I went out for dinner with a friend last night. We ended up talking about leadership and time allocation (I know, we’re wild right? 😉 ). Observing how a leader spends their time is often the quickest way to see how effective they are.
I’m going to focus on talking about leadership roles which involve managing managers or managing a function. And for that, I’ve settled on a framework called 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.
A third of your time should be spent in conversations. Leadership meetings, 121’s with direct reports, project meetings and various other 121 meetings. Meetings tend to get a bad wrap, but they’re often the glue that holds everything together. They are your vehicle to steer things, communicate, influence, get visibility, coach and make decisions. This is how you work through others.
A third of your time should be spent on your own work. Whatever leadership role you’re in, you will have your own priorities and things that you’re directly responsible for. You need the time to be able to focus and do those things well.
The last third of your time should be ring fenced and unallocated. You should use that time for thinking, speculative stuff and recharging.
This balance of conversations / meetings, doing your own work and unallocated time is critical for a leader to be effective.
If you feel unable to achieve this balance, I’d usually put it down to one of these three things:
- Something is wrong or dysfunctional in the business. The most common culprits are being over-committed or some type of organisational health issue (weak leadership, weak talent, org design etc.). You owe it to yourself and everyone around you to find the root cause and solve it.
- You haven’t made the mentality shift needed for the level of leadership that you’re at now. You’re likely micro-managing, interfering or trying to do others’ work (or all of them!)
- You’re disorganised and have poor time management.
In these scenarios, I have two suggestions which might help.
Firstly, seek out a coach and get some help. That could be your manager, someone else in the organisation or someone external. But find someone who is operating well or has operated well at your level in the past and let them help you.
Secondly, pick up a copy of The Leadership Pipeline – it’s a fantastic book. I read it early in my career and it was a big inflection point for me. It made me aware that there’s both a set of capabilities, but also a mentality shift that needs to happen to be effective at the next level of leadership.
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