Time Management; how to find time in your day

Do you struggle to get your work done?  Are your important priority tasks overshadowed by more urgent matters?  Do you get frustrated when your best laid plans for the day are disrupted?  Are you frustrated by how much time you spend in meetings?


It is tough being a leader today.  There are so many demands on us that our time management is effectively non existent.  And that is so frustrating!  You have KPI’s and strategic plans that you need to achieve yet you find your day is filled by other activity.  Is it time to change things?  Here are some tips to help you find some time to get your stuff done.


Warning:  These tips are not for the faint hearted and are likely to upset others.  However, if you are serious about finding time, read on.


Firstly block out time in your calendar for your “me work”.


Set yourself some time a couple times per week to focus on work that needs your full attention and focus. During this time do not allow any disruptions or interruptions.   You might be lucky to have an office where you can close the door, but most of us work in open plan working environments and so this isn’t possible.  Can you book a break out room or head out to a cafe?  Maybe you can stop off at a coffee shop on your way to work and spend an hour there.  Maybe you can work from home half a day a week. Be open to possibilities and find ways to separate yourself from the day to day.


Don’t think others will appreciate your time management actions though.  I once worked with a manager who shut his office door and didn’t answer his phone for 2 hours a day, 2-3 days a week.  His fellow peers complained that it wasn’t good leadership practice to be unavailable, however he was resilient enough to stand up to the complaints.  It was amazing how much work he could do by doing this.


Be very protective of this time and don’t give it away because one thing a leader must do is execute and deliver and this is probably the only time you have to do this.  Your future promotions and pay cheques depend on your ability to be disciplined in time management.


Next, have a look at the meetings that find their way into your calendar.


I used to work for a company where it was common practice to be sent a meeting invite only to have the respective senior leader change the time / day not once but several times.  We were expected to change our existing appointments to suit and so everyone did.  This took up time that we didn’t have. Has this happened to you?


Be courageous and lay down some ground rules.  You might set a “one change only” boundary where you will reschedule once and then any subsequent meeting change requests are declined.  You will need to communicate your ground rules to others and you then need to stick to them.  The good news is that your efforts will be rewarded with others following your lead.  Poor and lax behaviours cause a lot of frustration and stress which lowers productivity, enthusiasm and motivation.  Unfortunately because they are condoned they become an inherent part of the culture.  Culture change needs someone to make the change.


Another time waster is the meeting itself.  Do you have days where you have back to back meetings?  When do you get to do your work?  Chances are you don’t.


Not every meeting is a waste of your time however there are some that are.  Have a look at the meetings you attend.  What are the benefits of the meeting?  How well are they run?  How committed are the participants in completing the allocated actions? What is the purpose of the meeting and is this being achieved?  How clear are the responsibilities and accountabilities of those attending?


Don’t waste your time attending meetings that are poorly run and/or achieve little.  Instead ask for the agenda and offer to provide input via email or a phone call in place of you attending.  Another option is to delegate your attendance to someone in your team. You will send a very clear message of how you feel about the meeting and this may upset others.  Therefore you need to communicate the reasons for your actions without coming across as arrogant.  You need your actions to be respected so choose your words well.


By taking back control of your calendar you can free up time that you can then spend completing important work.  You will upset some of your peers by doing things differently however if you communicate your boundaries and stick to them you will find that in time others will replicate your actions.


If you would like more information on time management call me on 0416 921 233 or send an email requesting a free consultation.


How to implement effective succession planning

In every organisation I have worked for there has been a different succession planning process.  Not that that is a bad thing.  I believe succession planning is a process that can be designed to meet the needs of the business.  What has surprised me however is that even though there is a succession planning process in place, many leaders have spoken to me about the shallowness of their leadership pool.  Is your succession planning process delivering you leaders of the future?


Here are some questions that will help you improve your succession planning process and outcomes.


“Where is the organisation headed?” 


Succession plans should not be based on competencies or needs suitable for today’s organisation.  The business must be clear on where it is headed and what skills, knowledge and experience will be required and when.  It is not just about identifying critical roles and who in the business will be suitable to fill them and when.  The business world is evolving so fast now and will continue to do so.  Nothing will be the same for long.


“What will the structure look like in 5 -10 years time?”


Designing the organisation structure for the future could be a tough thing to do but it is definitely worth the effort.  Will new departments be needed and how will they be structured?  Are any roles likely to disappear or be significantly changed?  What new product / service lines will be introduced and when?  How will these changes affect the structure?   Uber has recently launched driverless cars.  How is this going impact the transport industry for example?


“What will the roles look like?” 


Rather than focusing just on the roles and what they look like today, you need to firstly understand what the roles will look like in the future.  This includes identifying the role purpose, responsibilities and the accountabilities.  Some roles may continue to exist in the future however the structure below and above the role is likely to be different, and the technology and systems are likely to change also.  How will this impact the responsibilities?


What talents will be required in 5 -10 years time?


What are the critical skills, experience and knowledge that future leaders will need to perform?  Here we are talking about both functional as well as personal development.  The development plans for your successors must include significant personal development initiatives and not just business skill development. Personal develop includes gaining deep insight and self awareness, communication and leadership style, ability to inspire and execute on expectations.  It has never been more important that leaders develop these skills so they are able to cope and lead in a complex and challenging business environment.


I recommend that you review your existing succession plans with these questions in mind.  There are no shortcuts in developing leaders for the future.  It will still require 10,000 hours to transform an emerging leader into an effective senior leader.  This equates to approximately five years of investment and commitment.  Your succession planning process can deliver on your commitments to future leaders; it needs to be designed the right way.


For more information on how to implement a great succession plan in your business call Sandra now on  0416921233 for your free first consultation.

Leadership development using Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership

Recently I’ve been reading up on John C Maxwell’s “5 levels of leadership”. I really like his approach for its simplicity and its ability to be readily applied in leadership development plans for leaders.


In summary Maxwell’s five levels of leadership are


  • Position – you are newly promoted.  Team members will follow you because of your title.
  • Permission – you focus on getting to know your team.  People follow you because they choose to.
  • Production – you focus on delivering results.  Others follow you because of your achievements.
  • People Development – you focus on developing others.  Others follow you because of what you do to them.
  • Pinnacle – you focus on continually developing yourself and others.  Many follow you because of who you are.


I find Maxwell’s approach is very easy to refer to when putting together individual development plans for leaders. Maxwell’s levels provide a set of clear expectations of the skills and knowledge necessary at a particular experience level.  By following Maxwell’s approach a leader will become well rounded and well skilled.


I will look at the first two levels of leadership in this article.  I will discuss other levels in later feeds.


Level One Leaders


Position is the level that all leaders enter when they first become a leader.


At this level a leader is a leader by title only.  The quicker you move out of this level, the better the leader you become.  A good development plan for new leaders would include learning about the role of a leader and gaining self awareness.  Leaders should discover their strengths, beliefs and behavioural patterns and the impact these have on others. They should understand the importance of developing good leadership skills. Mentoring, 360 feedback assessments, and formal education are good way to begin developing these.


Level Two Leaders


Level two is called Permission and is about forming great relationships with the team members.  Leaders do this by getting to know each individual, identifying their strengths and motivations.  Relationships are not just between the leader and the team however, a good leader will encourage the team to increase their knowledge and understanding of each other too.  The leader at this level needs to become highly skilled in communication, that is their listening, observing, and questioning skills.  Development can focus on perfecting these skills and engaging with the team in an authentic manner.


Level two leaders must also learn to be courageous.


You cannot lead people you don’t like nor can you have a productive team.  Therefore a leader must either find things to like about the person, through being a good listener and having an open mind, or remove the person from the team.  Removing people from the team would be considered only when attempts to form an authentic relationship have failed.  High performance teams do not harbour toxic or poor performers.  The leader must step up and effectively manage the employee if their goal is to lead a high performing team.


So there we have the first two of Maxwell’s five leadership levels and some suggestions for development plans. In my next post I will look at the third level – Production.


Good feedback for leaders

Performance appraisals, you either loved them (ie mostly HR people) or hated them (ie the rest of the organisation).  I can see why the performance appraisal has received such negative sentiment from leaders.  The document is often complicated, the process is often time consuming, and the results often meaningless.   I can also understand why they aren’t being used in some companies today.


Historically the performance appraisal process was important because a manager and an employee had to meet at least twice a year and talk about the employee’s performance.  Today most leaders do this on a far more regular basis and without the formality of a performance appraisal.


However I still see the potential in the appraisal process.


I have always believed that the essence of the performance appraisal was the conversation.  If the conversation was poor, the process failed.  Unfortunately this was often what happened.


One of the leadership skills that sets great leaders ahead of the rest is their ability to communicate.  In a performance appraisal process this skill is used in providing valid and relevant feedback that is specific and helpful.  So what is good feedback?


Well it might be easier to point out what is bad feedback.  Have you heard these lines

  • Your performance is fine
  • You work well in the team
  • You’ve got great communication skills
  • You’ve met all your KPI’s well done
  • I need you to focus on how you collaborate with others
  • You need to improve your communication skills


To provide great feedback a leader needs to

provide specific examples to explain what you are meaning

  • don’t use “umbrella” words such as communication, attitude, always
  • ask for input from the employee
  • be genuine


It’s not just up to the leader to provide clear and concise feedback.  Employees have a significant role to play too.  If a leader providing general feedback, employees can step up and ask questions to gain clarity.  Simple questions such as Can you provide me an example?, what do you mean specifically?  How can you support my improvement?


Feedback is really important for an employee to seek and gain if they are wishing to develop in their career or their role.  Without it they have no way of knowing what they need to improve.  It is up to all leaders to help their team members by learning how to provide great feedback.  It is a skill that will set them up well themselves.