How Leaders Spend Their Time: What’s a Choice and What’s a Requirement

June 29, 2018 | By | Add a Comment

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I want to share a great research-based Harvard Business Review article (read the full article here) written by strategic planning guru Michael Porter. It focuses on how CEOs spend their time. It’s a bit long so here are my key take-aways:

  1. CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies work an average of 62 hours a week. If you are working more than this then that’s more of a choice than “comes with the territory.”
  2. If you are working too many hours, chances are you have a team you don’t trust to do the work. Upgrade!
  3. If you are working too much you’re probably spending too much time in meetings. Most hour-long meetings are 30 to 45 minutes longer than they need to be. Never meet without an agenda.
  4. CEOs of very large companies sleep 7 hours a night on average. Given the research on the relationship between sleep and health, don’t sleep less than 7 – 8 hours a night.
  5. Get your EA to filter and redirect your incoming emails. Be very careful of how you use (send) email—you are creating the company’s email norms. You risk creating unnecessary work for many in your company and setting bad examples by sending emails at 10 pm, on vacation and on the weekend.
  6. Most CEOs of larger companies spend significant time on strategy and culture—it determines how they spend the rest of their day. Most have personal agendas (intentions, goals, principles that keep them on track) and strategies that keep everyone focused and aligned on what creates value.
  7. Let go: don’t spend so much time in operational and financial review sessions and be sure to fully shed your prior role when you step into your new one.
  8. Make sure you schedule enough uninterrupted alone time into your week—28%-plus.
  9. Build one-to-one relationships.
  10. Be careful to not spend too much time on community boards.
  11. Don’t over-emphasize doing, thinking, problem-solving and flexing your power. Indirect, human interaction, symbolism, and having others legitimize you as their leader are more important factors to CEO effectiveness.
  12. There is no one way to do leadership. The variability in how an executive spends his or her time should be expected given the various ways people think, process information, and communicate.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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