Video Transcript

00:09 Robert Kaplan: Once you've got a vision and your priorities articulated, then as a leader, the most valuable asset you have, yes, there's money; yes, there's plant and equipment; yes, there's a lot of customer. There's many other valuable assets. But the most valuable, in my opinion, is your time. It's wasting every moment and you can't get it back, okay? It's more valuable than money, in my experience, and I'll come back to that.

00:41 Kaplan: And so what would I say? Once you've decided what your three or four or five top priorities are, I would argue, you need to spend 70% of your time. You should have a goal of spending at least 70% of your time matching those three or four or five top priorities. And in fact, for most of you, if I ask most of you, "How do you spend your time? How did you spend it in the last two weeks?" If you ask me, I would have to answer, "I haven't a clue."

01:08 Kaplan: Most of us have to go back and look, unless you track your time or you bill by the hour. Lawyers have a good idea of this. But most of us don't. So, I would urge you, try something. For the next two weeks, track how you spend your time, okay? Track it, and divide it into major tasks. And I would categorize them as ones, twos or threes.

01:35 Kaplan: Ones are things that are clearly in line with your top priorities, alright? Of course, you have to decide what your top priorities are in order to know where they're aligned, but those are ones. Twos are things, maybe yes, maybe no, okay? And then there is the threes. And I think you're gonna be horrified to see how much of your times is spent on the threes, in which, they don't match your top priorities at all, not at all.

02:04 Kaplan: And so, one of the significant things I talk to entrepreneurs about are, we go through the vision, we go through their priorities and then we go through how they spend their time. And what they find, I don't even need to comment. Once they track it, they realize, a third of their time or a significant block is spent on things that are not part of their top priorities. And worst, they are not spending any time on things that should be part of their top priorities.

02:30 Kaplan: Here's an example, you say customer relationships are one of your top three priorities. How many of you would say that? Okay? Track how much time you're spending with customers, or are you always too busy? Always too busy. "I wanna see customers, I'd love to see customers, but I just can't do it that day. Can't go, too busy." Why? Because you're crowding that out with other more marginal tasks you should be delegating, okay? Including, approving expenses over a certain level. Maybe you keep your own calendar even though you have an assistant. Maybe people are coming into your office asking for your help on something. The right answer ought to be, no. Go work it out with so and so, and if you can't work it out, come back to me because you must free up enough of your time so you're spending it, and I would argue again, at least 70% of it, you can't be perfect, but 70% is a good goal, on your top three or four priorities.

03:30 Kaplan: And by the way, if you say that something is important to you, like customer relationships, or service, or innovation, and you don't spend any of your time on it, your people do get the message. Given a choice between following what you say and what you do, they will take what you do every single time. In a moment, they'll listen to what you say, but they will mimic what you do. And so many of you are inadvertently sending very negative signals to your people or confusing them by the way you spend your time.

04:06 Kaplan: So, this is the third thing I would say. Track it, does it match your priorities? And then one other thing, for all your direct reports, get them to do the same exercise: Vision, priorities, how they spend their time?

04:19 Kaplan: I would argue if I just stop this speech, this talk right now, and all you did is leave here. And some of you may say, "I have real problems. He's not addressing any of my real problems." Okay. And invariably, almost every meeting I have, people never come in and say, "I wanna talk to you about my vision or my priorities or how I'm spending my time." Never. They always talk to me about a problem they're having. It's their arm or their knee or there's something bothering them, and I always get them back to this.

04:48 Kaplan: And after we talk, they realize that the reason they're having these problems is they don't have a clear vision, they're not communicating it, they haven't identified, forced themselves to identify their top priorities, and they're not driving their organization to focus their energy on achieving those top priorities.

05:06 Kaplan: And that's why... And most of the problems that you may be having are symptoms of that. And so I was about to say, if you just did these three things, you would immediately go from being this level of leader to this level of leader.

05:21 Kaplan: Now, for some of you, going through this exercise is gonna be jarring because you're gonna realize the way you're doing things now isn't working. You may have to rethink your value proposition. You may have to rethink what kind of products or segmentation with customers, what you're doing there, but that's what leaders do. That's the role of leaders, to address these things and then align the organization to do this.