At our last Leadership Forum, we focused on the topic of time management, which is also a frequent challenge for the CEOs and MDs with whom I work. The following exercise helps to focus on the balance of time spent on leadership activities, i.e. good time management, and everything else. I used this approach again recently, with a very busy and successful client. The approach is listed in 4. steps.
1. I asked my client to draw up two lists of the activities he had spent time on during the past week. On the first, he was to list everything that “only he could do” and on the second – everything else that he had also done.
2. We then took a look at the lists and highlighted the activities that, as a leader, he should be doing. These include i)strategy, ii)hiring, iii)enabling (i.e. removing obstacles and arranging opportunities) and iv)communication. The last includes key messages to audiences such as employees and customers, as well as individual conversations. Some of these four activities didn’t appear as he simply did not have the time for them.
3. We looked at the first list and I asked him “Why can only you do all of these tasks?”. Which of them could be delegated if someone was shown how to do them? Which of them could/should be outsourced? Which of them have become a habit that you should break – i.e. they are not delivering value any more?” Once we had highlighted and addressed why he thought only he could do some of the items on the list, it was a simple task to select one key action that he could take to reduce the list.
4. We looked at the “Everything Else” list and again went through the process of delete or delegate. An action was agreed to remove an item from this list too.
The goal was to reduce at least one item from each list every week. In summary, poor time management is a mix of not just having too much to do, but also doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
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It was James’ special birthday this week and I was therefore keen that Guy sent his father a card. So, I bought the card on his behalf and managed to slip it to him when we went to watch him in his Drama exam. Inside the card, I also wrote our address and included a stamp. Two days later, I emailed Guy to ask if he had posted the card. “I can’t” he replied, “I’m in boarding school”. I told him I was sure the school would be able to arrange to post it, or he should ask one of the day children to post it for him. James birthday came and went, no card. We collected Guy and he handed his dad the card. Just as well, he didn’t post it, because unlike Father Christmas, I believe there is more than one Dad and a card with only a stamp and “Dad” might not have made it to James.