We had a great speaker, Brad Waldron, to both my Vistage peer groups last week and he presented with great enthusiasm Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
One of the habits that he emphasised is the necessity of putting first things first, a habit that in the rough and tumble of everyday business life can easily slip away.
That is, if it ever has become a habit. Too often business leaders go into the business each day with every good intention, with a to-do list in mind and the knowledge that a productive day lies ahead.
And what happens? The phone rings, emails ping constantly, people come in and demand attention and, lo and behold, all the good intentions have dissipated for yet another day.
The result is irritation, frustration and a feeling that although we have been busy all day, quite frankly we can’t really remember what we have done and it certainly wasn’t what we intended in the first place.
It has been called bad time management but I think that there is more to it than that. We all have the same amount of allotted time and every hour lasts exactly as long as the previous and next one.
Why then is it that some people seem to be able to get their heads down and manage to produce exactly what was asked of them by the leader while the leader is being distracted at every touch and turn?
In simple terms the leader is expected to be the fount of all knowledge whereas the team member just has to perform and be accountable. That scenario describes a habit that should never have been permitted to emerge and it is one that is extremely difficult to eradicate.
It is, of course, a matter of the culture of the business and that should be defined and driven in by the leader. It is self evident then that the leader needs to understand how powerful is his/her influence and how dictats from on high are viewed by the general populace.
Another of the great speakers we have heard in Vistage is Walt Sutton and he strongly recommends that every leader should take time out at least twice a year, metaphorically or actually to take a walk on the beach.
It must be without paper, pen or mobile phone so that there will be no distractions other than the weather.
It is called thinking time and we can all do with a lot more of it.
The problem usually manifests itself in the business as I have already mentioned with the leader being harried at all times and eventually succumbing to the demands of something that is urgent, or is at least said to be urgent.
Have you ever noticed that urgency is almost invariably given to us by someone else?
The question is, why is it urgent and why necessarily does the leader need to be involved? More to the point, why do we as leaders allow ourselves to be involved other than by judicious delegation and subsequent monitoring?
If we measure what is urgent and what is important then things begin to come into focus.
The leader’s function is to think about the business because the leader is probably the only person who actively does just that and that demands strength of will to use a little word that works wonders at times.
That word is “NO”.
I had a member of my Vistage CEO peer group who had a notice on his office door to say, in effect, don’t come to me to solve your problems, bring me solutions and I will discuss them with you.
It isn’t a matter of time management. It is a matter of activity management and that decision is a personal one for every leader. What activity will bring success to the business and how can we engender that success?
Now that is really important but it is seldom urgent.
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