Leadership Essentials: the Schedule Template

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As a leader, one of the most important benefits we can give our teams is to be organized and intentional. It’s also one of the best feelings we can give ourselves.

After coaching dozens of leaders, I’m convinced the best place to start is with our time. Once we master it, we can achieve anything. And without having it under control, little feels possible. As Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Based on an exercise I learned from Michael Hyatt, the key is to design a template for your week. Here are the steps to create one for your life.

Leadership Essentials: the Daily March

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“Leadership” is a verb. It is a mindset, a choice to accept responsibility, empower others, and make a difference. It is available to any of us, regardless of our age, education level, title, or any other characteristic.

Once we choose leadership, we must live it. For that, we need a system. I call it the Daily March.

This practice is particularly important for leaders.

Leaders are quitters.

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“Does everyone have a To Do list?,” asked Jim Collins at the Inc. 500 conference in September 2008. We all raised our hands.

“How many people in this room have a Stop Doing list?” Not so many.

Asked what he was planning to stop doing next, he replied, “unnecessary fire drills.” To him, that meant replying to emails without thinking them through and causing havoc and false urgency within his team.

That made sense to me, and I scribbled a note. I also began to research more about his background and found this article about pulling the plug.

“The power of removal can be immense. A few years ago I set a goal of reading about 100 books a year. So I embarked on a vigorous program of doing. I made lists. I set aside a room as a library. I bought reading chairs, desks, lamps, and stacks of books.”

“Yet in spite of all that energetic doing, too many of the books remained unread. After a tiring day I’d get sidetracked. In my left hand, War and Peace; in my right, the TV clicker. Faced with long passages on the burning of Moscow in 1812 or short quips on Monday Night Football, I’d flick on the TV and lose a couple of hours. So my wife and I unplugged and jettisoned the TV. My reading productivity soared.”

Since then, he’s written four ground-breaking bestsellers and become the authority on business leadership. His wife? She’s won an Ironman Triathlon.

Beware of Bikeshedding

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The term was coined as a metaphor to illuminate Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Parkinson observed that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant may spend the majority of its time on relatively unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bikeshed, while neglecting the design of the power plant itself, which is far more important but also far more difficult to criticize constructively.

This trap snares lots of folks, and leaders are particularly susceptible. We’re asked to make a multitude of decisions every day, usually without enough facts and often with no good answer. It can be exhausting.

Given the chance to think about adjusting our revenue management strategy or the color of the lobby chairs, my mind leaps at the chance to take it easy.

But I shouldn’t indulge. And you probably shouldn’t either.

Leadership Essentials: the Weekly Review

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If there’s a silver bullet for being an effective leader, the Weekly Review process would be it.

Leaders simply must pause regularly to look up, down, and around. Once in a while is not enough. When the leader isn’t focused, organized, and stable, the organization suffers. The same is true for families, churches, teams, or any other unit.

As you might have guessed, I’ve learned the importance of this the hard way. I’ve seen the suffering and unnecessary stress, and I’ve realized that I was often the cause. That hurt. But there’s a silver lining. If we’re responsible for the problem, that means we can fix it.

We often talk of leadership being a responsibility and a sacrifice, and I think this practice is a huge part of that. We can always find excuses or reasons that we don’t have the time, and there’s usually no one to question that. But that’s not the real challenge. We know that this practice often leads to scary, difficult, or complicated situations, and we just don’t want to face them. (At least not right now.) So we stay in reactive mode, diligently participating in the latest fire drill and convincing ourselves that we’re busy enough. We can do better.

By using a roadmap, we can guide ourselves through the process and push through mental hurdles.