McKinsey outlines popular ways managers misuse their time. Do you recognize yourself in any of these four types?
Do you feel that you're working longer and longer hours but not having a commensurately large impact on your business?
If you answered yes, know that at least you're not alone. That's according to a new report from McKinsey on executive time use, which is also illuminating for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The report is based on a survey of 1,500 global executives and uncovered deep unease about how folks at the top of companies use their time.
McKinsey Quarterly reports: "Only 9 percent of the respondents deemed themselves 'very satisfied' with their current [time] allocation. Less than half were 'somewhat satisfied,”' and about one-third were 'actively dissatisfied.' What’s more, only 52 percent said that the way they spent their time largely matched their organizations’ strategic priorities."
At least you now know you're in the same, crowded boat as a full third of top bosses. But that's cold comfort if you don't also have some sense of what you're doing wrong and how to set a course towards a better allocation of your time.
Helpfully, McKinsey goes further, outlining the four main ways that bosses become unbalanced and dissatisfied with their time use. Take a hard look in this mirror and see if you are guilty of falling into any of these time-wasting traps.
This type "spends a majority of time in their office communicating by email, occasionally by phone," Aaron De Smet, a principal in the consultancy's Houston office explains in a graphic outlining the four types. You might think new technology is to blame the cheerleader's woes, but De Smet says that the online junkie, ironically, precedes the internet. Previously, this time-wasting type would spend all their time writing memos. Their key characteristic isn't fundamentally an email addiction, but overreliance on lower quality "asynchronous communication" and an unwillingness to actually get out and meet folks face to face.
"The quintessential extrovert," says De Smet. A love of networking may sound like a great quality for a business leader, but De Smet explains that though schmoozers feel plugged in, "people who are not part of the circle of stakeholders who they spend time with have a very hard time getting in touch with them because they're not very responsive to email and they're usually booked up in meetings." Being unavailable is part of the problem, but so is the schmoozer’s intense focus on sociability rather than strategy. "The company can be left adrift" without a leader.
This is "the executive whose time allocation is tilted more toward face-to-face communication with their organization and with their direct reports," explains De Smet. Motivating your team is great, but "the problem is when they spend so much time working directly with their people, they don't have enough time to work with clients, with customers." Rather than look for new blood or fresh ideas, the cheerleader relies too heavily on rallying their existing team.
Firefighters want more time to work on big, strategic plans, "but they end up spending the vast majority of time dealing with the latest unexpected issue that demands their immediate attention. The immediate result is a messy calendar full of cancellations, but the underlying issue is often a failure to delegate. Firefighters have a tendency to want to deal with every issue, even if a team member could handle the problem.
McKinsey's in-depth report has much more detail on the survey findings, the day-to-day mistakes of the four time-wasting types, and how to correct these time allocation inbalances. So check it out in full (free registration is required).
Do you see yourself in any of the four boss types?
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel