CEOs are constantly being pulled in a million directions - they have shareholders, partners, investors, employees, customers, industry groups, community stakeholders and other constituents (not to mention family and personal relationships) to answer to on a daily basis. Even if you are somehow balancing all of these demands, running a successful business, and leading your team effectively, you still may not be doing everything you need to do as a CEO. According to a recent study by Harvard researchers, “It’s vital for CEOs to block off meaningful amounts of uninterrupted time alone, to give themselves space to think, reflect, and prepare.”
This idea of spending alone time “thinking” is counterintuitive to many CEOs, who may have gotten where they are today by working longer and harder than those around them. Taking time out of the rat race to think could be considered a weakness by some executive leaders. But, on the contrary, the research clearly indicates that this think time is an absolute necessity for CEOs.
If taking time to reflect and work on your company’s strategic direction or on your own leadership seems daunting (or possibly like a waste of time), you can use a simple tool to guide your think time to ensure that it is effective.
We call this your Leadership Path of Progress. Let me walk you through how it works:
- Set aside some alone time where you can work on this. Block out distractions and settle your mind - get a cup of tea, go outside, do whatever makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.
- First, assess your current state as a leader. You can start this simply by listing areas that you are strong in and areas where you see the need for some improvement. If you are finding this exercise difficult, or if you’d simply like more data to ensure you aren’t overlooking significant blind spots, you can do a Leadership 360 survey or other assessment to determine your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. If you are tackling this on your own, consider areas like vision-casting, customer focus, strategic direction, organizational development, empowerment, trust, clarity of communication around goals, and continuous improvement in your thinking.
- Next, spend time brainstorming the ways you might use your strengths more. If you’ve identified a long list, narrow it to 2-3 items and think about how you’d implement those starting now.
- Then, spend time considering the areas you identified as weaknesses or opportunities for improvement. How might your behaviors negatively impact the productivity of those around you or limit the company’s ability to grow? Again, list 2-3 concrete steps you can take now to improve.
When you're done, you'll have a short list of specific action steps to focus on now that will help you become a better leader.
This is just one way to build your Leadership Path of Progress. You may also consider journaling about the ideal version of yourself in 5 years. What is the ideal future you like? What are you doing, what does your day-to-day look like, what are those around you saying about you, how are you different than you are now? Once you’ve identified some key changes you’d like to make over the next five years, break them down into 2-3 steps you can begin taking now to move in the right direction.
Your Path of Progress is a living, breathing document. As you set aside think time to work on your company or yourself as a leader, use this simple framework of concrete steps as your guide. Update it as you go. Keep the future vision in mind and plot your course. Get started today!
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