TIME MANAGEMENT Managing Yourself First, then control the clock!
In my coaching practice, I’ve found that almost every one of the executives I work with struggles with managing their time effectively. I have observed that time management is in every one of their “to improve to do list”.
While leadership strengths and areas for growth are different, time management is for most of them their Achilles Heel, usually scaring them senseless with demands for deadlines, urgent projects and sometimes missed opportunities.
I have learned that good time management tools and resources can help, but not so much, until we address the underlying root causes, the time saved will simply vanish. Quite often, our strengths and habits have a dark side that often shows up in our time management. Solid calendar and meeting management, strategic review of priorities and delegation practices will often work, but only if you have found the underlying limiting beliefs that may be creating the issue.
Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, it's important to understand the difference between Important and Urgent:
Urgent vs. Important Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals, whether these are professional or personal. Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else's goals. Here are some leadership strengths that may also be conflicting your ability to manage your time effectively.
Do any of these resonate with you?
You deliver results - once you are leading a team, having enough time requires you to give up control, to delegate. If you are great at delivering results through your personal efforts, this may negatively impact your ability to leverage your time through your team.
There is simply no way that you can do everyone else’s job and your own and have enough time for sleep. So if you are making every single decision, if your team come to you for everything, if things don’t get done when you are not around, then these maybe signs that this maybe an issue for you.
Accept that mistakes are critical to learning, and that allowing your team to make those mistakes is part of being a great leader. Set up a structure to allow you to have input on critical decisions, without being involved in every part of the process: this might look like a weekly touch-base on projects or a steering committee that allows everyone to weigh in on decisions. Analyze your work, and decide: what decisions require your input, what decisions can be made without you, and what decisions require team alignment. Commit to following the results of this work, and refuse to make a decision when it belongs to someone else.
Servant Leadership - Some of my favorite leaders have a strong servicing orientation and find tremendous meaning in helping others. While this is a wonderful strength, it can get you in trouble if:
Your door is always open, and your team has free access anytime People prefer to bring issues to you vs. solving themselves because you are approachable and empathetic.
You put the needs of the team first, even before your own responsibilities Balance is the key to success. You don’t want to lose your leadership strength of service; you do need to prioritize yourself as well as your team.
Consider setting expectations and agreements with your team as to when you will be available for them, scheduling personal work time on your calendar, and coaching team members to bring solutions to you, and not just problems. You will continue to serve your team, but in a way that develops their growth, and gives you time to do important work.
You are a great mentor - do you take pride in your ability to make people successful? Do you see yourself as a great mentor? Do you see your direct report’s performance as a reflection of your own leadership? If so, you may have a problem dealing quickly with poor performance.
It is difficult to deliver difficult performance messages, and especially difficult to separate employees who aren’t pulling their weight; this difficulty is magnified in leaders who believe it is possible to make everyone successful. Covering for poor performance will not only impede your results, it will also eat up all your time.
Ask yourself: If I had to build my team from scratch, which team members would I keep on the team? If there is someone on your team that you wouldn’t choose again, then it may be time to step up your performance management with clear expectations and a specific timeline. You can also ask for feedback from each of your business partners, on how your team members are performing.
Remind yourself that your job is to enable team success, and that success can only be realized if each member executes their roles effectively.
You are willing to sacrifice for the team - once you are leading a big team, in a big job, it is impossible to have enough time for everyone who needs or wants you. So, what’s most important for your own success? Your time management can only be effective when you have a strategy.
Does your calendar reflect your priorities and your goals, or is it taken over by recurring meetings, conference calls, meaningless conversations or activities that you don’t find valuable? Do you save your real “work” for after hours or weekends? These symptoms may be indicative of a lack of clarity on what time investment best supports your goals.
First, and a no-brainer - Identify what time investment will support your goals. For example, if you need to develop your bench strength, a good time investment is mentoring and coaching those HP associates. Next, focus on your calendar: First schedule the work time you need, then invest time in the other activities that align with your goals.
These activities may be one-on-one mentoring/developing meetings with your direct reports, time for your self-development, or mentoring time. Only once these priorities are scheduled should you open up to outside requests. Aligning your time investment with your goals will ensure that you are satisfied with the trade-offs you must make. Even better, you’ll see better, faster results once your time is aligned.
Your leadership strengths have made you successful, and set you apart from the crowd. Keeping balance and awareness of how your current strengths and behaviors may impact your time may free you to better align your time investment.