One of my personal and professional commitments is to interact with new leaders. I enjoy these opportunities for a very selfish reason. I always learn something new or am forced to pause and reflect on my own experiences. At one recent event I was asked whether or not I have ever been overwhelmed by my job.
“Every day,” I replied with a laugh.
Apparently, my comment wasn’t that funny. I immediately realized from the looks on the attendee’s faces that I needed to provide them with some context so they wouldn’t run out the door, (although I might have lost one or two anyway). Leaders carry a big load. We have to look at the big picture, anticipate where the market is headed, develop and grow human capital and manage multiple priorities, and collectively these requirements can be overwhelming. But any large initiative (managing the business, creating a strategic plan, etc.) is made up of many smaller pieces. How you manage and then connect these pieces and parts determines whether you can lead without being overwhelmed.
I shared a few tips to help these new leaders take on their new responsibilities with a view that almost every day can be manageable. I hope these resonate with you as well.
Break the numbers down. If you have recently moved from managing a $10M business with 100 employees to a $500M business with 2000 employees, the numbers can be intimidating. Rather than focusing on the totals, I focus on the levers that drive the business. What does the team have to do to increase profit or reduce operating cost by $1M? Looking at revenue per FTE can be more manageable and help you better identify potential efficiencies.
Set daily goals. Every night I take the time to create a clear list of my priorities for the next day and I write them down in order of importance. I force myself to focus on these items, sometimes cancelling meetings to ensure they are accomplished. I’m a morning person so I prefer to leave some quiet time at the beginning of the day that allows me to focus on these priorities. The satisfaction it takes in getting these off the list is enormous.
Delegation is not overstated. I recently hired a chief of staff who handles important initiatives that I previously took on because they crossed my entire division and I didn’t feel comfortable adding to the already heavy load of my team members. This individual runs my staff meetings, follows up on major initiatives and manages the planning process. Get yourself a chief of staff or a similar position and then let things go. Your reward is retaining your sanity.
Be diligent about your schedule. I have shared before that I have changed my official starting time to 9:00 am even though I am usually in the office by 7:30 am. I use this time to reconfirm my priorities, make progress on completing them and ensure I am prepared for the day ahead. Be firm about keeping this time to yourself and don’t allowing uninvited drop-ins. Close the door to your office or work in a conference room if needed.
Exercise at least every other day. Clearing my brain is the biggest benefit I reap from exercising. I stay calmer and think more clearly. If I fail to exercise more than two days in a row, I feel it and so does anyone within 10 feet.
Simplify your personal life. Most people who “have it all” simply make choices not to do it all. They chose to do what is really important to them and what will give them the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. As I have said many times, de-clutter your personal life with fewer activities for you and your family (decline social invitations, limit the number of activities in which your kids participate). Outsource as much as you can (cleaning, cooking, laundry, lawn maintenance, etc.) and if your finances don’t permit this then share these responsibilities with your spouse/partner and kids. Then choose a limited number of activities that bring you joy so you have time to restore your energy and well-being.
I am sure I could add to this list, but these really are the simple routines I have that allow me to feel confident in leading a large organization. As Vincent Van Gough said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
Speak loudly, step boldly!September 4th, 2014 7:01am Beth Bierbower business management Business Strategy