Jon is an executive in the real estate industry. In a meeting that I had with Jon a few months ago, he mentioned to me that he is just too busy and is feeling overwhelmed. Sounds familiar? He has been working on a project that has taken him three months to complete. It has been an intense time for him, since he has had to juggle his “regular job” as well as completing this additional project.
I shared with Jon an insight that has been on my mind for quite a while. Here is my insight: Far too many leaders are working “in” the business and not “on” their business. What does this mean? It means that people are in the weeds all the time. They are way too tactical and are not spending any time thinking strategically about the business.
Just yesterday, I had an illuminating discussion with a Vice President of Human Resources about this topic. She told me that all eight members of her organization’s executive team are guilty of this practice. So, I asked her, “What is the impact of your senior leaders being stuck in the weeds”. She told me that the impact is overwhelmingly negative because their entire business is run reactively. For example, instead of taking time to proactively draft a staff engagement strategy, they now have to react to low scores on their engagement survey. Another example is that instead of taking the time to focus on developing a technology plan, they now are reactively trying to catch up to their competition.
Being in the weeds is an epidemic that has to stop. Leaders need to take the time to be more strategic. I personally learned this lesson in 2016 by spending time “on” my business. How did I do that? Well, in September, I decided to set aside Fridays to work on writing my first book. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made as a leader. Let me explain why this decision has been so impactful.
Firstly, using Fridays as a writing day was a highly strategic decision. It has given me time not only to write but also to think and plan proactively. I am now spending time working “on” my business. While doing so, I have learned how important it is to carve out time to get out of the weeds. To my surprise, my clients were supportive when I told them that I would not be seeing them on Fridays for a while. Rather than being annoyed, they were extremely supportive and encouraging.
Secondly, I have learned all about focus. I now have a four-day work week (Monday to Thursday) to get all of my client deliverables done. At first I thought that I would be working long hours on those four days. But in reality, I am not. I am working the same hours, but I have just shifted how I work. I am laser focused. I am clear on my priorities. I do not procrastinate. No more Facebook surfing during the day for me! The big lesson for me is about the criticality of focus, planning and self-management.
I told my client Jon about my Friday strategy. He was inspired and immediately took action. He clearly understands that he needs to focus “on” his business. He realized that on Friday afternoons, he is fairly tired and unproductive. So, he closes his laptop at 1pm every Friday. He drives thirty minutes to a satellite office near his home. For the rest of his afternoon, he works “on” his business without interruption. Jon is a changed man. He is feeling more in control, less stressed and more engaged at work.
What can you do to get out of the weeds and be more proactive?
Don’t be like most leaders out there and spend your time being reactive and putting out fires.
Get out of the weeds. Block off some time in your schedule to think, to plan and to be proactive.
Your results just might surprise you!