Think about the difference between the work you intend to do as an executive, and how you actually get to spend your time.
I have never met a CEO who was not surprised at how much time they DON’T get to spend running the company.
In any job, we start each day, week or month with good intentions about all the important stuff we want to get done, and then — BAM !! You get loaded up with a bunch of stuff that seemingly comes out of nowhere, and it’s not stuff that is helping your further your mission. It’s annoying and distracting. It’s a time sink.
In any sizable role exists what I call corporate crap.
Corporate crap is the non-optional stuff that uses up your time, yet has nothing to do with moving your business forward, connecting with your customers, or developing your team.
It might be to participate in a task force, or to prepare for and deliver business reviews, or to submit required inputs into company wide, span-of control analyses. You might need to justify your budget over and over again, to host executive visits, or to defend your charter with other organizations that are competing to duplicate your efforts and get your resources. Or to respond to the pressure of across the board budget or cuts, or to support infrastructure initiatives, or standardization programs, or a seemingly endless chain of corporate information requests that are important at some level, but have nothing to do with your business…
I could go on for a long time with this list.
Be realistic and make a budget
The point I want to make here is: don’t let it crush you.
I remember when I got my biggest job running a $1B software organization, I had a dream that I would spend 50% of my time externally focused with customers, partners, media, and the sales and service teams, and 50% of my time internally focused on operations, product development, marketing, support and infrastructure/admin.
What didn’t budget for was corporate crap!
So as I was attempting my 50/50 plan, all the crap piled up and started to bury me and ruin my life.
So instead of trying to eliminate it (which is impossible), or to do the necessary parts in my “extra time”, I simply created a time budget for it.
And as it turned out, I needed to budget a full third of my time on Corporate crap.
So my time budget was 1/3 external, 1/3 internal, and 1/3 corporate crap.
On the external side, I regulated my international travel schedule and I published my calendar for the year up front — If you need me in Europe or Asia, organize your events and customer visits for these particular weeks. (Not a perfect system but setting expectations for availability made a big difference)
On the internal side, I delegated more, and got more ruthless about my Ruthless Priorities.
All in all, with this budget, I was able to keep things moving forward and not kill myself or my team in the process.
The crap is part of the job
Remember, leadership is for when it gets hard.
Once you get your head around the fact that your job is a combination of your job description, AND all the crap that gets in the way of doing your job description, you can make real progress and feel better about it.
The other big benefit is that by budgeting time for the things that get in the way of doing your job, you are able to de-risk and protect the important parts of your job because they are no longer competing for the same time slot.
What do you think?
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