As a leader, you will never have enough time, unless you make it. There are too many things vying for your attention, some important to your critical outcomes and initiatives, a good many being nothing more than distractions. Leaders who don’t focus on the results they want tend not to produce them.
Treating Emergencies as Urgencies
As a leader, all bad news finds its way to your desk. There are people on every team who take pride in reporting bad news and emergencies, especially when the leader rewards them for their vigilance in identifying problems and crises and making sure they are informed. When a behavior is rewarded, you tend to get more of it, especially when the reward is gratitude, recognition, access, and the feeling of being important.
Leaders are charged with making hard calls, and there is rarely a time where there isn’t an emergency or a challenge that requires a decision. However, if your days are filled with constant interruptions about every crisis, challenge, or unexpected problem, it is something you are attracting—and it is already preventing you from dedicating your time and attention to what is most important.
Spending less time on growth and more time on problems will see your problems increase while the results you want will slip away. You have to spend your time on the results you want, limiting the time you spend on everything else, including every problem, challenge, or complaint that shows up.
Lack of Empowerment
There is another reason problems find leaders, one that reveals an even more significant challenge to producing results—and growth. Let’s call it “lack of empowerment,” requiring every decision on things large or small (mostly small), to require the leader to decide or approve.
A lack of empowerment is the ultimate bottleneck in any organization. It not only makes it more challenging to reach your goals, but it also ensures that the people on your team never grow, something would require trust and confidence in the individuals to make decisions. The lack of empowerment is a lack of trust, and low trust organizations struggle to grow.
Stripping someone of their authority to do their job by requiring an audit of their work and their decisions also removes from them their initiative. The time you spend going over the day-to-day work of the individuals on your team and making decisions for them, the less time you are spending on your priorities.
Lack of Alignment
If the first two challenges here, emergencies and lack of empowerment, steal your time by taking your focus away from your most important outcomes as a leader, you are likely to find a lack of alignment. When you lack alignment, the people who are charged with pursuing the three or so critical initiatives don’t fully understand what you need from them, or they disagree with the outcomes or the way you intend them to pursue those results.
You cannot possibly over-communicate when it comes to your priorities. Nor can you overshoot the mark when it comes to creating alignment around those results. You can create alignment problems by not making it clear what outcome you need, why it is critical to success, and any constraints that need to be observed in pursuing your goals. For example, the profit margin on new deals, or the focus on selling the new product you are bringing to market.
There is only one page, and everyone needs to be on it. Your job as a leader is to convert the unconverted, but especially those who disagree. Avoiding the difficult conversations that would address any conflict invites alignment problems, and puts your goals at risk.
Meetings with No Decisions
One way to reclaim time for what is important is to eliminate meetings where no decision is required of you, except for the meetings where you take reports and create a culture of accountability. Let’s call these meetings, “low-value meetings,” at least as it pertains to leadership.
Your finite assets, your time, your attention, and your energy, should not be squandered on meetings and projects that don’t require your input. The time you spend on meetings that have little or nothing to do with your most important outcomes and projects rob you of the time you must devote to building the better future state you are charged with delivering.
The time you spend with your team is best spent communicating what you want from them, empowering them to take action (including solving their own problems without you), making the hard calls required of a leader, ensuring alignment, and verifying that you are progressing towards your goals.
Reclaiming Your Time and Your Power
Busy is the opposite of productive. When you are busy, you are tied down with tasks that take your time, whether or not they produce the results you need. Productive means you are generating the results you need, something you can not—and will not—be able to do if you are busy doing anything other than what is most important to your future.
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Filed under: Leadership