As a former CEO and based on my experience of mentoring several CEOs I have observed one overwhelming need for success and that is having Time.
Most CEOs carry with them business specific skills. For success CEOs also need to focus on the following:
- Their Customers
- Sustainable Resource Creation
- Attentively Outward Looking for opportunities, threats, trends etc.
- Networking and leveraging all stakeholder engagement.
However to do all this the CEO needs to have Time.
Most CEOs put in long hours. They get trapped into hectic schedules. They end up exhausted, and totally bogged down into managing the business.
Most CEOs are not masters of their time but slaves to activities required to "Manage the Business", rather than "Lead the Business".
From my experience a large proportion of my engagements, whether through mentoring and/or coaching, with CEOs has been working on goals, which are unique to each Individual, but are in essence on "Better Time Management" - so as to get enhanced Business Results along with improved "Work Life Balance".
How do we change the scenario?
I find the best way is to make the CEO more aware of how he spends his time.
One intervention that I have found useful is to have the CEO maintain a detailed log of his week activities both work related and personal for all 7 days of the week. Those who have maintained the log find the analysis very revealing.
- Most of their time is spent in meetings, reviews, emails, telephone calls, crises and travel.
- Not much time is spent on planning, preventive activities, resource building, scanning for opportunities, networking, meeting customers etc.
Some ways to save time which have worked for my Clients
Typically, what I work on with CEOs on time management is making them aware of how to redress a healthy balance of managing and leading their business within working hours, and how to rebalance that quality of time out of hours for their personal and family well-being. Having been through similar experiences, I share with them (and reminding them) of how I ultimately reduced my time on activities that expend a lot of energy and time with minimal positive output that may be applicable in their role.
I share some of those quick wins, though it takes longer in practice to embed and become part of their group/team culture.
Meetings & Reviews – Reduce where possible. Most internal meetings fall into 3 to 4 categories. Create a template for each type of meeting and have everyone prepare as per template. Modify template going forward. Unnecessary “chatter“will reduce. Meetings will be shorter and more productive. Have a morning walk around and meet your key managers "Talk and walk management” can work wonders. Some meetings could be “Standing Meetings”. Absence of Chair Comfort would help ensure shorter meetings.
Emails: In this digital age CEOs end up with 150 to 250 mails a day most of them internal. One easy way to reduce this – Lay a Guideline that mails should be sent for only 2 reasons:
a) To Seek Approval in case it is not within the delegated powers
b) To Inform in case a CEO has indicated he needs to be kept updated or the information is so critical for business that it cannot wait to be told through normal MIS or Review meetings.
I have found this reduces the emails by about 70%. If it does not, then it indicates the CEO needs to delegate more, and needs to reduce his follow-up to only critical activities.
Also an email should not intrude on other activities. Have 2 to 3 slots to read and answer mails. Your mind is programmed to read and answer mails and therefore more productive.
Outgoing Calls: Have fixed time slot and make most calls in one go. Your mind is in call mode and all calls will be more productive.
External Travel: Better Planning can result in “combining with other work or reduction.” Travel and airport wait time can be used to read long reports, make calls, think and plan.
The above disciplines have reduced time spent on activities required to manage the business by almost half for most of my Clients.
“To Do” List
Another good practice is to have a daily “To Do” List, and most CEOs have this in place. However, a normal “To Do” list often lacks a long term focus. I have encouraged my Clients to lay down Long Term Business and Personal Goals which are specific and measurable for e.g. new product Launch, entering a new geography, acquiring another business, an overdue family vacation etc.
Based on these long term goals I have asked my CEO clients to make a 3 month (current month and next 2 months) rolling action plan. Why 3 months? Looking forward in some detail for 3 months is doable and the action plan can therefore be more specific.
Founded on the 3 month rolling plan comprehensive detailed plan for the current month is made at month beginning. This is then broken up into a weekly plan. A daily "To Do" list is then generated from the weekly plan. A “To Do list" made on this basis ensures that along with routine matters the actions for long term goals are also in place. This also provides some free time for unanticipated events. With greater planning, foresight and suitable preventive measures the unanticipated events should reduce.
Such a “To Do List “ shifts focus from the non-avoidable daily work to strategic actions required to achieve Long Term Goals. Most of my Clients who have followed this discipline find dramatic improvement in their productivity, speed of response and business Results.
As their daily “To do list “ is in line with their own forward thinking and long term goals, every day actions bring more meaning and more energy to the CEO who is less prone to feeling tired at the end of the day. This also means that the CEO ends up having free time and feels more relaxed.
What this means?
Being relaxed and not hassled is not a luxury but a prerequisite for CEOs. This ensures time for good peaceful thinking, planning, building resource, being outward looking, meeting Customers and networking.
Not being in the thick of action at all times; CEOs can then observe trends, opportunities and threats more incisively which brings value to their business.
Now with time on their hands CEOs end up doing everything required to “Lead the Business" and not just “Manage Business".
End Result "Enhanced Business Results with better Work Life Balance" is a Win-Win Situation.
How have you captured the CEOs attention to focus on time?
To connect with Aubrey Rebello