There are 168 hours in a week. That’s 10,080 minutes. We each get the exact same quantity of time within that period, and it’s a limited resource. Each day we all make choices about where we’ll invest and allocate our time.
How you choose to use your time says a lot about what sort of leader you are. A leader who strives to maximize their time and take full advantage of what’s available to them will have a greater impact than one who spends it carelessly and allows opportunities to drift away.
In our book, Would You Work for You? — the Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, we wrote that “When you become selfish with your time, put yourself first, and then get your priorities in order, you will invariably maximize your results, relationships, and impact. You will then have more energy, passion, and wisdom to give freely to others.”
Personally, I like to talk about time in terms of margins. There are margins that exist within your world and, if you can discover inefficiencies within them, those can be replaced with intentionality. Suppose you take the bus home from work each day.
When you use that time to read a book or listen to an educational podcast, then you’re taking full advantage of your available margins.
However, maximizing your margins doesn’t mean making yourself as busy as possible at each and every moment. Overbooking yourself can backfire, preventing you from accessing the necessary space to reflect and grow. Consider choosing to build margins into your calendar, allowing yourself space to think, readjust, and show up fully present to appointments.
“The true price of anything you do is the amount of time you exchange for it.”
― Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and writer
Respect Others by Valuing Their Time
If you want to lose a friend, the quickest way is to borrow money from them and refuse to pay it back. But, misusing people’s time can be even worse. Especially when you, as a leader, don’t value the time of your team members.
Also from our book: “Other than behavior that is openly offensive, the misuse or disrespect of other people’s time can be one of the strongest reasons for dissatisfaction in a leader. This includes being late, not showing up for scheduled meetings, multi-tasking rather than being present while speaking with others, holding meetings without agendas, or exceeding the scheduled time limits due to disorganization. All of these send subtle and yet powerful messages about how you perceive the value of the time.”
Don’t pay people hundreds of dollars an hour, then force them to sit in a meeting they don’t need to attend. Don’t schedule a conversation, then show up 45 minutes late. These kinds of actions can add up, alienating your team members and causing them to mistrust your leadership.
Over time, they’ll burn out, lose creative energy, and struggle to find any satisfaction in the workplace. Eventually, they’ll leave for an environment where their time is more likely to be respected.
There is no waste in the world that equals the waste from needless, ill-directed, and ineffective motions. — Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Sr., engineer
Schedule Time to Listen
As a leader, you must also set aside time to listen to the people around you. Leaning on once-a-year performance reviews to do all the heavy lifting in workplace relationships is not an effective use of your time. Instead, ensure you’re cultivating an environment where team members are encouraged to regularly share their ambitions, struggles, and concerns.
After all, is it really the best use of your organization’s time for a leader to sit down with a team member at the end of the year and raise problems that could have been addressed and fixed 10 months ago? In the short term, maybe it seemed as if you were saving time by not scheduling a moment to connect but over the long run, you end up paying for that oversight.
I recommend reserving 15-30 minutes at least once a month to touch base and hold formative conversations with your team members. Provide praise where applicable, look for areas that can be adjusted, and give people the space to share their ideas. By doing this you build trust and demonstrate that team members are worthy of your greatest resource: your time.
It might seem like an insignificant matter at first glance, but how you choose to use your time makes a tremendous impact, not only on your life, but also on the growth of your team members and organization.
“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.” — Louisa May Alcott, author
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Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.