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Something I’ve noticed over the past couple of years, apart from the isolation of course, is that we’re all busy all the time and yet somehow it seems more difficult to get things done.

Yes, organisations are short staffed due to pandemic-related issues like needing to isolate, etc., but the online systems are often poorly designed and time-consuming to use.

And then there is the ever-increasing load of communications as every company and other organisation tries to make itself heard (and, of course, measured with “How did we do?” polls).

It’s even worse for most executives… A combination of the factors like product shortages (the chip shortage alone, for example, affects some 169 different industries), increased shipping costs and times (some 12.5% of global cargo capacity is sitting outside ports waiting to offload cargo), energy shortages and price increases, labour / skills shortages with The Great Resignation, and the looming issues of inflation and tax rises to pay for the pandemic-related spending are causing not only many sleepless nights but many more issues being flagged. What’s more, remote / hybrid working means endless virtual interaction (the list of attendees for Zoom meetings seems much bigger than it used to be for physical ones) while less actual collaboration among teams.

So, how can you manage to juggle all the increased demands on your time while ensuring that you can effectively lead the business and tackle your own task list?

Have an Open Culture

People perform best when they feel part of something. Too often, company executives view information about the business as secret, to be shared only on an absolute need-to-known basis. Consequently, staff feel left out and not fully part of the business.

If your team doesn’t know what is happening in the business, they will find it very difficult to make suggestions as to what needs changing, or to be committed to any changes that are deemed necessary.

Companies that have an open culture consistently are more profitable and have faster growth than those with a closed culture. In fact, research suggests up to 85% gains in profitability over 5 years.

Ensure you share information on direction and performance openly (the good news and the bad), encourage feedback and questions from your team, look for ways to publicly recognise top performers in all areas (not just the traditional sales ones), and give credit where it is due.

Staff will be more committed, more productive and more willing to make decisions, too.

Devolve Decision Making

Traditionally, especially in smaller and midsized businesses, the CEO has been looked on to make the decisions. This adds considerably to their workload and stress, while adversely affecting potential succession plans and culture, too, as people don’t have the opportunity to prove themselves.

Decision making should be devolved to the lowest practical level in an organisation. As Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.” Good CEOs will always encourage their team to present possible solutions when raising problems, and then let them take the lead in applying the solutions to problems.

Ensure you have a framework in place which identifies levels of authority for all areas in your business, and let people operate within that framework. (If you’d like a sample authority framework sheet to help you structure your own, press here  and I’ll send you one.)

Ensure, too, that you have well-documented processes and procedures that are kept updated, so that people can see how things are supposed to be done when they need to. This will ensure consistency, save you time, effort and frustration and make for a more productive team overall.

And when you do have to make the decision, do so quickly. Gather the information you need as speedily as possible and move ahead. You can always adjust the direction later. A CEO with “analysis paralysis” can be deadly to a business.

Encourage a Collaborative Culture

Businesses have traditionally been siloed, with the different departments having little or no interaction with one another. However, research during the past decade has clearly shown that by encouraging cross-functional team collaboration, companies can see significant benefits. These include better insights across the teams, more engaged and motivated staff, greater innovation, improved communication and, of course, the opportunity to develop management skills among team members.

All of this is great for the bottom line and can free up considerable executive time, too, as the teams are empowered to make decisions within the overall authority framework.

As an example of this in operation, Haier – the Chinese appliance business – reorganised its business around cross-functional teams, or microenterprises (there are more than 2000 of these today) and the results have been remarkable.

Schedule Your Time

One of the characteristics of leaders who are too busy with the “urgent” and don’t give sufficient time to the “important” is they don’t schedule their time properly. They often get to the end of the day finding they’ve made no progress at all on their own “To Do” list and so end up working late into the night.

Long hours without enough sleep makes them less effective overall, so the “To Do” list gets longer. Even modest sleep deprivation has the same effect on mental alertness as being drunk, with studies showing that 24 hours without sleep has your body in the same state as if it had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1% (about twice the legal driving limit of many countries), and even 17 hours of no sleep has the body at the equivalent of a 0.05% blood alcohol concentration.

Leaders have to be able to understand the difference between urgent and important, and to focus attention on the things that will yield the best returns for their time. This matrix approach is a useful way to categorise them.

And make sure you put blocks of time in your calendar for you. These blocks of time should be scheduled (2 or 3 a week) and inviolate. Close your door for these (if you don’t have one, find a quiet place somewhere else) and use the time to think, to work on those ‘Major Projects’ (the ‘Urgent + Important’ tasks) and to plan. Do this early, when you’re still fresh, for maximum effect.

Oh, and don’t fool yourself by thinking multitasking works – it doesn’t. It not only slows you down but reduces IQ, too. Not a good idea!

 

Conclusion

In essence, it’s really about trust. By showing your team you trust them through open communication, encouraging them to make decisions, and to collaborate with one another, you greatly reduce your burden which frees you up for your main tasks – those around leadership, rather than just management.

And, as a bonus, you have a happier and more productive team, and a more profitable business.

 

#BusinessFitness #Business #CEO #Culture #Focus #GoalSetting #Leadership #Learning #Management #Motivation #Overwhelm #People #Productivity #Teams #Trust #Winners

 

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