We have all heard the sentiment that successful CEOs must spend sufficient time focused "on the business," not just operating "in the business." As CEOs, we often get so far into the weeds of operating our respective businesses that we rarely take a concerted step back to think strategically about the direction of our companies. For example, you might need to focus on evaluating your sales or marketing efforts, your product or service offerings, or your overall operational efficiency. Making time to map out the big picture sounds great in theory, but it can be one of the most significant challenges CEOs face.
I have recently been reminded of what a game-changer this simple act can be to your business. How do you find the time? You start by realizing you're doing a disservice to your team and your customers by not making this time. You owe them more than that.
With your mind in the right place, block out time on your calendar every week, preferably offsite with your phone and email turned off. Explain to your team why the time is necessary, what you'll be focused on, and who to contact if there's an emergency during these sacred time blocks. Taking two hours weekly at a minimum is ideal, though a larger commitment is likely to net a greater result.
Continue to reinforce the power of this undistracted strategic thinking by reporting back to your team each week on the progress you've made. Another accountability technique is to partner with another CEO so you can hold one another accountable to your commitments. You can hold each other accountable with a short weekly call or just an email exchange. If you think it's hard enough letting yourself and your team down, then try reporting back to a fellow CEO about your inability to follow through on this critical commitment.
Spend your first time block each month outlining your priorities for these sessions. Document your top three to five big-picture priorities as a CEO, like driving more sales, improving profitability or improving employee retention. Next, brainstorm the greatest ways in which you can support those priorities and rank order them based on degree of likely impact and the necessary time commitment. No two priorities can be equal, or you will lose sight of the intention of this prioritization.
Finally, knock these priorities out one at a time. Be sure to take them all the way across the finish line, or at least to the point where you can hand them off to a member of your team with specific next steps and a timetable for completion.
Document your successes on a white board throughout the year, allowing your team to celebrate your successes along with you.
I am personally taking on this challenge again, beginning in June. Who's with me? If you need an accountability partner, let me know.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.