95% of the client work I perform is with leadership teams – facilitating strategic planning sessions and driving strategy execution with a disciplined cadence of meetings and management skills training.
The other 5% of my client work is executive coaching 1-on-1 with a select group of leaders to help them enhance leadership effectiveness.
When I start working with an executive coaching client, the first thing I do is get a baseline understanding of how this leader/manager currently invests their time. I’m not interested in how many hours they work, but I am interested in how effectively they invest those hours.
This article is an overview of one of the tools and processes I use to help my clients enhance their leadership effectiveness:
I start with an assessment tool I developed called a “Personal Effectiveness Time Tracker”, a shared Google Sheet where I get the leader to track their time every 30 minutes for 20 working days (i.e. 1 month).
I suggest they set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and enter the primary task they performed in each 30-minute time slot. I’m pretty sure the clients curse me for making them do this exercise for a month, but it consistently reveals powerful, actionable insights.
My tool asks the client to grade every task on 2 dimensions: “Feelings” and “Value”.
1. “Feelings” about the task:
The leader uses a binary checkbox to indicate whether the task “Energizes me – I Love it” or “Drains me – I Loathe it”
“Energizes me – I Love it” tasks are activities that:
- top-up your energy battery
- you are good at naturally
- you lose track of time when doing them
- you enjoy learning more about them
“Drains me – I Loathe it” tasks are activities that:
- drain your energy battery
- you procrastinate on
- you are not good at naturally
- or, you have acquired the skills to perform them well, but you still dread doing them
2. “Value” of the task
The client also uses a binary checkbox to indicate whether they perceive the task to be “High-value” or “Low-value” for someone in the leader/manager’s role to be performing.
What is the manager’s role? My one-line summary: “Increase the output of the team. Spend most of your time performing tasks that only someone in the manager’s role can do.”
Peter Drucker said effective executives ask themselves, “What can I, and only I do, that will produce the greatest results?”
To help the client make these decisions, I pose 2 “challenges” to force them to be more discerning (and ruthless) about whether or not a task is high-value:
Challenge 1: Does (or will) this task increase the output of the team?
Challenge 2: Is this task an activity that only someone in the leader/manager’s role can perform?
If the answer is NO to either of these 2 “challenges”, it might be a valuable task for your company, but it is NOT a high-value, high-leverage task for the leader/manager to be performing.
This awareness often creates opportunities to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Alternatively, it creates opportunities to train and delegate tasks to other team members (e.g. tasks that are “low-value” for the leader to perform, but “high-value” for a subordinate to perform).
After one month, we plot all recurring activities into a 4 quadrant matrix and prioritize opportunities to enhance leadership effectiveness. Then we create plans to (re)structure their role to spend a greater percentage of time performing:
- High-value, high-leverage tasks the Leader / Manager must perform to be effective in their role
- And (where possible) tasks they enjoy doing and are naturally good at
Note: You won’t necessarily “love” all the high-value, high-leverage tasks that sit firmly in the leader/manager’s wheelhouse. Some “loathe it” tasks cannot be delegated or avoided. I call it “eating your veggies”.
In these instances, we work together to develop management skills and supportive processes to ensure these tasks can be performed to a high standard.
Some clients like to perform this time-tracking exercise on an annual basis, or whenever their role changes in a significant way.
This is just the first step in my executive coaching process, but I hope this overview inspires you to take a closer look at how you invest your time and enhance your leadership effectiveness!
Until next time…
Stephen Lynch is the author of the award-winning book; “Business Execution for RESULTS: A practical guide for leaders of small to mid-sized firms” winner in the “Management” category of the 2014 Small Business Book Awards in the USA.
He’s also written articles on strategy and management for The Economist magazine.
Need a Strategic Plan Facilitator for your next planning session? A Business Coach to help you scale your business? Management Training to upskill your team? Contact Stephen to discuss your needs.