Being a leader is a noble role in any organization. Through your direction, guidance and expertise, you can positively affect the lives of countless individuals (customers, employees, colleagues and vendors) by keeping things running purposefully, smoothly and consistently. You are literally holding the success of others in your hands!
The downside of being in a leadership role is the tremendous responsibility, endless demands and long hours needed to keep things running successfully. Oftentimes, great leaders experience fatigue, overwhelm and the occasional feelings of doubt about being able to continue at their current pace.
I’ve not only experienced this myself throughout my career in the consumer products manufacturing industry but see this dilemma play out with clients I coach today. Initially, these thoughts and feelings are driven from a place of continual activity that never seems to end. Once you stop and evaluate your circumstances and assess your options, the problem becomes a little easier to resolve.
In every leader’s domain, there are a few vital resources that must be harnessed, protected and exploited to their fullest potential. Using these resources effectively insures your ability to oversee and drive the efforts of a great number of people, teams or departments under your care. Failing to recognize the value of these resources will ultimately undermine your efforts and you as the leader.
Leadership Resource #1: Your Time
There is no greater resource (and I’m including money) that you have at your disposal. It’s a resource with limitations and is oftentimes misused. If I may borrow a term from the real estate industry, your time should be devoted to things that are of your ‘highest and best use’. As all manner of activity on your schedule speeds up, the value of your time diminishes. All too often, I assist business owners in the evaluation of what they are spending their time doing, how important is it for them to be involved in the activity and what they are foregoing because they are not using their time for their company’s highest potential.
As the leader, it’s more important for you to find others to do most of the things that hit your desk. So, the next time you find yourself running at break neck speed not knowing how you will get it all done, ask yourself these 2 questions. 1). Who can I get to do this task under my guidance? and 2). If there is no one who can handle this task, who can I train to step in next time? At every turn, you should be evaluating your bench strength to ensure that 80% of what comes to you is handled by others.
It takes real focus and determination to move in this direction but once you commit yourself to doing this, your stress level, feeling of overwhelm and lack of focus on the big projects will disappear.
Leadership Resource #2: Your People
If I received a dollar every time I heard an owner or key executive mention the desire to be able to run their business without the ‘people hassles’ I would be rich! Your people are by far your greatest asset. But like any asset, they can be developed into a high value asset or reduced to junk bond status. The difference is in how you use their talents, drive, and commitment.
Pull out your most updated organization chart and look at it. How many people in your organization are living up to their full potential? How many of your employees have the capability to do more but have no direction, incentive or support to do more. In my eBook, 'Ten Major Business Blind Spots', I discuss this condition at great length. For many people in lead roles, the temptation to just handle the situation themselves rather than take the time to instruct, monitor and hold accountable the people who could easily take on more responsibility is epidemic.
To reverse this habit and start getting more from your people, try ‘Spot Training’. It’s a form of helping employees learn to handle unfamiliar tasks or greater levels of responsibility on the fly. When someone comes to you with a problem expecting you to handle it, stop! Take a few minutes to understand the employee’s problem and what the solution should be. Ask them to handle the solution you’ve arrived at. If they are unsure or uncomfortable, give them the first step and ask them to report back to you when it’s completed. Stay tethered to the situation without getting personally involved. After a few sessions, you will be surprised at what your employees learn to do and the speed of their development. Eventually, you will be asked less and less to handle problems that they encounter.
Remember as a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to develop your people. If you do it right, it should feel like you are working yourself out of a job. I have 3 clients in this situation today. They are all amazed at how well it’s worked.
Leadership Resource #3: Your Finances
What separates the for-profit business model from all other entities (charities, government agencies, etc.) is the need to make money by selling things at a profit. There are many areas of a business that contribute to the money-making process but only 2 that control the flow if your finances: Your marketing and your disbursements. As a leader, you can hand over, delegate or outsource most of your daily operating tasks. What you should always keep a firm grip on are the things that bring revenue into your organization (sales and marketing activity) and the decisions about what you spend your money on.
When business owners get so involved in the internal workings of the organization and neglect the revenue generation and disbursement aspects of the business, big problems eventually show up.
One way to overcome this resource deficiency is to have processes in place that allow you to continually monitor what revenue comes in and how you received it and what expense payments are going out. For most business owners, a simple ‘dashboard’ can achieve this level of financial oversight. Once you are consistently watching the flow of your finances, you’ll be amazed at how well other people treat your money!
Leadership Resource #4: Your Health
Sadly, for many business leaders, leadership comes at a price. It’s an insidious condition that runs below the surface until something places it right in front of you. It’s poor health. If, as a leader, you harbor feelings of inadequacy or undue stress, your personal and family health will suffer.
I’ve listed this resource last in the lineup because once you reduce activities that drain your time; begin utilizing your people’s capabilities more and sleep better knowing your money is being managed carefully, it’s time to put good health maintenance practices into effect.
The three areas of good health that will keep you mentally sharp and physically energetic are healthy eating, exercise and mental refueling. Healthy eating might be as complicated as a physician prescribed diet or as simple as eliminating junk food and reducing portion sizes. Whatever improves your energy and reduces heart conditions should be done now! From an exercise standpoint, taking periodic walks can have a huge positive effect on energy levels and mental stamina. I have several clients who go to the gym mid-day and feel totally energized by it. The mental refueling comes from getting away from the business to decompress and recharge your thoughts. Each of these three strategies will not only not take away from your business but enhance your effectiveness while on the job. Best of all, when you get home, you can enjoy your family and personal time.
I’ve been in business for 38 years and have seen many potentially successful business professionals fall short of their career goals because they were neglectful in one or more of these 4 areas. The reason you signed up for a leadership position was probably so you could run things your way. I know I did. Don’t deprive yourself and your business of the benefits of maximizing these four leadership resources.