Too Busy to Succeed

Most of the leaders and senior executives I work with are grappling with not enough time in the day.  They are running hard trying to stay on top of key issues, but it’s affecting their work effectiveness and personal lives.  They need a way to focus on the issues and tasks that are most important and jettison the rest. 

This is particularly true for:

  • Executives newly promoted to leadership roles
  • Executives taking on significantly more responsibility, or
  • Leaders whose companies are going into rapid growth phases, undergoing significant change (think merger/acquisition or technology-driven change.)

For nearly all of them, I have helped them gain between six and eight hours per week.  The process is a combination of understanding how they are using time, using a better way to manage their time, and creating blocks of discretionary time.

What would an extra six to eight hours every week mean for you?

Why Effective Leaders Don’t Have Cluttered Desks

I used to wonder why it was that when I visit well-respected leaders their desks are clear of clutter. In most cases, there are only one or a few folders on their desks. And although scheduling time with them was often somewhat difficult, they never seemed in a frantic rush to get through the meeting and on to other things.

It turns out that effective leaders are very good at two things:

First, they identify the top few things that they must do that day and disregard all the rest. The next day, they do it again. There is no long to-do list — just 1-3 tasks that they will focus on each day. All the other things are pushed aside and abandoned because they don’t make it to the top.

The second thing they do is tackle one task at a time. They do not multi-task. Because they work at a constant pace, tackling one task, then another, they get better results than the leaders who try to multi-task.

As I tell my clients, move one thing forward a mile instead of many things forward an inch.

When you focus on the one most important task, you can have a clutter-free desk. There is no need for the distraction of heaps of papers or files.

Try it.

How to Align Priorities

As a leader, you need to make sure that priorities are aligned throughout your organization, and that people are working on those priorities. To accomplish alignment, do the following:

  1. Provide context continuously. This means the big picture – what is our business strategy? What is the role of different parts of the organization in achieving that strategy?
  2. Check priorities regularly. Tell your associates what your priorities are. Say, “This is what I am focusing on.” Then ask each of them, “What are you focusing on?”

Without the context and priorities, people will do what they think are the priorities and they may be very different from what you need from them.

For example, a manager might do what will reflect well on her career. Or a manager might want to create overly complex or sophisticated processes, instead of what will help achieve overall business goals. People have conflicting demands; make sure they are working on the right ones.

I worked with a large organization on strategy and structure of a rapidly-growing division which was structured around serving a specific market, and the intent was to strengthen the focus. But in conversations with the CEO and COO it became clear that the overall business strategy called for a new purpose and structure that would add tremendous value to both the overall organization and to specific market. The context provided vital direction.

If you really want to sharpen focus, send a short email to each associate noting what you discussed, agreed to with time frame.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, contact me.
My website is www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob (at) boblegge.com

The Transition Every Executive Must Make

Last week I was in Rhode Island where Autumn is beginning to take hold. It got me thinking about transitions and especially the transition that any new executive must make to shift from an operational perspective to a broader business-wide perspective.

When you become a senior leader, you have to change the way you think about both your role and the business. Senior leaders who don’t do this will be ineffective at best, and fail at worse.

Operational management is focused on getting sales, improving processes, and internal performance on a number of measures. But senior executives must be concerned with the business. And the position challenges are very different as a senior leader. You have to be concerned with how to grow the business, how to increase competitive advantage, how to provide a return that is better than the cost of capital, how to sustain profitability, and so on.

Those challenges require a different, more strategic perspective on the business, and new skills, not the least of which is how best to use your time.

As a senior leader, you need competent people to handle operations so that you have time to focus on overall business challenges.

The success of the business depends on you making this transition. But it’s not easy because the temptation is to get involved with operational issues and decisions – where you likely feel comfortable and have been successful in the past.

And importantly, you are in a position where you can feel very much isolated and alone facing key decisions for which you are fully accountable.

I have had significant success working with senior executives on this transition and the many other singular issues facing senior executives. If you, or another executive in your organization, want to make faster, surer progress, contact me. I’d welcome the opportunity to talk and explore how we could work together.

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor on strategy implementation and executive effectiveness to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.
My website is http://www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com

Do You Have Enough Discretionary Time?

C-level executives must have discretionary time to work on the tasks that are most important to the company. These include such tasks as strategy, organization direction, communication, and people development. All this requires time to think.

Yet, finding discretionary time can be difficult when everyone wants some of your time and there’s not enough room in your schedule for all the meetings others want you to attend. You cannot do it all, and if you try to do it all, you won’t be doing your job and you won’t have a healthy work-life balance.

There is no simple solution – it depends greatly on the individual executive’s situation. What I’ve found helpful in my work with senior-level executives is first an appreciation for the difference between how an executive thinks time is spent and the actual use of time. That’s a good beginning.

Time is a resource. It needs to be prioritized. And time to think is also a value. I’ve heard that in Japan people will interrupt if you are busy, but will not interrupt if you are thinking. The opposite is more prevalent here. (It’s not very easy to pick-up where you left off if your thinking is interrupted.)

When you have sufficient discretionary time, your performance, your contribution to the enterprise, and your work-life balance will all improve.

Do you have enough discretionary time to perform at the level of your position? If not, what are you doing to about it? Contact me for suggestions.

How Successful Executives Demonstrate a Strategic Perspective

An important challenge any successful executive needs to master is the transition from an operational project focus to a strategic focus. That’s not to say that projects aren’t important (they are.) Executives will contribute to identifying and prioritizing key projects, but leading projects is the task of operational positions.

Here’s how mature executives demonstrate a strategic perspective:

  • Exhibiting a very good sense of how the business operates including how value is created, the economic drivers of success, and what costs are most important to monitor and control.
  • Showing longer-term thinking and not narrowly focused on the short-term.
  • Having a functional or divisional strategy that clearly connects to the overall business strategy and goals.
  • Being focused on company needs, policies and priorities, not just his or her own function or division.
  • Clearly reflecting the values of the company in his or her behaviors, decisions, and actions.

Two helpful resources to make this transition to a strategic perspective are a role model and an advisor – both of whom have successfully done it before.

Are you demonstrating a strategic perspective?

Copyright 2018 Bob Legge
___________________________
I am a trusted advisor to leaders of Fortune 500 companies, mid-size companies, nonprofits, education, and government. My work helps leaders drive strategy, lead successful change, develop high performance cultures, improve individual and organizational performance, and produce faster, sustainable growth and value.

If you want to seize new opportunities, dramatically improve your leadership effectiveness, and free-up more time for yourself and your family, give me a call.
My website is http://www.boblegge.com
Contact me at: bob@boblegge.com

Executives: Don’t Operate Beneath Your Level

Many executives have the opportunity to increase quality and productivity in their organizations, and at the same time reduce demands on their time, simply by operating at their own level. To do this, stop giving orders, doing project reviews, and inserting oneself into operations.

Here’s what will happen:

  1. Direct report managers will become empowered to do their jobs
  2. Individual performers will stop bypassing their managers as they search for fast approvals
  3. You won’t be needed at so many operational meetings, and
  4. The majority of people problems and operational decisions will get handled where they should be handled — close to people and operations.

This can be difficult, especially for new executives who were promoted because they have shown great ability in these areas. But it is a very important transition to make.