ARTICLE: “Looking at Time Through the Lens of Leadership, Part II”

(Excerpted from a chapter I’m contributing to a new anthology written by 14 professional speakers entitled, “Motivational Leadership.”)

Principle #2. Model Effective Time Management Behavior

Model the things you expect from your people, so that you are a source of inspiration rather than a cause of resentment. How can you create a culture that respects work and family balance, for example, if you don’t demonstrate it yourself by your actions? How motivating can it be to have an employee request a piece of information, to have you take 30 minutes finding the paper in the piles all over your desk? How can you say professional growth is important, if you don’t spend any time talking with your employees to help them determine how to be successful?

Employees frequently complain that the boss doesn’t plan well and has them running in a million different directions—chasing the latest crisis that the boss actually created. “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” read the sign on an employee’s wall in my client’s office. As the leader, it’s tempting to put things off until the last minute because your staff can drop everything and bail you out. When you refer to yourself as being “under the gun,” are the problems of your own making? Did the gun appear after your failure to attend to business in good time? Instead of being proactive early, you procrastinated until the due date became a crisis deadline. Then your folks paid the price.

Also model appropriate balance in your work and family lives—don’t try to be Super Person. There will always be more things to do than there is time to do it. Focus on your highest priorities and figure out how to eliminate, delegate, or simplify the less important. What ideas, projects, programs—that if implemented now or in the near future—would significantly impact the profitability or productivity of your staff or your organization?

Action Items:

• To reduce time spent by your staff on crisis management, spend time doing long-term, proactive, important activities, rather than always responding to the urgent. Don’t facilitate crisis at work by procrastinating on tasks until they become urgent. Leadership in time management requires you to: (1) figure out what matters most, (2) empower yourself and others to develop the abilities needed to accomplish those important objectives, (3) remove obstacles to their accomplishment, and (4) eliminate procrastination.

• Invest the time and energy in setting up an organized system to sort, filter, process, and organize incoming information from multiple inputs. Hire someone if you need coaching on organizing your workspace, email, conversations, and paperwork. Why? First, perception—studies show that people often equate sloppy work areas with incompetence, indecisiveness, and sloppy work. Second, opportunity cost—it’s been estimated that the average professional spends 36 minutes a day looking for things. That’s time much better spent on important tasks or getting out of the office earlier.

• Model a healthy balance to employees. If you’re holding a meeting or conference out of town, invite the spouses as well. If your son is having a little league game or your daughter is testing in karate, take comp time, and openly leave the office at 4:00 p.m. to show your commitment to your family. Once in a while, leave your office at lunchtime if you have an important personal issue to handle. Or hit the company gym a few days a week. Read a book, think quietly for a time, or talk with a friend about an idea not related to business at hand. Get a life! Let your employees see that you are a real person, just like they are.

• Take care of yourself—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you don’t, your ability to take care of others will decrease as well. Figure out where you are out of alignment with your values. Does your time reflect the things in life that are truly important to you? Keep asking yourself questions: “What’s bothering me?” “What’s happening to me that I don’t like?” “What am I tolerating?” Figure out what you don’t need to do in your life and quit doing it (watching television, PTA, hire out the housework, etc). 

© 2000 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. You are free to use portions of this publication in your company newsletter, provided the following credit is listed at the bottom:

Laura M. Stack, MBA, CSP, is “The Productivity PRO,”® helping people leave the office earlier, with less stress, and more to show for it. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or visit her website at