The time management flip comes in the instant at which your greatest leverage switches from making the best use of your own time to helping your team members make the best use of their time.
As a senior leader, leverage comes from your team. Success is no longer based on what you do yourself, but, rather, on what you inspire, enable, and empower in others. This is why individual contributors, managers, and leaders must think about time management differently, with
- Individual contributors making the best use of their own time,
- Managers directing subordinates’ tactical adjustments,
- Senior leaders inspiring, enabling, and empowering others.
I started my career as a sales representative. I became adept at time management, sorting my call plans to maximize calls with my most productive customers, mapping out my days to minimize my travel time, mapping out my time in store to make my limited time with buyers as productive as possible.
Then I took over a sales unit. In an instant my greatest leverage switched from managing my own time to helping the people that worked for me manage their time. After that flip I spent my time helping them make tactical adjustments to sort their call plans, and map out their days and store visits.
There’s a second flip between manager and leader. That flip is the difference between Strategos and Taktikos. Strategos is the art of the general – arranging forces before the battle. Taktikos is about deploying forces in the battle. As a manager, my job was to maximize the tactical use of my scarce resources (salespeople’s time) to pursue objectives set for us by others. The generals, or senior leaders, had made the strategic choice to have their own sales force physically calling on stores in the first place.
Putting this into the delegation framework described in my article, The Art of Delegating:
- Do well yourself – Individual contributors’ main area of focus
- Do yourself, but just well enough – Individual contributors
- Delegate and supervise – The realm of managers
- Delegate and trust – Senior leaders enabling and empowering managers
- Do later – Senior leaders’ prioritization/deprioritization saving others time now
- Do never – Senior leaders’ ultimate deprioritization, saving others time and attention
As a leader, distance yourself from the first three levels of doing and supervising as much as practical. The more people in your organization, the less you should do yourself and the more you should delegate. Senior leaders should do only a very few things themselves. The most effective CEOs keep ownership of only one or maybe two mission-critical things at a time and delegate the rest.
Level four, “delegate and trust” choices are about giving someone else the accountability to get things done, the resources they need, and the authority to make tactical choices within the strategic bounds you’ve set. This is real empowerment. It only works if you have confidence in your lieutenants. If you don’t, replace them.
Level five, do later, choices are temporary reprieves for the important but not urgent. Team members can refocus their time, though not all their attention because they want to be ready for “later.” “Do later” projects aren’t bad ideas. They’re just not priorities now.
Level six choices not to do something ever are permanent time savers. Team members can focus all their time and attention on more important things, banishing the “something else” from their minds forever. Some of these are bad ideas. My partner Harry Kangis suggests that choosing not to pursue bad ideas is easy. The hard choice is choosing not to do something that’s a good idea – for someone else.
Net, think leverage, not efficiency. Flip the order. Do things to enable and empower others to do “their” work before you do “your” work. Make the strategic choices, creating and allocating resources. Give them clear direction, accountability, boundaries, and authority. Then, get out of the way. “Your” work will contract over time as you delegate and ignore more.