We ran a regular test this week in my Vistage CE group, the members asking themselves three questions:
1. What should I do more of?
2. What should I do less of?
3. What should I stop doing?
The majority answered for no 1, delegation, for no 2, interfering and for no 3, stop doing other people’s jobs for them.
So many times I am told by leaders that they just don’t seem to have any time to spare and most importantly, to work on the direction in which the business should be going.
The reply is, of course:
“It’s not a matter of not having the time, you need to MAKE the time!”
It may seem to be a pretty glib consultant’s reply but the point really needs to be made. Every day in business brings new pressures and unless the leader takes hold of the day then it will be filled by other people’s problems.
Research has shown that, in general, we have discretion over no more than 20% of the working day, the rest being taken up with meetings, telephone calls, reading (and deleting) emails, people popping in and so on. It emphasises that the way in which we spend that 20% and where possible increase it, becomes ever more important.
I remember a Vistage meeting dome years ago when a potential member said to me:
“My problem is that I am not just hands on in the business, I am hands IN and what is more, often it’s fingers in!”
We all know that this is not uncommon. The issue is how to break the habit of always being available to all and sundry to talk over every little problem without seeming to be indifferent to them and their needs.
So, back to the definition of the role of the leader.
The leader has some definite functions to perform and none of them are operational. It all starts with a statement of the values espoused by the leader, then the purpose of and the vision for the business and finally he/she has to define the culture.
In addition, the leader needs to ensure that the very best people are slotted into the top team and given the responsibility to deliver performance. Moreover, the top team has to be in alignment with the values, purpose and vision of the company and ensuring that is a leadership function.
Overall the leader has responsibility for the strategy and performance of the business in every way and in that sense is accountable for that performance to all the stakeholders, shareholders, staff, funders, customers and suppliers.
None of these requirements are functional because those matters are best left to the specialists, the top team who are, of course, accountable to the leader. That big word, TRUST, looms large at this point.
In order for the leader to be able to fulfil his/her destiny, he/she MUST be able to trust the top team implicitly to perform and to report on a regular basis. By far the best way for this to be achieved is by regular mandatory one-to-ones with the leader.
All in all, the leader must focus on those matters which demand his/her special attention and time must be made for that to be achieved.
Thinking time for the leader is essential because, just consider this; in essence, the only person in the business who really THINKS about it in a holistic sense, is the leader. Everyone else is diverted by the exigencies of the various tasks which they have to perform.
So it’s focus which is needed; focus on those activities which are central to the future of the business and trust the team to perform in a “no-blame” environment.