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One of the most common complaints I get when I'm coaching leaders is how they are so stretched for time. Often this is an early port of call for us as we begin our coaching journey together. Having the 'excuse' of insufficient time can easily be used as an external reason to avoid the challenges we face together, in developing their performance.
Time is finite. So, despite my eye-catching headline, no-one can make more of it. What you can do is make more discretionary time where you can deliver the leadership role you are meant to. Sometimes, crying off new challenges and sticking with what you have keeps you within your comfort zone. Sort of. Comfort zone aka more of the same can also have unappealing and unpleasant qualities. Like stress. Like pressure. Like a lack of fulfillment. Like not getting home to dinner with your family.
So the best leaders assimilate a few skills which determine not only their own performance, it determines that of their team. And getting a better life too. Everywhere.
Work. Home. Family. Me time. etc.
Here are 5 ways the best leaders make the most of their time.
The best leaders step away from hands-on to as much hands-off as they can manage. They have good people around them they have nurtured (they made time to do this) into a capable team of individuals. This is their job; their volition; their passion. Letting go of hands-on moves them away from their comfort zone into truly leading - and a lot less doing the things others can–or have the capacity–to do.
When support is offered, most leaders' inclination will be driven by their ego telling them 'You're the boss, you don't need help' and they will respectfully decline. Yet accepting help from others builds relationships; helps their development and confidence-building; can do most of the heavy lifting and more, lets you do your own job, not theirs. Saying yes, to selected and carefully considered things, makes any leader so much more appealing, developing collaboration into a valuable commodity.
The best leaders are also strong enough to push back when they are being asked to add to the workload of their team unjustifiably. Too much work increases strain, anxiety and in the end pushes people to the brink. Which often is elsewhere, in the forlorn belief that the grass is greener. Which sadly, so often, it isn't. Saying no - or at least questioning hard - work that is out of scope is a powerful time-creator. Not working to others demands is a skill that takes time to develop and ultimately they will understand you more; be more disciplined in themselves and be trained to your needs. And you will make more time for what really is important.
There is a lot of stuff people do in their work that doesn’t need to be done. Really! The most effective leaders understand this and work on it. Questioning what their people don't need to do is one very productive area. Equally effective is what they become aware of in themselves. 'What can I stop doing?' We fall into habits that, over time, become out-of-date and often unproductive. Checking what those habits and actions are is an invaluable way to free up more time.
Delegation is a powerful development tool and needs careful appreciation. It is not a dumping ground for all the jobs no-one else wants. When used well, it takes the 'monkeys' (see Stephen Covey) off your desk and allows others to explore–with your support–new activities; new challenges and more importantly, opens an Alladin's Cave to discover what they really have within themselves. Delegation is the win-win where the leader gains time; develops others, builds morale and the organisation raises the bar of its complement of capable and motivated people.
And what do you do with these new tranches of time? Use them well. Use them in those activities that the leader in you wants to explore more. Start small and acknowledge to yourself what you did to get that time back. Make dedicated (I call it 'Red Circle') time in your calendar. These are the immovable slots that are for you to explore your own potential. Time to reflect; create challenge; work closely building relationships, give feedback and so much more of the Important, yet Not Urgent. Even finding a bit more time to hang around the coffee-machine and chat with people, using informal coaching skills in every conversation.
Your time is valuable, make the most of the leader within you by using it constructively and in a calculated way.
Martin Haworth is a coach, trainer and writer (of ideas that just pop-up from time to time). As a leader, he recognises the value to himself and those in his team, of letting them get on with their own jobs and letting him lead. He lives in Gloucester, England, travels extensively as a Leadership Trainer and coaches virtually with people all over the world.