I was meeting with a young leader of an amazing nonprofit last week. His natural gifts – creating a compelling vision, rallying people to join the movement, and engaging storytelling (he’s one of the best) – has led his organization to see exciting growth over the last six months.
And with that growth, he’s seen his own commitments grow and his calendar become an over-crowded mess of meetings/events all over town.
We have a monthly coaching session (having been a young leader before, I try to share my experiences to help him avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way,) but this time we decided to have a separate meeting to focus simply on his time and commitments.
I first asked him to list all of his team members (including him) and their superpowers. Then I asked him to go through the past week on his calendar and list on post-it notes all the different types of activities that he did.
He listed things like “spoke at an event,” “held a staff meeting,” “met with a reporter,” etc. After feeling like the list was fairly accurate (there were about a dozen post-its of activities at this point,) I posed a question:
“If you were to end up in the hospital for a month, with no way to do any work, who could do the things you have listed on these post-its?”
With that, he took the post-its and stuck them next to each of his team members that could take on the responsibility. When he was done, there were only three post-its left that he couldn’t find a team member to give assign them to. And, wouldn’t you know, they were the three things he’s terrific at: creating the vision, rallying the team and supporters, and telling the organization’s story.
I challenged him to find a way to get everything off of his plate other than those three things. And I suggested that the best thing he could do is have gaps of free time in his weekly calendar, giving him time to think about the business and also time to react when a problem came up that he needed to solve.
He sat for a while looking at the white board, then turned to me and asked, “Is that really possible?”
My response was, “It’s not only possible. If you want to achieve your dreams, IT’S REQUIRED.”
This, I think, is one of the biggest challenges that leaders have. How to focus on the things only they can do, and delegating the rest. The best leaders I know are laser-focused on how they spend their time, and their businesses grow accordingly.