“She’s a born leader.”
You’ve probably heard that phrase before to describe a colleague or associate. It’s meant as a compliment, but it underscores what’ it takes to be a great leader. Nobody is born with these skills. Leadership comes from a combination of experience and training.
“Leaders are made, they are not born,” said American football coach Vince Lombardi. “They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
Lombardi was one of the most successful coaches of all time. He knew that the key to winning was productivity. With efficient systems and practice, he could develop the leadership skills in his player to perform at the highest levels.
Become a more productive leader and accomplishing goals are leadership skills that can be learned.
Becoming a More Productive Leader
What prevents leaders from being productive? In a word, everything. Great managers and strong leaders have learned to tune out the noise. They’ve learned the management skills that allow them to focus on the crucial tasks and they commit the time it takes to maintain that focus.
Here are 8 tips to hone your leadership skills to become more productive.
1. Have a Clear Strategic Plan
Having a clear strategic plan is the first step in increasing your productivity. You must have a firm grasp on the mission, the end goal, and the steps along the way to achieve it. A clear strategic plan will help you stay on track and provide a better foundation for your employees.
2. Set Goals
To keep everybody on track, a great manager will set specific goals with deadlines. Goals must be realistically achievable and measurable. These goals will help you to focus on the right things and measure whether you are achieving or falling short.
This applies to projects and moving your business forward, but it also applies to becoming a more productive leader. Set improving your productivity as a goal and then list the steps you will take to get there.
One effective strategy is to keep a daily log of your activities for a week. Write down the amount of time you spend on everything you do. After a week, add it up. You’ll be surprised how much time you spent doing tasks that may feel important at the time but don’t get you any closer to meeting your goals.
3. Involve Team Members in Decisions
Leadership training teaches great managers to share decision-making duties with team members. You can’t do everything yourself and work can pile up quickly if you aren’t willing to delegate some decisions. If something doesn’t get you closer to achieving your goals, ask yourself whether it’s something you need to manage. If not, give your team the ability to handle it. It will help clear your plate while providing growth opportunities for your employees. To be effective, great managers will work collaboratively with employees to meet goals.
When involving team members in decisions, be clear about what you are delegating authority and when you want to be the final decision-maker. Using a decision-making matrix is one approach. Make sure your team knows which of these four options apply to each project:
- It’s my decision
- It’s my decision with your input
- It’s your decision with my input
- It’s your decision
This demonstrates your expectations and can avoid frustrations.
4. Schedule Everything
The most productive leaders schedule everything. They put time on their calendars for more than just meetings or phone calls. They schedule a time for feedback and time for thinking. Rather than keep a To-Do list that can constantly get kicked down the road, they choose a deadline for completion and put each step on the calendar.
Start with any regular commitments you have, followed by your high-priority activities. Break down each task into its incremental steps. Let’s say your goal as a sales manager is to increase your billing next quarter. Based on your experience, you know that won’t happen unless you make 5 presentations to potential customers each month. To get those 5 presentations in your industry, you’ll have to do 10 diagnostic sales calls. Again, based on your experience, you know that it’s going to take 10 phone calls to land 1 meeting. And, before you make the call, you’ve got to spend time prospecting. To meet your goal, you should have on your calendar time each week to prospect. You should also schedule regular times to make calls and set appointments. Besides meeting with potential customers, you’ll need to schedule time to create presentations and do follow-up calls.
The more things you break down and put on your calendar, the more productive you will be.
5. Mitigate Distractions
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important,” said business productivity expert Steven Covey. It’s so easy to get caught up with all the distractions that come up every day.
The average person receives 126 business emails every day. It’s tempting to spend all day going through them and responding. Resist the temptation! Set aside specific times each day to answer your email and stick to it. If it’s urgent, they’ll call.
An effective technique to recognise distractions is by using the Urgent-Important matrix. For each task, ask yourself these two questions:
- Is it important?
- Is it urgent?
Tasks fall into one of four categories:
- Important, but not Urgent
These are the things that are pressing immediately but are necessary to achieve your mid-term and long-term goals and objectives. The more time you can spend on these activities, the less time you’ll have to worry about other areas. This might include tasks, such as strategic planning, coaching, training, budgeting, or risk analysis.
- Urgent and Important
When things fall into this category, they become your top priority. They are either crises or things you couldn’t predict. This might include such things as imminent deadlines, customer complaints, or equipment breakdowns. The more time you can spend on #1, the less likely you are to fill up the second category.
- Not Important and not urgent
These are the things that keep you from being productive. They are the distractions you need to minimize. This might include unproductive meetings, social media or personal phone calls, and spending time on tasks that won’t move your company forward.
- Urgent, but Not Important
These are items that will eat up your time and energy without necessarily contributing to long term benefits. They may keep you busy, but they have questionable outcomes. This includes the endless cycle of email, regular meetings or reports that don’t lead to decision-making, or proforma tasks that are done simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” yet they continue to be ineffective.
Spend as much time as possible on #1 and #2. Minimise your time on #3 and #4.
6.Communicate and Coach
Your team needs to hear from you regularly, so they understand your expectations. Today’s workforce craves feedback continuously, rather than getting a once-a-year evaluation. They want to know when they are doing things right and they want active coaching to improve.
Schedule time on your calendar to give regular feedback in groups and individually. This will give you a better idea of where team members need to improve and when they are ready for more responsibility. The better your employees perform, the more productive everyone will be.
7. Take Time to Think
Great managers are strong strategic thinkers. They may have risen to leadership positions because they excelled at execution, but the best leaders know they need to evolve. You can easily fill up your work hours with the day-to-day activities and forget to plan and innovate.
Schedule time to think about the future. It’s OK to shut your door occasionally or take time away from the office to dream and envision where your company needs to go. Your business and your employees are counting on you to steer the ship. Make sure you take the time to plot the course.
8. Training and Coaching
Great managers and great leaders are lifelong learners. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their management skills and leadership skills. Schedule time to network with your peers, stay current on industry trends, and learn new ways of doing business. An investment in leadership training to continuously evolve these skills will pay dividends.