In the first installment of this three-part series, we discussed mastering the allocation of your time. Effective leaders know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and they ensure they spend proper time on what’s important, particularly on what’s important but not urgent; they avoid being consumed by what’s only urgent.
In the second installment, we discussed mastering your strategic focus. Effective leaders know what their strategic focus is, and they protect their “important” time so they can focus on it.
One of the first questions we therefore here from 24/7 busy executives is, “Where will I find the time to do this? Even if I manage my time well, focus on the important, and determine what my strategic focus is, I don’t have the time to pursue it. So where do I get this time?”
The answer of course is: You don’t. But you make changes so as to make the time available to you.
My experience is that many busy, and particularly over-busy, executives are often doing work they shouldn’t be doing. They are doing work that some of their direct reports a) should do, b) could do, or c) can’t do but want the opportunity to do.
So the short answer is: to have sufficient time to dedicate to your strategic focus, you must delegate to your direct reports work that you shouldn’t be doing.
But They Can’t Do the Work
The next concern, typically, is, “But my direct reports aren’t able to do the work I’d like to delegate to them.”
Correct; so you’ll need to train and develop them so they can.
“But won’t that take additional time?”
“And where will I get that time?”
By arriving early, working late, and/or working weekends to do your regular work so you can create “free” time during the workweek to train and develop your people.
No Magic Pill
In my 20 years of working with leaders, I have yet to find a magic pill or course or daily affirmation that results in instantly trained and developed direct reports. It takes time. Typically time that’s important but not urgent (and hence, at risk of being neglected).
I can say, however, that once a leader goes through the ordeal of spending days and weeks of “overtime”, training and developing direct reports so the leader can confidently delegate work to them, so that he/she has the needed time to dedicate to one’s strategic focus, the leader vows to never again neglect the development of direct reports.
And hence the third member of the Leader’s Triumvirate: Continually develop your people, because if you are a high potential leader, more will eventually be asked of and offered to you, and you will never have enough time to do more and still do all that you’re currently doing. You will have to delegate; otherwise, you will drown in your work, and ultimately plateau in your career. By having capable, ready-now direct reports, you will always have the flexibility to delegate existing work to them, thereby providing you the time and peace of mind to devote to the important but not urgent, and particularly to your strategic focus.