights were particularly pertinent for the hugely disruptive situation we all find ourselves in with the Covid-19 pandemic, showing that disruption isn’t just a bit of business jargon - it’s part of what living and leading in the 21st century is all about. We need to move faster by making better and smarter decisions- about our energy, our time, and our people. 

She left us with some really practical tips and advice to put into practice immediately, but here are the big insights she shared with us:

We have an epidemic of Impatience 

As customers we now live with an in-built ‘Amazon Prime’ expectation; no matter what service or product is being delivered we want everything ‘Amazon prime’. We compare our experiences across categories (whether it’s a food order, grocery shop or doctors appointment) and expect fast service no matter what. This has engendered a society with an epidemic of impatience, and the knock-on effect for businesses and leaders is huge. Not only having to deal with the exponential technological, climate and geopolitical change, we now the threat of Coronavirus - and leaders need to make better decisions faster than ever. 


All of this sounds exhausting doesn’t it, and this is the point Sophie makes. The pressure is huge, our inboxes never get emptied, the to-do list grows continually and it leads to what Sophie calls "Overwhelm-itis". But this isn’t a sustainable solution to making better and smarter decisions. Of the hundreds of leaders she spoke to the most consistent piece of advice she was given was that managing energy was everything to be able to consistently perform without burning yourself out. 

Energy is everything - so choose carefully what you DO do, and what you DON'T do. 

Sophie talks about the "true genius" of what energy can do for us. She refers to Paul Polman (Ex-CEO Unilever) who said “I firmly believe that time management is not important; energy management is”. She talks about:

  • Energy is drawn from what you choose to spend your time doing,  so you need to understand how you structure your time. Ensure your diary has things which energise you, not just drain you.

  • The importance of sleep, diet and exercise.

  • The hardest part of managing energy is what you say NO to, and the best leaders is someone who can edit, priorities and say NO with grace. Making sure they have space in their diaries, their brains, their lives for the things that matter most. 

  • What can you ‘not’ do to allow you to do what only you should do? 

  • Ruthless prioritisation to your goals.

  • She also gave us some really practical tips for maintaining energy and connection for yourself and your teams virtually. 

Great leaders are pace-setters, and they need to pause

Sophie described how great leaders set the pace, and that doesn’t mean break-neck speed the whole time, it often means knowing when to pause, slow down. She says "We’ve all been in situations when we just don’t have time to think, and what we need to do is to make sure we are building in the pauses in our diaries and lives to slow down and think slowly”. Having the clarity of thinking to know when to pause and when to go again is the difference between burnout and performance. 

Strategic Laziness

One of the most fascinating ideas Sophie shared was her concept of Strategic Laziness. Obviously this isn’t about being a lazy person (as she said “you wouldn’t have joined this webinar this morning if you were…"), but being really considered about making the right choices to allow you to do more, and more quickly. Succeeding and thriving is all about decisions - and we cannot make them if our brains are overwhelmed and exhausted. We need to make space to make sure we have the cognitive ability and clarity to make the right decisions. Strategic Laziness is about:

  • Success through not doing it all yourself! 

    • Ask how can we do less?

    • Ask how can we do this faster?

    • Ask who can we use to speed this up?

  • Make choices about what’s important to do and what to say no to.

  • Gaining intellectual clarity and composure for difficult decisions.

  • Gaining great energy from choosing to focus on the things that are enjoyable, you are best at, and that your company and the world needs.

Sophie’s 'Espresso takeaways’

Sophie left us with some really practical provocations to take away and reflect on:

  • Purpose 

    • Do you know what your purpose / teams purpose is? 

    • How can you sharpen, share it, act on purpose now?

  • Pace

    • Are you setting the right pace for your team?

    • Thinking slow / acting fast?

  • Personal Laziness.

  • What can you not do to allow you to do what only you should do? Ruthless prioritisation to your goals.

  • Can you say "no" with grace?


Sophie Devonshire is also part of SpeakersHub and one of our most sought after speakers. To view her full biography to book her to speak at your own event please click here

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