High performance team & leadership coach. Author of Is This A Question?

168 Hours. What do effective leaders do? (episode15)

by | Feb 23, 2021 | Podcast Show Notes

In episode 15 of Gritty Leaders Club podcast:

  • How effective leaders choose what to do to maximise the impact of each week (each 168 hours)
  • An essential question any leader can use in a tricky situation
  • How far should a leader go in caring for her people – is it a holistic responsibility?

Ben’s key takeaways

What story would you like told about you regarding this situation?

Caught in a dilemma? This question is a potential game changer. Decisions for leaders are often complex with no right or wrong answer.  There may be various ways to decide the issue: Serving our customer, or cost, or perhaps doing now what best prepares us for the future.

Whatever the options leaders must remember that their choice sends a message.  Better than asking ‘What message do I want to send?’ and ‘To whom’ ask instead open up the possibilities by asking ‘What story do I want told about me regarding this situation?’.  Allow yourself a half hour to consider, then choose.

Credit: Pat Murray is the author of this question which I came across in a short unpublished article of his sent to me recently by a friend.  The article is titled, ‘The Essence of Leadership – The Inside Moves’ and I tell a story from it to open the podcast.  Email me if you’d like a copy of Pat’s article.

168 Hours. As a leader how can you stay effective?

The rub is no two leadership roles are alike.  So what works for one leader is unlikely to be right for another!

My homegrown approach, tried and tested in my own leadership experience and with leaders I work with in all types of company, is a short series of questions I call ‘Conditions For Success’.  Use these questions both to plan and to course correct. 

The first is, ‘Am I creating conditions for success for… 1) My team?, 2) Each person that reports to me, 3) My critical initiatives, 4) and so on – the appropriate list of stakeholders will be unique to you. 

The second is, ‘Am I creating conditions for success for… 1) right now?, 2) the medium term, 3) the long term.  Answer honestly and thoroughly and adjust accordingly.  You won’t go far wrong.

Hear two more approaches in the podcast (see ‘key topics and timestamps’ to skip to this part of the conversation) or check the resources tab below.

Links and resources

Resources and further reading

  • John Kotter’s Harvard Business Review article What Effective General Managers Really Do that inspired this episode
  • ‘Miracle Morning’ a book by Hal Elrod mentioned by Ian and used to great effect by Ben
  • The Leadership Impact Pie Chart: A simple concept:
    • Step 1: Draw a circle and segment it, like a pie chart, to show the ways you need to spend your time to achieve what the business and your team need from you as a leader. Include a segment for each important category of how you need to focus time: e.g. engaging with customers; time with your team and reports; strategy; major initiatives, and so on. Size the segments to show the relative split of time needed in each category.
    • Step 2: Draw a second circle and segment it to show how you have spent your time during the last few weeks.
    • Step 3: Identify the gap between your current focus and the focus you need.  Form a plan to close the gap.  Think about activity you can stop as well as activity you can delegate.
    • Tip: This is also a fantastic team activity
  • The stop doing list. An essential exercise
    • Step 1: Draw up your own stop doing list.  Include time that is not adding value to you or your goals as a leader.
    • Step 2: Open this list up to your team and ask them to comment and (important) tell you what you need to add to the list.
    • Step 3: For each item on the list consider whether it can be stopped completely, delegated, or be re-thought so that its achieved in a new, better way
  • Conditions For Success – a series of questions a leader can use to focus their time:
    • Question 1: Am I creating conditions for success for…
      • my team(s)?
      • each person that reports to me?
      • my key projects?
      • the company?
      • continue to include each of your stakeholders. For a CEO this will include customers and shareholders.
    • Question 2: Am I creating these conditions for success for…
      • right now?
      • the medium term?
      • the long term?

Key topics and time stamps

[00:00:53] What’s caught Ben’s attention? Ben asks an essential question any leader can use to help decide what to do when faced with a tricky dilemma.
[00:05:34] What’s caught Ian’s attention? Ian talks about the importance of a Duchenne smile as part of putting a team on its front foot.
[00:23:14] Ben & Ian begin exploring the main topic: 168 Hours. What effective leaders do.
[00:31:45] The Leadership Time Pie Chart – a simple tool for individual leaders and teams to identify how to shift the focus of their time to increase their impact by leading well, managing well and deliver strategic priorities.
[00:34:38] The Stop-Doing List – a vital tool for effectiveness
[00:40:02] Conditions For Success – a series of questions that can tell a leader how to structure their time today, this month and through the year

Full transcript

Note: This transcript is hand corrected. This takes some time but I like to upload the transcript as soon as possible so initially it will be full of transcription errors!

Ian: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the Gritty Leaders Club, episode 15, the podcast that asks the hard questions about leadership. So here we are again, Ben, how are you today?

Ben: [00:00:13] Hi, Ian. I’m really good. Thank you. Pleased to be here with you and our listeners, and can’t wait to get into our topic.

Ian: [00:00:21] Excellent. Good. Well, it’s another interesting one, I think, and an essential question for leaders, of course in a week we’ve got 168 hours. And the central question we’re going to be talking about is how effective leaders spend their time. What do they do in those 168 hours?  But before we get into the substance of this and a few models and hints and tips and et cetera, et cetera, a bit of research thrown in no doubt, Ben what have you noticed recently that you want to talk about today?

Ben: [00:00:53] It’s a question Ian. A question has got my attention. This question is from a chap called Pat Murray. Pat is a leadership coach in America, works with founders and ‘teams at the top’ in various companies. I came across a bit of writing by Pat and it’s called ‘The essence of leadership. The inside moves’. And I like how it begins.

Pat writes that leadership consists of inside moves and outside moves. The outside moves are all the things you do that are readily visible and observable. Your leadership style, meetings you attend, where your time and attention goes, et cetera. And the inside moves are invisible or less visible, but they’re what separates great leaders from all the rest.

Now inside moves and outside moves reminds me of the inner game and the outer game, which is a concept from Timothy Gallwey. Timothy Gallwey was a tennis coach. I’m guessing 40 years ago, roundabout then, and one of the first people to bring coaching from the world of sports, into the world of business and organizations.

And Tim Gallwey. He talks about the inner game and the outer game. He would say the outer game is played on an external arena to overcome external obstacles, to reach an external goal. The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self doubts, lapses in focus and limiting concepts or assumptions.

And of course, as leaders, we have inner games as well. We play against those same obstacles. And I think this is what Pat Murray is talking about too. And of course the inner game is also about questions such as our personal why, and our organizational why – what’s the reason that the hearts of our leadership? The reason at the heart of our team, our companies.

And Pat Murray goes on to talk, first of all, about the outside moves. This is the bit that got my attention. Pat describes a situation, now remember he’s a coach, he describes working with a clients, an owner of a large real estate firm.

And he describes a situation in which one day, the Chief Executive of the real estate firm was complaining. He was complaining that one of his divisional managers was wrecking the firm. He was driving business, but destroying good people in the process.

The Chief Executive, he was agitated by this. He tried various things, but the manager refused to change his behavior. He carried on. And, um, we all recognize this, right? These are the sorts of tricky, high stakes situation that come up.

Pat asked the CEO a question. It’s a great question. And it’s a question that any leader can, and I think probably should keep in mind.

And the question he asked is this:

What story would you like told about you regarding this situation?

Ian: [00:04:27] Hmm. Well, that’s a great one.

Ben: [00:04:31] That’s a killer question. Isn’t it?

Really causes us to step back and change perspective. How are others going to see this? How are they going to see this? What does it say about me? What does it say about us? Just a killer question. What story would you like told about you regarding this situation?

Ian: [00:04:54] That’s one of the best questions I’ve heard actually. I love it. It reminds me of the sort of 80th birthday speech when you were describing your life, looking back on it from 80. And what story would you really like to be said over the whole of your life, but this brings it right down to very actionable.

Now, you know, the things we’re doing now, the tricky things we’re grappling with as leaders. Ask yourself that question. Every time you’re dealing with a thorny issue. What story would you like send about you in the way you’ve dealt with this?

What a great question.

Ben: [00:05:31] Super. Isn’t it. Super.

What’s  got your attention?

Ian: [00:05:35] Well, it’s , the power of a smile. And I, yeah, so I’ve been doing a bit of research. I did a bit of research a while ago for my book and I was looking at happiness, this whole subject of happiness. And I came across a bit of research about the smile and about a fake smile versus a genuine smile and a genuine smile was first written about by a chap called Guillaume Duchenne called a Duchenne smile.

That’s a genuine smile. And what makes it a genuine smile? Well, In addition to enlarging your cheeks and exposing your teeth, which is what we  do. And that’s voluntary, and that can be on its own effect. Smile. You’ve got an involuntary thing that happens, which is you’ve got wrinkles on the outer edges of your eyes and your eyes close up and put those two together and you get a genuine smile.

And where you’ve got the former, just  exposing the teeth, but not much happens to the eyes. It’s pretty much a fake smile. And the interesting about this. So there were two psychologists called Keltner and Harker who looked at some class photographs of 114 women back in 1960.

They were at Mills College, University of California. They were doing this research in 1990 and they looked at these photographs.  141 photographs they analyzed and three of the women were not smiling. And of the rest 50 would genuine Duchenne smiles and the rest were fake smiles. So they said, okay, then there, they looked at these women and they assessed how they had gone through their lives in the period from 1960 to 1990.

And he looked at three different stages. And what they found out was those who had had genuine smiles had longer, more satisfying marriages and higher personal wellbeing. Now that in itself is like, wow, that’s, that’s, that’s amazing. But what do we take from that? Well, what we take from that and what came out in the research paper, which is fascinating is when you have a genuine smile, You are feeling a positive emotion.

When you’ve got fake smile, you’re not, you’re just putting a fake smile on, so there’s no, there’s no real emotion behind it. There’s no feeling behind it. It’s just a fake smile, a genuine smile, positive emotions,  allow you to foster creative thinking.

We know from other pieces of information about how you create,  great brainstorms and creative thinking in rooms is you get people having fun. And that’s one of the ways you do that. The other things it does, it allows you to be much more ready to take advantage of opportunities, which is another interesting thing about showing emotion.

It strengthened social bonds between people and the last thing they found out was it actually suppresses negative emotions. So the more positive emotions you’re showing, the more genuine smiling you’re doing. The less negative emotions come through. And of course, one of the things about all this  is the fact that when you come in as a room, as a leader, you infect people with your mood, with your smile, with how you show up.

And so all this is very infectious. You know, you and I coming into a room, smiling, having that intense. If you like, which we spoke about in the last podcast really has an effect on the room. And therefore you can have an effect on your culture. You can have effect on your creativity, the readiness of your people to take opportunities, the strengthening of the social bonds within your business and less negativity around.

So a fascinating piece of research loved it, really loved it. And that made me really think about real Dushane, genuine smiling, which I’m trying to do more of as a result.

Ben: [00:09:37] Nice. And leadership is contagious. So what do you want people to catch?

Amuses me that that line, leadership is contagious. And what do you want people to catch?

If we’re in a good place you know, where we’ve got a ready Duchenne smile, if we’re not in a good place we get that forced smile. How do we close that gap?

And you’ve got me thinking about stress in business and burnouts at work. I mentioned it a couple of podcasts ago. I’m reading right now, Perform Under Pressure by Dr Ceri Evans who did a bunch of work with the All Blacks and with Mercedes Formula One.

And it’s a great book.  A model all around whether we’re thinking with our red emotional brain or our blue rational brain. And I think we’ve said we’ll build a podcast episode around Performing Under Pressure. It’s a brilliant book.

One of the things it talks about is the freeze fight flight reaction. And, you know, when we hear about it we think about, at least I do, being cornered and, walking through the jungle and, passing around a big tree trunk and coming face to face of a tiger or snake or something like that.

It conjures up that sort of image. Doesn’t it? At least us for, for me, I think, for a long time.

And for so many people, its really tough to  translate the concepts of freeze, fight and flight, those reactions, those primal reactions, into our business setting.  But in this book Just one of the many bits I really like, he just says, in business, in our professional lives, where there are no tigers in the building, there are no poisonous snakes in the building, the way that fight flight freeze shows up, and he’s got an acronym: APE.  Aggression, Passivity and Escape.

And oh my goodness do I see this around the workplace?  Around a meeting room table in a zoom, in a conference call? Aggression – somebody’s going a little bit too far with fighting their corner. In fact, they showed up in that way.  Passivity, the person who doesn’t participate and their seats is pushed back from the table. And the arms are folded and, you know, you get the odd grunt from them and that’s about all you’re getting, they’re being passive.  And escape, actually, I’m going to show up late. I’m not going to show up. I’ve got something more important. I’m not coming to this. meeting and, and suddenly you could see all these behaviors.

And it’s worth stopping.  Have we got somebody here who their mindset is in fight flights freeze.  Because if we have then resourcefully they’re not in a good place.  They might burn out. What might they do in the, in the short-term?  And but I tell this a bit because they’re definitely not going to give us a Duchenne

Ian: [00:12:44] No. And that’s, isn’t it because is that a temporary state or is that a sort of fairly permanent state for that person? Because he cost, you can get, you know, you can get pessimists, you can get people who are just mood hoovers as we call them. Or you can get somebody who’s actually. You know, pretty good when they come to work, they bring, they bring their whole  self, they glass half full they’re optimistic, but they’re having a hard day.

And I think, so there are lots of ways of and I’m drawing on people like Shawn Achor now, you know positive psychologists lots of ways of creating a positive happy mind. I’ll give you three examples of those. And these are the behaviors you can ingrain in yourself. And those, those behaviors then can, can become more habitual so you can sort of help them go through a business.

One of them we’ve heard a lot about, which is write down three things you’re grateful for before you go to bed. And,  make that the last thing you do at night. Why is that important? Because you, think about the things in your life that are good, it forces you to do that. It’s there’s another one similar to that, which is journaling or blogging about positive experiences.

When you force your mind to think positively you relive that experience. It’s a bit like showing somebody a photograph of a holiday. You relive the experiences, you show them the photograph. So journaling, blogging back, positive experience. Again, it puts you in the right kind of mind random acts of kindness.

We know. You know, you speak to people, you go out of your way to speak to people and say, how’s your day. And actually talk to them in the checkout queue at Waitrose or Tesco and, you know, lifts them because they’re not used to that. They’re used to the people just ask them for a plastic bag, which they don’t want to give out in the first place, because it kills the planet.

And somebody wants to, , Well, it’s not just the two people doing that,  are put in a better frame of mind. It’s anyone witnessing. It goes back to our infection. You know, leaders are infectious.

So there are a whole bunch of things here. I think about creating a happy state of mind. There’s lots of stuff out there which we can do, and we can incorporate. Into our, into our days which set us up for a much better day you know, meditation, yoga, all that kind of stuff, sharing our issues leaders, showing their care for people at work and so on tons of tons and tons of stuff there.

Ben: [00:14:52] Yeah. and happily psychology in the recent 15, 20 years, positive psychology has emerged. And we’re learning about this quickly aren’t we? Some great things we can do. But here’s the question. And this it’s kind of almost a real time question.

I was walking the other day with a founder company founder that I work with. We live close to each other. We met for our outdoor exercise. We kept a good distance, so very responsible. And we walked and we talked and one of his questions was, ‘As a leader, how holistic is my responsibility to each of my people?’

If I’ve got somebody who I can see that performing fine at work, but they’re not in a great place and there’s other stuff going on for them perhaps, or we figured there must be because they’re not their normal selves, but they’re doing okay at work. Where do we draw the line? What is our responsibility to holistically take care of them and either find out and help tackle those other things or do something less direct , to support them more.

In fact, is that none of our business? If they’re performing well at work and if they’ve not put this on the table, we know where the line is drawn?

Ian: [00:16:20] Yeah, that’s a great well, it’s, it’s kind of a, quite a common leadership dilemma, I think. And it’s a great question. And that, that this chap asked I think you can only go so far. I think we do, you know, there’s lots of research isn’t there about really understanding people on a personal level, so you can motivate them so you can show you care for them.

So I think there’s this, you know, building up that vulnerability based trust that that courage and emotional exposure is Brené Brown talks about. I think that’s really the right thing to do for people to make them feel that they’re wanted at work they’re cared for at work. They can share stuff and all that leads to proper conversations and getting to the heart of the issue and all that.

So it has  real. Productive output in terms of, what you’re trying to create in a business. I think the question you’re asking and the, and the person you were with was asking was, you know, if this, I can only go so far and how far do I go? And if I’m looking holistic at the whole business, then kind of let one person kind of disrupt to take too much of my time or disrupt other people in the business.

And  I think the danger is as a leader, If we see somebody who’s not on their a game or has never been on their a game or is this just, you know, just way off the, off the pace for too long people start looking at us and saying, how are we addressing this? How are we coping with this?

Are we, are we addressing this at all? Because. As we, as we keep saying, people influence other people. And if you’ve got one person in your business who is draining the mood or is feeling negative you know, is actively disengaging, then it spreads that discontent. It spreads that amongst the people they’re working with.

So it comes on leaders to say, you know, there’s a line here in the sand. I think we’ve got to draw and say, I’m only going to take it so far with you.

Ben: [00:18:12] So are you saying that the determining factor is whether or not that person is beginning to negatively impact or undermine the team, the company?

Ian: [00:18:25] that’s one of them. I think the, the key, the thing I always say is we don’t owe anyone a job.  We don’t as leaders, we don’t know anyone, a job. Our organizations are that you know, to fulfill a mission, a vision, all the things we talked about in the, in the last podcast and to employ people, develop them, grow them, get the most out of them on that journey with us.

If one of them isn’t, isn’t happy, maybe they’re in the wrong organization, maybe they’re in the wrong job. We need to understand that we need to talk to them. So it could be an individual thing. But certainly if they’re affecting other people around them and then I think it becomes. A big issue for the organization.

And then about how you’re viewed as a leader,  how your credibility stands up to letting somebody kind of get away with a behavior that isn’t, you know, what you want to see around the business?

Ben: [00:19:12] Yeah. Okay.  I thought of it differently Ian. You know, one part of the answer is perhaps there’s something here about the individual culture of our organization. Do we have a culture that looks after its people holistically?

And if we do, what does that look like and how do people understand that? Because of course that makes it safe and expected and normal and easier.

Or do we have a culture that doesn’t do that and draws a very clear line and draws that line close to the performance of the business.

And again, everyone knows where they stand including the individuals  and the leaders.

So that was one thing.  And, but, if I think of this in the context of a team, and in a way we’re getting into the topic of today’s podcast with this. As a leader in a team I’m responsible for the team I’m responsible for each person and each person having the conditions for success.

If we think of the dream teams.  The really high performing teams. Teams that knock it out of the park. Teams in sport, quite often.  If there’s something else going on for somebody and it’s nothing to do with the team but it’s hurting them and they’re unable to show up with all of their normal passion and brilliance and resourcefulness, the team absolutely gets behind that and help sort out whatever it might be for, for that person.

And they, and they look after the person. So in that sense I think absolutely. There could be a responsibility and it could be valid  to get involved and do you know what? I think there’s a lot, we can be doing as we develop our teams.

Are we giving them good tools that enable them to perform well at work, but also in the rest of their life too? Perform under pressure, the book that I’m talking about. Just a simple, good example.  A ton, a ton of good ideas usable, relatable ideas that would have any one of us perform well in our roles and probably even more applications in the rest of our life as well.

So if you like we can develop each of our people at work in a way that is going to help them massively out of work as well.

Ian: [00:21:37] Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Ben, and I think that’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? You know, the, the, one of the most important things a leader can do is build another leader is, can grow a person to achieve their potential. And that’s not just growing their ability to perform at work. That’s, that’s making them a better person.

You know, if you look at any of the great sports coaches, you know, look at Eddie Jones and he talks about the England rugby team. He’s trying to make them into better people. He wants. He wants really nice people, really good people in his, in his team. And I think we do have as leaders, you know, there is, there is something that we must do to, to help people grow and develop as people, but that’s that’s part of a great leader.

And of course you can’t disassociate, will you shouldn’t, you know, developing a person and developing a great. A great performer at work. One goes hand in hand with the other and one supports the other. So if you’re building a, a happy, motivated person who feels fulfilled every day, personally, they’re going to give much better performance at work, and they’re going to thank you and they’re going to stay there longer.

And so I think this is, you know, I was talking to some people this morning about, you know, the Lencioni model and  that starts doesn’t it with this kind of open up, be vulnerable, get the trust, understand people, really understand people care for people, show you care, and then you get the challenge and then you get the commitment and the accountability and so on and so forth.

And so I think these things wrap around each other and it’s a great debate to have, we’ve probably gone on for too long in a sense, but, but Hey, we’ve got, we’re kind of going into this area about what leaders do anyway. Aren’t we.

Ben: [00:23:14] Yeah, we are so, ‘168 hours. What effective leaders do.’

Ian: [00:23:21] That’s the question. So well, as I tell you what prompted this in me watch, which was a book and a Harvard business review article by John Kotter.  The Harvard business review article is called ‘What effective general managers really do’. The article focused on some research they’d done on effective leadership. And I thought it was fabulous because what it looked at was, and I think that sure, they changed the name a chap called Michael Richardson, who was a general manager in a big business.

A very effective general manager. And what they did is they followed him over a  24 hour period to see how he spent his time. And so what did they show? Well, they showed that he came to work reasonably early. He sat down with his assistant and they went through the diary and then he started going to a succession of meetings. Now none of that’s unusual so far, is it, but what he did do is he made sure he touched base with people top to bottom in his organization and side to side.

So that was the first lesson, you know, you’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to walk, walk the corridors and see people.

The second thing I found fascinating it was that this person never attended or rarely attended the whole of a meeting. So they would know that they’re attending a meeting, say the operations team, for example, and they turn up and because they’re the general manager, people would kind of count out to them and look across at them and see what they were going to say.

So this chap, Michael Richard, and we’d walk in and say, right, who’s running this meeting. Then somebody would say, you know, Sarah, for the sake of a name would say, say, Oh, I’m running this meeting. Is it great? What are you trying to achieve in the meeting? And Sarah was said, well, we’re doing it for this and this, and this is the outcome we want.

And this is what we’re going to do. He’d say, great. I’m going to come back. When are you finishing by the way? We’re finishing in an hour, right? I’m coming back at 10 to the hour and I just want to see what you’ve achieved and he’d leave. And he did that in a succession of meetings throughout the day.

Very rarely attended the whole meeting. He’d come in at the beginning. He’d maybe throw something in an idea, but he’d come back at the end. And of course what happened it’s to a group of people. When you come into a meeting as the senior leader, and you say, look, I’m not going to influence your, what you’re thinking about, but I am going to come in and hear what you’ve said.

The pressure is kind of on them to say, well, Hey, Hey guys, we’ve got to, we’ve got to have a proper meeting here. We’ve really got to get to the heart of the issue. We’ve got to come up with some great ideas because we’re going to have to present them back to the leader. When the leader comes back. Now, what did it do?

It gave, it gave empowerment to people in the room. It delegated authority to them. It made them feel that they were running the meeting and the glitter wasn’t taking away that from them. But also it gave time. Back to the leader who could then go away and start to do other things during their day. And the one thing we haven’t got as leaders this time so a couple of other things that came out in the article, the leader always left the office at 5.30pm  because one of the things you want to do is set the example that I don’t stay later in the office.

You know, if you stay till nine at night, people tend to think I’ve got to stay till nine at night. So he very aware of that. He used to go home, have tea with his kids and his family and his wife. And then check in a little bit later and do a few emails and things. Now you could argue the good and the bad of that, but that’s the way he did it.

So it opened my eyes to the whole question about how do leaders spend their time? How are they efficient? How are they effective? What is, what’s the effect of staying in a meeting for the whole time? What’s the effective, only staying in the meeting for a short time. So. That’s where it started, Ben, that’s the first time.

And I’ve got a few other things I’ll show later, but that’s where it started for me.

Ben: [00:27:10] Yeah. Okay. And I’m not sure I’ve read that HBR article. I’ve read, I’ve read another about how leaders spend their time a while ago. I suspect I was in my managing director role.  They’d looked at a bunch of different leaders how they spend that time with their people, with their customers, and so on and how much time they spend doing email. And it’s very informative. I found it totally unrelatable. I thought, yeah, that’s great. That’s not going to work for me.

And so I was kind of stuck with it. And if you like, that’s the rub of this topic? Isn’t it? That it ain’t going to be the same for any two leaders.

Ian: [00:27:51] no. I think for me the you’re, you’re absolutely right. You know, it’s the most precious commodity we’ve got the thing I liked the most about  kata  was, do you, the leader of the business need to spend all of your two hours in that meeting?

That was the, that was the question I think is worth asking leaders, , is that a good use of your time? Because as we know, going back to questions . What’s the role of the leader. And when you leave a group of people, you can empower them to come up with more of the answers themselves without you in the room.

And it’s for you to ask the great questions of them rather than to give them the answers and the danger is if you’re in the room, everyone turns to you and says, what’s the answer back. And what’s the answer. And what’s the answer, Rob, whatever it is, whoever’s in that room. So that, was the big, aha for me reading the culture article, because I think that is transferrable.

You know, I think people can question. Do they really need to stay in every meeting that they’ve are invited to attend as a leader.

Ben: [00:28:44] Yeah, absolutely. And what are we teaching there? We’re teaching everybody to think about how are we using each, each block of time available to us? Are we making it count? It’s one of the good things, I think, I saw during pandemic in 2020 in the early, weeks of Zoom-ville when people were, you know, people had square eyes, it was zoom after zoom, after zoom it gets to the end of the day, they’re exhausted.

And suddenly they realized this isn’t productive. I’ve got to make my time count. And many people they, they canceled half of their zooms. They shortened zooms. To half an hour or 45 minutes. They started building in a sensible break in between zooms.  Back to back doesn’t make good sense. And people did begin thinking about making time count.

Back to where did this originate from? And Ian, you dreamed up this episode with the title how to lead to spend that time, which we turned into,  what effective leaders do. And then I added the 168 hours onto the front. I found that interesting 168 hours in the week.

And in the HBR article that got you thinking your man there was, was leaving at five o’clock each day to, to set an example. Yeah. And this is maybe one of the first places I go with this What effective leaders do is they think first about how they’re leading themselves.

And of course that’s not a nine to five thing. That’s the whole week. Our every waking hour. And if we include the importance of sleep every non-waking hour as, as well.  And back to your points of, leadership is contagious, what do we want people to catch? Or that was my line, your points.

But back to that I think one of the first things that effective leaders do is… I mean, work life balance is dead. I’ve never liked the term. I don’t think they do ever balance, so let’s not talk about work-life balance. Let’s talk about work-life combination.

Effective leaders they get themselves an effective work-life combination. One, that’s puts them on their front foot. Because 101, first things first, an effective leader is on his or her front foots. And by being on their own front foot, they’re enabling their people to be on their front foot.

Ian: [00:31:19] yeah.

Ben: [00:31:20] Show up on your back foot and you’re putting your team on their back foot.

Ian: [00:31:23] Yeah, you’re quite right. I mean, one of the things you know, in the intro, we talked a bit, bit about happiness. There’s a great book by a guy called Hal Elrod called Miracle Morning. I don’t know if you’ve read that one probably a while ago

Ben: [00:31:35] I think I might have mentioned that to you cause I did the miracle morning every morning for, for a number of months.  It’s brilliant. Achieved so much that I had to stop for a break.

Ian: [00:31:45] But the concept there is what you’re talking about, isn’t it. It’s basically, you know, you’re setting yourself up for your morning and your day by, by putting the things that matter to you, put you in the right mindset, put you in the right state. And you do a combination of those before you really,  the leap into the office,  that could be yoga, could be meditation, could be blogging, could be a a bit more strenuous exercise. It’s a nice cup of tea. A combination of things. If you think about you’re on the practice ground, before you get on the pitch is kind of setting you up in the right way.

But diving into the subject a bit more, cause you mentioned about,  what do we. Do during this is 168 hours. And I think one of the things that I’ve done with leaders is to say, okay, so how do you spend that 168 hours – Exactly?

So I draw a circle and I say, right, divide that circle into a number of pies about how you spend your time as a leader. And so those pies might be strategy, you know, strategic thinking and all those sorts of high-level stuff.

They might be business development, they might be product development. They might be developing my team. They might be visiting clients and prospects, a bit big chunks of activity, and you’d give them a broad percentage of how you’re spending your day, your week, you know, your month kind of quite big picture and get people to do that and say, do it now, honestly, how you spend your time now.

And then I’d say, okay, your business is growing. You know what the vision is, you know, where you want to be. You know what your other members of your team are doing.  Is that pie you’ve just drawn what your business needs today from you?

And now that’s a big question because actually people have looked at that and I don’t have anyone who said to me. Yep. That’s exactly that Ian, it’s exactly what I’ve drawn and I’ve no need to change.

And most people have said to me, do you know what? There’s not enough strategic thinking time in there.

Going back to this point, you mentioned about zoom where we’ve put rushing from zoom call to zoom call, you know, in our working lives rushing from meeting to meeting, we’re being pulled over here and pulled over there.

And what’s the one thing leaders need to really do. Is set the strategic direction, set the vision, motivate people, develop teams, have one-to-one with people, see critical clients, talk to them, build that relationship. You know, they need to be doing a lot of relationship, building people development strategic thinking, and often they end up too much in the operational stuff. Because they get pulled into all this stuff that people want them in.

And so I found that really useful to get people, to hold the mirror up and say, how am I spending my time, my really important time. And is that what the business really needs of a leader?

Ben: [00:34:38] Yup. Yup. And then of course we need to give each one of those people a tool. And in my experience it’s surprisingly rare to see used. And that tool is the cousin of the, to do list. It’s the not to do list. Its the stop doing list. And every effective leader must have one.

Ian: [00:35:01] absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And we don’t do that enough. We don’t think it, it was back to when I talked about intent at the beginning of the last. Podcasts. When I said, my intent for 2020 was take control. And part of that was to stop doing stuff which really didn’t fit into what I was here to do.

And so you’re right. It’s we think about what we’re going to do, but not enough about what we’re not going to do.

Ben: [00:35:27] yeah. And, and to not have a stop doing list I can’t quite remember who said this, so I won’t quite do it justice quite as well as they did, but to. But to not have a stop doing list is, is a recipe for failure. It guarantees failure. It’s a recipe for being out of control because people will always put stuff onto your, to do list and they won’t take stuff off it. So it’s only going to go only going to go one way.

Although, a great way to do your stop doing list is to open it up to other people and say, Hey, here’s my stop doing list. Tell me what I need to put on it.

And you’ll be surprised the look of glee on your colleague’s faces and how much they’ll put on your list.

And then you can look at that list and think, yeah. Do you know what? They’re right.

Ian: [00:36:20] The other way of using this simple model of the circle in the pies is to say to the person you’re doing this with, ‘Is that what your leadership team would expect of you in how you spend your time? Are there elements in that pie that you currently do that they should be doing? So is there a delegation opportunity here?

And the other way of using it beyond that of course, is to sit down with the whole leadership team openly together. I get them all to do it.  So you will start critiquing each other on how you’re spending your valuable time. And do you make sure that if you’ve got strategic priorities, as we spoken to about before, are you spending enough time in the right places to make these really happen?

Ben: [00:37:09] Yes. Two things there, I totally agree by the way, it’s such a useful tool. Going back a step to delegation, a question for one-on-one’s a question I think should feature regularly, frequently, maybe not every single one-on-one, but perhaps quarterly.  The question is: Tell me what I’m doing today that you do better than me and you’d really prefer I stopped doing?

Ian: [00:37:41] Yeah, brilliant. Brilliant question. Um,

Almost identical to what you’ve said, which is: If there’s one thing I do that you’d really love to do, what would it be? And it’s very similar to your question. But it allows somebody to pull it from you shows their motivation, shows their ambition rather than you giving it to them. And it kind of flips it around the other way. So, yeah, there’s a lot of you know, such a simple model, but can be really effective with leaders in their teams.

Ben: [00:38:09] Yep, totally. And I use this approach as well, drawing the circle. How should time be spent? I use the approach as well. And one of the moments that almost always I use it  Having worked through the strategy process with a team, and they’ve got to the point of having their strategic priorities defined the plan for the year is defined. However they do that. However, that looks for them. We’re at the point where we know what the plan looks like. Collectively, we know what needs to happen. We’re action oriented. That’s a great moment.

We know what needs to be achieved. That’s a great moment.

At this point, and in that context, it’s an ideal time to draw a circle. And we can do this as a team. It can be a team exercise, single circle, whole team, single circle. How does each one of us need to split our time so that we both lead our people effectively and deliver each of those strategic priorities and also take care of anything specific to our individual responsibilities in the business?

Whilst we’re still in the context of that strategic thinking and having just drawn up the plan. That’s a brilliant moment to draw the circle. And then with that circle, we can compare to our current a week to week and we can make the adjustments.  It’s a really timely moment to do it. It’s not prescribed, the team can do this totally in their own language with no constraints whatsoever, other than we’ve just got clear on what we need to achieve as a team, as a business. And also that there’s only so many hours in the day and so many days in a week.

Ian: [00:39:57] Anything else on this big subject of how leaders use their time, Ben, that you want to bring to the podcast today?

Ben: [00:40:02] on this big stuff Yeah. Well that sounds a little bit like we’re getting close to wrapping up. Okay. Yeah. When I said earlier that I tried a different HBR article and. It was useful. That was good analysis in it, but I just couldn’t relate to it.

And the approaches described in there just weren’t going to work for me. And that kind of stayed with me. And I thought, surely there’s got to be A common way of looking at this and coming at this, that’s going to work for, if not and, most leaders and most leadership situations. And I’ve kind of chipped away at that. And, here’s what, what I’ve arrived at.

Back when we recorded lady leadership. Lazy leadership not lady leadership. Lady leadership will be a good topic for us to do sometime, but, but our podcast was not lady leadership. It was lazy leadership.  We were looking for, if it’s not lazy leadership, what’s a single concept that brings together good version of leadership, effective leadership or gritty leadership.

And the way that I often look at that is it’s the role of the leader to create conditions for success. And that’s how I look at how a leader should be spending that time.  The question is: Am I creating conditions for success?

And then I’ve got a little bit of a matrix.  Am I creating conditions for success for myself, for each of the people that report to me for the team or teams around me for the company,  and perhaps for the shareholders as well.  Am I creating conditions for success for each of those?

And then second of all it operates on another level as well. Am I creating those conditions for success now, the current period for today, for this conversation, for this week, this period. Am I creating those conditions for success for each of those groups now? In the mid term? And also the long term?

Ian: [00:42:14] I think, you know, we can look at this model and say, how are we spending our time today? And we can get that right. And we can, we can do that with our teams and we can correct the conditions for success for them and for our organizations.

Let’s suppose we’re growing 10% a year, 15% a year. 50%. Yeah. But let’s suppose we’re growing. We know or we’ve got a good idea that we’re going to be this big in a year or 18 months. If we hit. Our vision, if we achieve our strategic priorities and at 10%, 15%, whatever it is bigger with maybe new products, maybe, you know new offices, more people maybe in a new market, maybe having acquired another business at that point in the future.

What do we need to be doing? Or with that in mind? How does that change my pie today?

Ben: [00:43:09] If memory serves. And you mentioned earlier, the idea of mapping the work we’ll do during the year. And it got me thinking actually I’m a trustee and in my trustee role, one of the things we do as a board of trustees is we map out our work for the year. The work of the board of the trustees during the year.

And it’s really clear. We check in on a strategy at one point and remuneration at another point and so on, and it plays out over the year. And I think that’s another way to look at this for all leaders.

Considering the year ahead, where will I need to spend my time to create conditions for success at each point during the year?

And there could be a connection to strategy here too. We’ve been talking in other podcasts about strategy and the strategic process. And of course that plays out quite often over the course of a year. So again, as a leader, where does my attention needs to be? How do I need to shape my time at different points during the year?

Ian: [00:44:23] Yep. We need to always think of tomorrow because we’re doing today what’s historically led us up to today and the danger is, we just carry on doing the same thing, you know, Groundhog Day, we come in and do the same broad thing tomorrow.

And this is where, part of our time has to be to step back and go. What do I need to do for tomorrow? And that’s really important for a leader.

Ben: [00:44:43] Okay. Great.

Ian: [00:44:45] Well, let’s hope to get some more emails. It’d be love to get people who are doing  maybe they’ve got some other models. Maybe they’ve got some advice. Maybe they’ve got some tips, maybe we’ve missed something.

I’m sure we have that people can come in and tell us about so be great to hear listeners’ feedback. But other than that, should we wrap up today?

Ben: [00:45:00] Yeah, I think so. So emails I’m at ben@benwales.com your at ian@ianwindle.com.  We’d also love reviews on Apple podcasts, Spotify, wherever you listen. We’d love reviews there. We really love it if they’re five star but give us reviews there, give us feedback. We’re often posting things on LinkedIn as well.

So if you’ve got a view, if you’ve got an idea, Comments against the episodes. Please, please do.

Ian: [00:45:30] What are we going to be talking about when we get together again, then

Ben: [00:45:33] oh, well, we’ll, we’ll be back to our strategy topic. Soon and an area that we want to unpack is this whole area of getting into motion with strategy, turning into action, because you know, strategy is invisible all we can see is an execution.

So we’ve got to get into action.

Ian: [00:45:55] So I hope we’ll see you all there. Great to be with won’t be able to join us

Ben: [00:45:59] good to be with you, Ian. See you in two weeks.

Ian: [00:46:01] bye bye

Ben Wales is a coach to entrepreneurial CEOs and their senior teams and author of forthcoming book 'Is This A Question?'. Originally a rocket scientist for the UK’s equivalent of NASA, Ben pivoted into a 19-year career running and growing start-up and scale-up companies in entrepreneurial hotspots London and Stockholm. Today, in his coaching practice, Ben focuses on individual and team high performance. Learn more at benwales.com or Ask Ben.