As a company leader, think about how you spend your day. How much time do you spend on tasks that aren't technically your responsibility? How long are you at your desk each day? How much time do you actually have to lead and engage your team?
Your time likely is not as effectively spent as you think. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review in October, most CEOs spend about 25 percent of their day alone. That's time chained to a desk, doing mundane tasks like sending emails. That's time away from your people.
Step up as a leader and step away from your desk. Here are some lessons learned from leaders who take the time to actually lead:
1. Take off your superhero cape.
When a business is growing, there often aren't enough people to cover every role. As a result, leaders feel like they need to tackle everything. They try to take on other responsibilities, like payroll or marketing. Yet, this savior complex leaves the team without a full-time leader.
While it might cost more money, there are tools and resources that can streamline day-to-day business operations. For example, AFC Urgent Care has two locations outside of Boston and over 50 employees. Owner Bing Yeo used to waste a lot of time trying to manually track everyone's hours. But then his company started using Deputy, an employee scheduling software.
"Nowadays, everyone carries a smartphone, which enables instant communications with employees," Yeo said. "We now have a standard platform to push out schedules and important information to everyone instantly, allowing for much quicker exchanges of information and more timely responses."
Even if there isn't an app for a task, many responsibilities that can be outsourced. Amanda Setili, the president of the strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, recommends this route. In fact, she has a rule that states if someone else can do it, then they should.
2. Cut out the back and forth.
Leaders can waste hours on email. You send a message asking a simple question and then spend the rest of the day reading and answering the ensuing responses. This is not the best form of communication, nor the best use of time.
Over the years, Setili has found that she is more effective when she gets out and talks with her team and clients face-to-face.
"I like to say that for every hour you spend working directly with customers and employees, you can save at least 8 hours of 'desk time,'" she went on to say.
Keep track of how much time you're spending in your inbox. If an email thread gets out of hand, call a meeting to hammer through the discussion more quickly.
3. Network, network, network.
For a growing business to succeed, its leaders need the right connections. This allows them to know more about what's going on in their industry and have access to new clients. But to meet new people, you have to make time to leave your desk.
For Jeb Ory, CEO of mobile advocacy platform Phone2Action, this means starting or ending each day out of the office. He schedules coffee with different people to expand his network. Ory also finds it helpful to keep an eye on the sales team's calendar so he can step in on important meetings.
"When I meet with prospects, clients, and partners, I gain valuable new perspectives on our software and the market at large," he said. "I learn what people are looking for and what our competitors are doing."
4. Tear down the walls.
Sometimes you need to work from your computer. There's no way around it. But that doesn't mean you have to lock yourself in your office. For example, Eric Riz, the founder and CEO of hiring platform Empty Cubicle, often works on one of the office couches.
"It's impossible to truly connect with your team from behind a desk; you lose the personal connection which, once lost, is near impossible to replace," he said. "I've found that more face-time increases trust and comfort amongst my staff."
Working alongside your team shows them you're approachable. They see you're working toward the same goals. It also allows them to come to you with questions or ideas.