Time is your most valuable leadership currency. You can’t manufacture it, but you can ensure that your calendar reflects investments that pay the highest dividends.

Time with the Customers

Sounds obvious, right?  Yet many of my clients only talk to customers when there is a problem.  Or they listen to what their marketing department tells them about their ” ideal target.”  Not that either is wrong, it’s that these types of interactions often lead to a limited perspective or false conclusions.

Consistently set aside time to know your customers – what they need, their problems, and how your product or service fits into their world.  Do site visits, join sales meetings, or host them at conferences.  Take the feedback and insights and do something with it.

Frequent Conversations with Direct Reports

Note the word “conversations” versus meetings.  Create followership by investing, nurturing, and maintaining relationships with your staff. It’s more important than ever to understand the people who work for you – what motivates them, what challenges them, and their ideas and feedback. Hearing their stories (and sharing yours too) builds trust and signals that the ”boss” is human.

Make it a point to schedule conversations… weekly or bi-weekly. If this hasn’t been your habit, you may need to position it positively. Call it a  “regular effort to be more engaged.”  If you already meet consistently, but you are all business, make it a point to be more conversational. Ask a high-value question like, ” how can I do a better job of supporting you?” or ” what are some things you’d like me to know about you?”.

Unscheduled Time

Ahh, white space (also known as margin). It may seem counterintuitive if one defines productive as “more (fill in the blank) is better.”   However, regular downtime is a key to sustainable productivity. Physiologically, emotionally, and mentally, our brain needs it.

Unscheduled time (or even a 10-minute break every 2 hours) creates a gap that allows you to regroup, focus, and take a few deep breaths. Better yet, take a walk or even a nap (lots of famous leaders did that too!)

I regularly repeat the mantra, ” the more I slow down, the faster I go, ” and you know what, it’s true.