Leaders can plan their day meticulously, but then fires erupt or a team member reaches out and all focus is lost. When the true response to “Do you have a few minutes? Did I catch you at a good time?” is a resounding “No,” we push our agenda aside and answer, “Of course!”
At planning sessions with my clients, I hear notes of productivity killers with these familiar phrases:
“I just ended up taking it over and doing it myself.”
“It takes too much of my time to coach my team. It’s easier to just do it myself.”
“I need to make sure it’s done right so I need to own the project.”
It’s so easy to fall into the productivity killer cycle because you got to the position you are in today because you were a star! You are used to rolling up your sleeves and just getting it done in that expert way that you do.
During planning sessions, when I feel that familiar tug for leaders to take on the world themselves, I’ll ask, “Which of your priorities help you to grow your leaders or move your strategy forward?” Whatever doesn’t fall into either of those buckets is up for discussion on whether to hold on to or delegate.
Roll down your sleeves for a moment and consider these strategies for setting yourself up for peak performance as a leader:
1. Calm Your Doer: When setting up and executing on priorities and action items, ask yourself WHY this warrants your focus. If you can tie it to developing your leaders or pushing your strategy forward, then your why is sound. If your why resembles “because it’s easier to do it myself,” then your focus should shift from doer to delegator.
2. Play Jeopardy: You’ve calmed your doer and delegated. Now channel Alex Trebek and respond with mostly questions. Once you delivered clarity on the mission at hand with the person whom you’ve delegated, ask them questions on what they think the purpose of this is and what are their thoughts on how to execute the plan. Continue to probe with additional questions to seek understanding and be open to their own unique way of approaching the project. Your inner Alex will ensure the purpose and expectations are clear while learning more about the leader you are developing and the innovative approaches they bring. You have moved from Doer to Coach while reducing any future fires to fight. “I’ll take Before and After for 1,000, Alex!”
3. Act-Test-Adjust-Scale or Kill: Differentiating from the competition takes pushing Winning Moves forward by testing assumptions and learning which ones to scale or pull back. Productive leaders know when to act. They don’t wait for a wheelbarrow full of data to roll in before pulling the trigger. Productive leaders act when they have about 60% of the information. They act - test assumptions - adjust - scale or kill. Productive leaders know some strategies will fail so they have a few in play at all times and work with their team to determine when to scale or kill.
4. Maximize your Team: Productive leaders invest in learning the strengths of their team, and they maximize their talent. Play to your team’s strengths to both move faster as a team and as a leader. Our team recently took Gallup’s Strengthsfinder assessment to dig into ideal team makeups for driving our initiatives faster while creating breakthrough results. Everybody wants me on their team, naturally, but there’s just not enough Liz to go around. (Although not on the Gallup results, sarcasm is my predominant strength.)
5. Think: Many of the habits that make Rhythm work for our productive leaders take place in quiet times of contemplation. They know to spend time thinking about strategy, to reflect on the past week in order to carve a successful week ahead. Sometimes, when we are the most productive is when we are still. Be still and find your why.
Look at your schedule for today. Are you spending the majority of your day thinking about and executing your strategy forward? Are you spending thoughtful time with someone on your team today to help develop them as a future leader?
The next time someone asks if you have a minute, chances are, it’s time well spent.
For additional tips, check out my blog, "3 Patterns of the Most Productive People."
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Image