May I save you $5,000? And some embarrassment?
When Peter Drucker died last year, I was saddened that I had never had the privilege of meeting him. Whenever I read his works, I was stunned by their simplicity and power. It seemed to me that he could cram more insight into a well-written sentence than even John D. MacDonald. I had always hoped to sit down with him for even just 15 minutes, to ask him 2-3-4 questions. Perhaps the highest praise I could give him is that I would have taken a week off to simply come up with the best 2-3-4 I could. That's how precious that time would have been to me - to make THAT 15 minutes valuable, I would have taken a week.
In part I fantasized about taking this week to prepare as a way of paying homage to him. If you've read The Effective Executive, you know why. Drucker's first insight in the greatest management book ever written is that the most precious resource an executive has is TIME. The effective executive knows where she spends her time, and that her time is spent on the RIGHT THINGS.
Which brings me to saving you and your company a lot of money.
Whenever I'm engaged by an executive to coach them, one of my first (if not THE first) actions is to request their schedule for the previous 3-6 weeks. I want an answer to a question I don't want them to hear me asking: what is it that you DO? How do you spend your time? Because what you DO really IS what your priorities ARE.
Let me say that again, differently. Your "priorities" are what you DO. The inferential proof of what's important to you is how you spend your time. Your BEHAVIOR is the pigment on your life's strategic canvas.
I usually set the calendar aside, and then in our first meeting, I ask them one or more of these questions: "What are your priorities? What do you consider most important in your role? What do you see as the primary responsibility of your role?"
Shortly after I've spent my first day with an executive, I review their answers to my questions. Then, I compare their answers with their schedules.
90% of the time they don't match.
When I review with my clients what they said their priorities were, versus what their calendars proved they actually were, the primary emotion, once we fight through disbelief and dissembling, is embarrassment. The smart ones get something powerful from this: the disparity between what they know their jobs to be and what they spend their time doing is the primary source of their dissatisfaction in their role.
How does this insight save you and your firm $5,000?
Because you don't need to hire me to show you. Do it yourself, today. Put a half hour on your calendar some time today. (Oh, you're not that busy). In the first 5 minutes, set up Outlook (or whatever) to begin printing your daily calendar for the past 6 workweeks. If you have a light enough daily schedule that it will all show, print your calendar in weekly view - it'll go faster. We're not measuring busy-ness here.
In the next 10 minutes, write down your answers to the questions I asked above. Take only 10 (uninterrupted) minutes. It's unlikely you're going to come up with better stuff after 10 minutes. I've asked this question 500 times, and that's how long it's taken. Don't think back over your calendar and 'infer' your priorities from what you've been doing...that's cheating. If you want to look at your job description, fine. If you want to look at your metrics, fine. Whatever. Just write down what you think your priorities are.
In the last 15 minutes, compare your calendar with your "priorities." One rule I DO apply to this exercise is that unscheduled time does NOT get credited to ANY of your stated priorities. If you're someone who says that you only schedule times for meetings, or things that require other people, you probably don't like this rule. I'm sorry about that. But like I said, I've done this several hundred times, and I've watched people just like you work. If your time is unscheduled, you are SPECTACULARLY ineffective and inefficient. (It's because you don't treat time as your most precious resource, so you squander it.)
If that last point gets under your skin, I'm both sorry and a little glad. It's not the embarrassment many of my clients feel, but hopefully, it will energize you to take control of your time. You can buy Drucker (link below) to learn more.
In half an hour (plus the time it took to read this post), you've learned one of the most powerful lessons my clients pay me $5,000 for.
Let me know how things go when you start behaving around your stated priorities.
It's a privilege to serve you,