Truly successful executives are those who can thoroughly mine the intersection of efficiency and effectiveness to maximize their value and that of their team’s whether that team is a small group or an entire division, department or organization.
Recall that effectiveness is doing the right things; efficiency is doing things right. Doing the right things right are the tactics by which you get things done and achieve strategic execution at the right time in the right place.
We know that time management determines how well we manage not only our own operational, day-to-day responsibilities but that of our teams as well — and most of us do try to make sure we handle it in a manner that’s both efficient and effective.
Your best formula for both personal and team success is to make a serious effort to consistently value your time. To do the best job possible, value your time both realistically and highly.
Depending on your leadership position, your value to the organization may be thousands of dollars per hour. Once you’ve pinned down the value of your time, use these tips as you move forward:
- Delegate your authority and tasks as widely as possible, to capable people who can do certain things better than you can. Retain the few high-priority, high-value tasks only you can do most profitably.
- Avoid false economy. If what you’re doing costs more in terms of the value of your time than it’s worth, stop doing it.
- Crack the Whip on Time-Wasters. You’ve no doubt learned how to apply self-discipline, or you wouldn’t have made it as far as you have in your career. Now apply that discipline to your team to ensure they aren’t wasting valuable time either.
- Clarify goals and review them at regular intervals. Also clarify the organizational environment your team works in, explaining to team members precisely what you’ll accept, what you won’t and what’s explicitly against the rules. Make it clear that, while you don’t intend to be punitive (unless something goes badly wrong), you expect people to accept responsibility for everything they do, regardless of the outcome — yourself included.
- Act as a role model and follow company policy. Don’t expect the team to do what you say rather than what you do; the real world doesn’t work that way.
Master Data Handling and Workflow
How executives organize their personal work matters more now than it ever has. Things as simple as efficient time management, organization and email processing help you save time and sharpen the knife of effectiveness.
Technology has been a blessing in this regard, but it’s a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s helped make modern workers more productive. Conversely, technology can be tyrannical. Not only do you risk Schlimmbesserung (the effort to make something better that actually makes it worse), it sometimes makes it easier for others to steal proprietary information. You may also become trapped by your technology, unable to survive without it.
Reduce Your Information Intake
The only way to overcome “infobesity” is to triage mercilessly, then reduce the amount you take in forever. Keep these tips in mind as you work toward stemming the info-tide.
- Limit your exposure to external information at work.
- Check your email as little as possible.
- Employ the right means of communication. Carefully select the most efficient means of communication for each issue.
- Maximize reading time. Adopt a speed-reading system, or carry around material for downtime reading in your briefcase.
Pioneer New Technology
New technology can have its dangers. Improperly implemented, it can slow or stop productivity. Additionally, inexperienced or malicious users can leave backdoors open for hackers and identity thieves to waltz right in and steal or corrupt data. So before you dive in, dip a toe in the waters first. Before you take the plunge with new technology, study its impact. Will the new technology really upgrade productivity? Calculate the costs, and include an exit strategy.
Test the new technology to make sure it does all it promises — and don’t hesitate to roll back to your old tech if it doesn’t
Maximize Speed with Agility
Agility means responding to change of any kind with speed and flexibility, whether it’s a new client demand or a paradigm shift. Handling new challenges on the fly, swerving onto a new course, stopping suddenly and reversing direction — it’s all in a day’s work for the modern business professional.
Given today’s go-go-go approach to modern business, agility is applicable to most fields. A flexible model breaks a project into manageable pieces, all with independent milestones, due dates and testing phases that team members can handle independently if necessary. That way, when a delay occurs in one area, it doesn’t stop the entire project dead in its tracks. Take these actions the next time you assign your team a new project:
- Examine it carefully from all angles.
- Focus on the needs and requirements first.
- Think about where and how you can split the project into discrete pieces that particular team members or subteams can handle.
- Cut the diamond. You can easily “part out” some projects, but you will have to deal with others more carefully, much like cutting a diamond. Once you’ve determined you can split the project into pieces, do so.
- Hand the pieces out to the people best suited for them, complete with their own specific milestones and deadlines.
- Build in flexibility. A project built from many independent parts is naturally more flexible than a sequential project. It more easily absorbs the need for changes, additional testing and new features as they arise. You can also implement feedback more quickly.
- Put it back together. As sections of the project come in, slide them in place, leaving space for the later bits to allow greater flexibility in terms of responding to customer and market needs.
This requires careful planning and preparation, perhaps more so than traditional project management. Also, if you want your team, division, department or company to truly improve, you have to hire for versatility, not indispensability. If someone is indispensable, then you can’t replace them. If you can’t replace them, the team can’t advance without them. So if that person dies, leaves or even takes a vacation and forgets to leave the keys to the filing cabinet (metaphorically speaking), the team is unable to move forward.
Instead, make sure your teammates are somewhat interchangeable, so you can maintain your productivity no matter what.
Sustain Your Physical and Mental Health
In order to be an effective, efficient leader, you have to take care of yourself at least as well as you take care of your team, by maintaining balance in your life. We certainly know we do better, more productive work when we feel well. And yet many of us get stuck in a vicious cycle.
When we work long hours and run short on time, we cut into our precious free time — the time when we would do the things that keep us healthy: exercise, sleep, eat and drink properly and have fun.
Good health doesn’t automatically produce productivity, but it prepares you for it. You can’t control all the factors contributing to good health, but you can control most of them.
The Big Five (sleep, eating well, hydration, exercise and mental health) are inextricably interrelated: sleep impacts weight as well as mental health, as do exercise and good diet; too much weight from poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute to self-esteem issues; happiness can convince you to take better care of yourself … you get the picture. Strive to get each of these factors under control, and your productivity will scale upward.
Working hard and doing your job well are important. That said, you shouldn’t live to work. Instead, you need to regain control of your productivity so you can get out of the office on time — not only to recharge and recapture your mental edge but also to devote time to the people you care about and who care about you.
These days, it’s not enough for an executive to do the right things; he or she has to be superbly efficient, too. As executives, we must manage this intersection of efficiency and effectiveness carefully to ensure we do the right things right, wasting as little time as possible in the process