Last week I shared the importance of not treating every new project, interaction or conversation as a needs-to-be-done-now crisis but instead to find the time to focus on the important but not urgent.
That's all well and good but what can we specifically do, today, to help make that happen? Let me share with you the three most under-utilized (although often talked about) skills that you need to develop in your leadership toolkit today.
1. Attention Management
There is a battle for your attention each and every day. Just think through the sheer number of emails, imessages, slack notifications, phone calls and water-cooler conversations you have on a daily basis. That's not to mention the status reports, presentations and meetings you have to attend, nor does it factor in the actual functional work you need to get done.
Unfortunately, most leaders fall foul of giving each of these tugs on your attention equal power. We've elevated everything to an emergency and, as such, we spend too much time lurching from crisis to crisis.
If you could develop one skill this year it should be to build yourself an attention management process. Whether that's getting things done, bullet journaling or inbox zero, building a light touch, easy-to-manage system for managing your workload, your interruptions and ultimately your attention will free you up to dedicate your time to being a great leader.
Once you've got your attention management down, next you need to learn how to delegate the heck out of your workload.
Delegation (done well) brings you two things. First, it develops your people as you give them more and more responsibility and control over their own workload. Second, it takes things off your to-do list to allow you to focus on the truly important parts of your role (setting the medium term plans for your team and developing your people).
Your goal as a high-performing leader should be to only do what only you can do and delegate the rest.
Scan through your to-do list right now and ask yourself, honestly, if you provided some support and guidance (and yes a little time) to someone on your team, which of these tasks could they take off your plate. Then go do it.
My guess is you'll leave yourself with much less busywork on your list and many more valuable activities.
Once you've delegated a task your job is to coach your team through the work, not micro-manage it. This involves providing advice and guidance (but not solutions) when they have an issue, helping them talk through the options in front of them, backing them when they make a choice and allowing them to fail.
Sometimes, as a leader, even if you know your team is not making the ideal decision, you need to allow them to take the risk, make the leap and potentially get it wrong. Your job as a leader is to help your team achieve your common goals and help them become the best version of themselves. If you don't allow them the room to make mistakes, they won't grow and over time they'll develop a sense of learned helplessness.
Make a commitment to practice these three skills over the next three months and you'll find yourself with much more time on your hands to deal with the important but not urgent aspects of your job.