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Before you can Effectively Lead — You Need to Manage your Own Schedule First!

June 4, 2019

I keep hearing leaders say they’re struggling to manage their organizations through change. They’ve had trouble getting their organization to adopt agile. They’re finding it challenging to find the right talent. They’re struggling to establish the right level of transparency. These are symptoms of the people in the organization not managing their time effectively.

I’ve been working with leaders and middle management for three years. When I look at their calendar, I see them spread thin with meetings. Unfortunately, for effective meetings, you need to account for more than the time of the meeting — you need to account for the time prepping and work that follows the meeting. This adds to your busy days.

I remember back to university — they would offer the rule of thumb that for every one hour of class, students should expect three hours of work outside of class. In some ways, when we get into the work world, we forget that. We assume that if we’re meeting, that’s where we’re actually doing work. In reality, meetings should be very minimal aligning of what we need to do and then follow up when something is done. We tend to have a lot of regular meetings to give status and try to give transparency and create whole bunch of work that you’re going to need to do after the meetings.


If we can’t control the calendar, if we can’t manage our time, we’re not going to effectively lead for agility. We’re not going to lead our organization to successful outcomes. We’re not going to create great products and services.

We need to take control of our time.

If we can’t manage our own time, how can we effectively manage or lead an organization to do what we want? We need to use the decline button as much as we do the accept button. Hitting accept and saying yes are hurting our organizations.

Can you hand off the strategy to one of the people you lead? Give them a stretch goal, to get them used to participating in strategy, and spend your time coaching them. That doesn’t mean you go to the meetings with them. It means you coach them outside the meetings. You’re doing your job as a leader by coaching and mentoring, but you’re spreading out the strategy and execution and giving people opportunities to grow.

Right now, I see too many leaders and too many product people burdened by meetings. They’re using all their effort just to get all the work done instead of doing their best work and fully utilizing their talents.

I know I’ve said this in blog posts before, but as I continue to coach, the problem isn’t getting any better, so I want to leave you with three things:

  1. Look at your calendar and add up all the meetings that you’re doing and multiply that by three. Can you afford that time?
  2. Decline meetings. Do you need to be in all those meetings? Can you decline them? Look at your schedule and look at what you need to do your best quality work with the time you have available.
  3. Work with all stakeholders to really do that trade-off analysis. Balance out what you can do effectively versus what you either have to de-scope or give somebody in your organization an opportunity to take on.

Every keystroke is precious so I will end here.

Manage your schedule so you can effectively manage your organization. Remember, lead how you’d like to be led.


Twitter: @DDame

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