To support the development of their big vision, CEOs need space to think and ideate, to develop ideas, brainstorm with others, research and converse.
The challenge right now seems to be how to create this space.
Over the past weeks, I have worked with several executive teams lamenting their lack of time and space. They are overwhelmed with work, in constant demand, and simply too busy to look to the future. ‘I’d love to develop big vision, but I don’t have time,’ seems to be a consistent theme.
This is a risky approach. Without keeping an eye on the horizon how do you prepare for it? It’s like trying to navigate without a compass. You don’t know if you’re heading towards your destination. You could end up anywhere.
Let me help you with this.
Here are a few practical tips for finding the space to think and create.
Declutter your space: physical, calendar and mental space.
This is exactly what is says. Declutter. Tidy up your workspaces so they contain only what you need to perform your current role. This means in the office, at home, your car. Wherever you work. Get rid of the excess stuff that adds you no value. Reduce visual overwhelm. Make sure you have access to the tools you need to perform your role easily.
Clean out your calendar of the things that are historical and cluttering up your valuable time. Only include meetings that make sense for you to be part of in your current role. Do a meeting audit to see what is serving you, and what needs to change or be released.
Clearing out mental space is important too. How many things are you trying to remember all at the same time? Rather than trying to remember everything, write it down somewhere safe. This could be your digital ‘to do’ list, or your one and only notebook. Once you have recorded your idea in a place that will remind you of it, then let it go from your mental space.
Focus specifically and only on the important. Do the things only you can do to make a difference: have impact.
This is key. Rather than trying to do everything, and be everything to everyone around you, simply focus on where you make the difference that only you can make.
What is the purpose of your role?
What are the key things, the top 3 or perhaps 5, you need to deliver to be aligned with the purpose of your role?
Align your calendar with these strategically important areas of focus.
Some CEOs do not control their calendar to support their primary objectives…. So they end up spending time on things that do not matter or have significant value. Your calendar is you. Invest yourself wisely.
How well does your calendar support you delivering on your important areas of focus?
Make conscious choices about how you invest yourself.
Make decisions based on where and how you make the most impact. This is about being conscious of the choices you make in the moment about how you spend your time.
A key question for you is: What is the most important thing I should focus on right now?
This means saying ‘no’ to things that do not matter.
Do not allow yourself to be distracted by ‘busy’ work.
Busy work, is the work we do that is often urgent though adds no significant value. So you end up busy all day, then feel like you have not achieved much or made progress. It is easy to get sucked into this by the people around us.
So consider what you may need to say ‘no’ to, or ‘not now’.
As well as a ‘to do’ list, keep a ‘to don’t’ list. The things you do not do, because they are not your job.
What are the things that are now below your pay grade? The things that you may well be able to do, though should not…because you have other more value adding things to focus your time and energy on.
Just because you are the best parade ground commander, if you are the General you no longer command the parade.
Consider what you are currently spending time on that you should not be. What needs to go on to your ‘to don’t list?
Remember your role is to grow other leaders.
Stop marking homework and instead raise the expectation of what completed work looks like when it is provided to you.
Stop doing their jobs for them. Mentor and coach your people to develop their capability and accountability so they can rise to your expectations instead.
While it might be easier to ‘just do it myself’ in the moment, in the long term this does not make a difference.
Make choices today that will help create space tomorrow.
Ask yourself why you are spending a lot of time on something that in 2 weeks’ time will not matter.
When considering decisions, or making a plan, the level of effort you invest should be proportionate to the scale of the impact of this thing. If in 2 weeks it will no longer matter, why are you investing hours on it now when minutes may suffice?
Deliberately change your physical surroundings, to allow better space for creativity.
Getting outside is often helpful. And walking between meeting locations. Even changing the direction you face, or spending more time standing and walking, while in your office can make a difference.
Set aside time in your calendar for thinking and ideation.
Deliberately set time into your calendar for these activities. Give yourself permission to spend time in the high order part of your role.
Rethink your approach to meetings.
Can any meetings be shortened? Even by 5 minutes. So 30 minute meetings become 25 minutes, and 1 hour meetings become 45 minute meetings. This creates space in your day.
Consider whether you need to personally be in all the meetings currently filling up your calendar.
I recommend a full meeting audit, to review the purpose, process, and people for each of your meetings. Do they serve you? If not, make some changes.
Exercise is great for fostering creative thinking.
The evidence speaks for itself on this one. Give yourself a change of pace. People often get their best ideas when they are not thinking about the thing they need to think about, and are doing something else instead.
How well are you delegating?
Or are you holding on to some things you should be passing on to your team to take action on?
What options are there to give your people opportunity to develop, to be more accountable for their portfolios, and to step up their contribution?
Let go of being the expert, your role is to lead.
Less doing, more leading. Create the space to lead. Share your expertise with others and allow them to become the experts. Then leverage their expertise. You become the expert in being a leader.
Putting one or more of these ideas into practice will develop more space for you to develop bigger vision and create the future.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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