One of the greatest challenges of leadership is managing time, a limited resource that has to be used with the utmost care and consideration. As the saying goes, there are “only so many hours in a day“, and as a leader you must be able to stay focused on those tasks and activities that truly matter.
That task is complicated by the daily presence of many distractions that a leader must avoid so as not to put themselves (and their company) at risk.
In my role as consultant and business partner, I find the three distractions that are particularly dangerous:
The “Fire Drill” – Your boss calls you and is upset because he spoke with a customer who said they were unhappy with the service they received. When you dig into it, it appears to be an isolated case that could be routinely handled by your customer service staff, since you had set up a protocol for cases exactly like this one. Your boss looks at it differently – it’s a complete breakdown of customer service that needs an extensive review of processes and staff. You then start the fire drill – two days of meetings, phone calls, and e-mails, involving many members of your team, devoted to that single customer complaint who by the way already forgot about it.
The “Black Hole” – The Company has committed a lot of money to a particular project and you are trying to guide it to a successful finish. The trouble is, about 25% of the way in it becomes pretty clear that things aren’t going well (and you are going to be over budget also), and you face the decision – pull the plug now (with all the resulting hand wringing and blame), or, ask for more money and move on. You choose the latter, and enter the black hole – pressing dangerously on in the hope that somehow, someway it will get pulled through in the end.
The “Something New” – It’s a new product, service, client, a new venture, or a new partner that catches your attention. It sounds really exciting and the possibilities are endless. The problem is, it’s not really right for your company, or it’s a long shot for success, or maybe even the timing is off. But it really is exciting! So you devote a lot of time and energy on it, at the expense of other, more viable and profitable things.
These kinds of distractions CAN be avoided. It’s all a matter of leadership perspective – that ability to take a step back, and “see” the bigger picture. It also requires something else that is even more essential – Courage.
The courage to put down a bright shiny object in the face of all that “excitement”.
The courage to stop a black hole project dead in its tracks and take the heat.
And, the courage to tell your boss you will not conduct a fire drill because of a single and isolated incident.
Perspective and courage are your best tools for time management – use them well, and wisely.