How should Leadership Teams spend their time?

The Leadership Team’s time is a critical and often overlooked resource in many organizations. The organizational cost in such cases is extremely high since the leadership team is typically the decision bottleneck for most critical initiatives in any organization. Yes, organizations invest significant time, energy and money developing individual leaders, and those leaders are disciplined and intentional about where they invest their time – but surprisingly, the time leaders spend together as a team is often un-curated, ad hoc and inefficiently used.

So how do leadership teams typically spend their time? The answer starts with a belief about how leadership teams should spend their time to add the most value. Specifically, the four domains of a leadership team are:

  1. Strategy – setting vision, direction, priorities and resource allocation
  2. Operations – running the business and executing the strategy
  3. Reporting – monitoring and communicating results for themselves and stakeholders
  4. People, Org & Culture – leading and developing talent, capabilities and culture

We’ve audited how teams actually spend their time, and a pattern emerges with less disciplined leadership teams: they spend a plurality of their time on Reporting and surprisingly little on Strategy and Org issues. When asked, they often know it intuitively, self-reporting a strong desire to spend more time on Strategy in particular.

As with many issues, a good problem definition, a little focus, and clear ownership can remedy the situation. Specifically, three steps can dramatically improve the use of this valuable resource: 1) be intentional about how you want to spend your time together, e.g., more strategy, less reporting; 2) put someone in charge of curating the calendar and agendas (not a secretary, a quasi-chief of staff); and 3) be adaptive as your needs change, e.g., more strategy today doesn’t mean more strategy forever.

For more on this topic, read this interesting research by Michael Porter on the way CEOs use their time, and call us if you need help with this issue.  How CEOs Spend Their Time