In recent weeks I´ve been asked by different Leaders to discuss ideas and opportunities not only to perform better in their roles, but to also find the connection to enjoying what they do. As a Leadership Effectiveness Coach, this is a great topic for conversation and to support individuals in creating a more balanced environment to work and fulfill personal expectations.
Quite often, the struggle to find the balance originates from losing the perspective of what is the Leader´s role and where to invest time and energy to solve problems. Normally, the context includes a new direction for the business, a change in strategy, expansion or contraction of the workforce, pressure to deliver results, etc.
To assist clients in visualizing how to manage the sometimes conflicting goals and expectations from numerous stakeholders, I propose a simple model that includes most of the activities a leader is supposed to engage in three distinct ‘Spaces’:
– Vision: What is the direction you want to take the business, your team and your stakeholders? Are you capable of articulating such a vision, communicating to and inspiring others to follow?
– Structure: What are the critical processes, people skills, procedures and policies required to execute on different scales, time frames and resources? What kinds of organizations and communication channels are required to ensure engagement, motivation, feedback and delivery?
– Results: How to measure performance against the vision and the goals agreed to by the teams? Are you sharing accountability to correct deviations, as well as celebration of success by tracing everyone´s contributions?
Most of my clients express frustration on the second item, Structure, because it is the most complex to manage. It involves people and all that is implied by managing this critical resource. A lot of time is devoted to understand if the processes are correctly mapped, and if the right competencies and skills are allocated to execute the work. Sometimes the culture of the business becomes too narrow focused on the details, and the leader misses opportunities to spend time ensuring that results and vision are aligned.
After understanding and agreeing that these three spaces contain most of the areas where leaders are required to spend time and energy, a conversation can develop on two additional levels:
a) Design the ‘Ideal’ calendar, either on a weekly or monthly basis, to record where, how and with whom you spend time to lead and manage your business. Compare this with a typical week or month in the past, analyze the gaps and what are the likely causes. This can bring clarity and understanding on where you need to bring change in order to better perform.
b) Another helpful exercise can be to make a list of all the stakeholders (clients, shareholders, employees, management team, suppliers, regulators, partners, media, etc.), and identify your interactions with all of them in both the ideal and the actual calendar. This can prove revealing and may open new opportunities to address imbalance.
In an ongoing coaching process, these conversations create value by formulating action plans to better manage time, expectations, performance and ensure delivery of results. Clients have been surprised to find out that, for example, 80% of their time and energy is spent in clarifying or arbitrating policy and procedural issues amongst the team (instead of, for example, 50% of time dedicated to Vision and Results, and 50% in managing the structure). They also become aware of organization issues such as the lack of delegation and authority levels, the need for training or reconfiguring the teams to better meet the demands of the business.
Other opportunities that open for the clients are: becoming aware of skill gaps to become better ambassadors of the vision, managing more time to spend with clients and shareholders, developing new ways to analyze and share critical management information, etc.
Last, but not least, clients are encouraged to take these discoveries to a personal level, finding more time to spend with family and friends, cultivate personal hobbies, becoming healthier, or simply taking a more high level view of the business and the impact you make by becoming more self aware.
I have found that this model works for different types of businesses, scales and leader personalities. I look forward to continuing these conversations with my current clients and prospects, particularly in these challenging times when more is expected from everyone.