February Is National Time Management Month

Since the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has declared February to be National Time Management Month, and in honor that, I’ve decided to vary from my usual theme of effective delegation.  So here are a few strategies and tips that will help you better manage your time, and ultimately, yourself.  As it has often been said, time is our most precious resource.  At an ActionCOACH conference a few years ago, Stedman Graham summed it up saying that time is the great equalizer, no matter who you are you have twenty-four hours in a day, no more, no less.  For the most part, billionaires use their twenty-four more effectively than the rest of us. The following tips, strategies and tactics are from the ActionCOACH TimeRICH seminar:
  1. When you have a choice, use the following two factors to decide to invest your time on an activity or task:
    1. Is this “thing” worth more than your minimum dollar threshold (whatever you decide that number to be)? If you haven’t yet developed your “worth” invest some effort to calculate an hourly dollar value of your time as soon as possible.  This is very important because every time you say YES to an activity or project, you are effectively saying NO to many others.
    2. Does this “thing” contribute toward accomplishing one or more of your goals? You must strive to relate EVERYTHING you invest your time in to your goals.
  2. Build an extended team, not only employees, that you can delegate (not abdicate) items to. That’s how the billionaires get leverage, you can too.  If they are knowledgeable about the “thing” you are delegating, your extended team may include your CPA, attorneys, family, mentors, etc.  Do not delegate to unqualified people.  Also, remember in a corporate environment, if you are careful, you can delegate upward.
  3. One of the best habits I adopted after I completed ActionCOACH induction training is – Never finish today, until you plan tomorrow. Before I leave my office, I list out my must achieves for the next day.
  4. Be Militant about those who undervalue your time by interrupting. You can:
    1. Get lost – work remotely
    2. Not answer the phone – call screening works
    3. Regulate email – you can set the polling interval in most email apps
    4. Be busy and be obvious about it
    5. Set the timer on the bomb (my favorite), “I have a call in five minutes”
  5. Block your time – create a default diary (ideal calendar, default calendar) communicate it and stick to it.
These five tips are just the tip (no pun intended) of the iceberg.  My colleagues at ActionCOACH and I have a wealth of effective time management strategies at our fingertips.  If you are find that there are not enough hours in the day, or you are totally overwhelmed by the “things” on your plate, WE CAN HELP!  Just contact me or any of my ActionCOACH colleagues.

Are Things Going Well?

Earlier this week I attended a breakfast event, part of the Hofstra University Scott Skodnek Business Development Center’s Distinguished Lecture Series.  The event was a Keynote Conversation with Brett Yormark, the CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment.  Mr. Yormark was interviewed by Kevin Law, the President & CEO of the Long Island Association. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE) owns and operates the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Nets NBA team and redeveloped and manages the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Nassau County, Long Island.  Since Hofstra University is basically across the street from the Coliseum, many of the interview questions revolved around its redevelopment.  After answering some questions about improvements to the venue, the construction process and its cost verses the budget, Mr. Yormark moved onto the performance of the Coliseum since it reopened in April of this year.  The venue reopened with a Billy Joel concert.  In the seven months since the Coliseum reopened, they have had more than 100 events, including concerts by Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and other performers. Other events including G-League professional and college basketball games also occurred there.  So far, the Coliseum is ahead of BSEs projections. So, when Kevin Law asked Brett Yormark if he is happy with Coliseum results so far, Yormark replied:

“I am happy, but not satisfied.”

He used that exact wording to answer several additional questions as the interview progressed.  I was struck by how simple and yet very powerful this phrase is.  The concept represented by these six words is extremely important.  How many businesses have stopped growing or failed because management or owners became “satisfied?”  When I had my consulting practice before joining the ActionCOACH team, I met many business owners who were earning more than $500,000 per year who became satisfied with their businesses.  “Why should I continue to push hard, I’m making more than I need?”  “I am working too hard and have no time to enjoy my wealth.”  Many wanted to start enjoying the fruits of their success, reducing the attention and time they devoted to their businesses.  Many of those businesses no longer exist, failed due to over-satisfaction and the resulting lack of attention. Two things need to be highlighted here:
  1. I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t celebrate when a major goal or milestone is achieved. There is nothing wrong with a brief pause to celebrate and “smell the roses.”  Celebration is very important, for you and your team.
  2. One of the motivating factors that drove my decision to join ActionCOACH (and many of my colleagues) is our definition of a successful business:

A commercial, profitable enterprise that works without YOU (the owner)

I work with my clients to design, plan, structure and build their businesses so they will earn more and work less.  I enable them to achieve the state of happy life, but continuing dis-satisfaction with the value their business brings to their team, customers, community, and themselves.

At lunch, that same day, I continued my rereading of John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership ((10th Anniversary Edition). I came to Law 18-The Law of Sacrifice.  The following from Law 18 makes the point.

“…today’s success is the greatest threat to tomorrow’s success. And what gets a team (or company) to the top isn’t what keeps it there.”

I couldn’t have said it better. My ActionCOACH colleagues or I will be happy to assist you to build your business, so you can earn more and work less.

More on Time Management

Reading a John C. Maxwell article in the September 2017 edition of Success about time management, entitled “4 Tips to Set Yourself Up for a Better Tomorrow Today” got me thinking.  On a hunch, I went back and reviewed several other articles, publications and the ActionCOACH TimeRICH seminar on the subject of time management and was able to confirm my conclusion that

Time Management is really Self Management!

This is not exactly a new idea, I’ve said this during numerous presentations.  So why highlight it now in this blog?  It seems to me that many of us brush off the importance of time-self management.  Taking an “I am what I am” attitude rather than seeking to improve our use of our time.  Thus, I am going to reiterate a few of our top self-time management tips:
  • Set personally motivating goals – if your goals are truly important to you, you must strive to connect every activity to them. In the article, Maxwell encourages creating a Priority Inventory, another way of looking at the connection of your goals to your activities.
  • Don’t finish today until you plan tomorrow – Maxwell explains two concepts in his article; be deliberate in your use of time, and hone your decision-making skills. Once you increase your awareness of your goals and their relationship to your activities, you will become more deliberate in your investment of time.  The decision as to what to address and what not to address will become easier, enhancing your self management.  Remember, every time you say “YES” to something, you are saying “NO” to many other activities.
  • Create a Default Diary – a schedule of how you intend to invest your time on “normal” days. Your Default Diary (Ideal Week or Default Calendar, we use these terms interchangeably at ActionCOACH) accomplishes many things; it sets your time expectations, and communicates them.  You will feel uneasy when your activities conflict with your internal clock once it has been set via your Default Diary.  Many of my clients use their Default Calendar as a communication tool with their teams, using the tool to create “deep thinking” time slots.
  • Delegate – Effective delegation is the key to successful time and self management. None of us are expert or skilled in all aspects necessary for the success of our businesses or lives.  We are faced with the choice to do it all, abdicate or delegate numerous times every day.  Should I change the oil in my car myself?  Should I abdicate the oil change by simply dropping off the car at my local service station? Or, should I effectively delegate the oil change by carefully selecting the service station or dealer, asking them about the oil and filter they are going to use, and all the other details related to the oil change?  I used this example to exemplify the fact that we can all delegate to our extended team even if we have no direct employees.  When delegating, John Maxwell makes the point the we should not mistake activity for advancement.  This applies to those we delegate to, as well as ourselves.
John C. Maxwell included the following quote in the article:

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Improve them, and they will become the brightest gems.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember, you cannot replenish your time, once a moment is gone, it is gone.  As Steadman Graham said at one of our ActionCOACH conferences,

“Time is the great equalizer.  We all have 24 hours in a day.”

His message continued to say that the very wealthy use their time more effectively.  How are you investing your precious time?  My colleagues and I at ActionCOACH are uniquely qualified to assist you toward effective delegation and successful self and time management.

Three Mini Blogs

Effective Delegation – Step 1 I’ve been rereading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey.  In 7 Habits, an important distinction is made between “Gofer Delegation” and “Stewardship Delegation.”  I realized that in my ongoing series of blogs on the subject of Effective Delegation I failed to make clear that the series is focused solely on Stewardship Delegation. Aside from deciding to actually begin delegating and having a plan as to what items to delegate, the first step in delegating any responsibility under Stephen Covey’s and my definition of stewardship delegation is defining and communicating the Desired Result.  Once the desired result is clear and understood by both you (the delegator) and the person you are delegating to (the “delegatee”), they are enabled to take responsibility to deliver that result.  It is up to the delegatee to determine how the methods that will be implemented to deliver the desired result.  This mutual understanding of the target is the foundation upon which leverage and success is built.   A Strong Reference to an Article (and Book) In the January 2016 edition of “Success” magazine there is a wonderful article by Amy Morin entitled “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do excerpted from her book of the same title.  Here are the headlines, please read the article or the book for the details:
  1. Waste time feeling sorry for themselves
  2. Give away their power
  3. Shy away from change
  4. Squander energy on things they can’t control
  5. Worry about pleasing everyone
  6. Fear taking risks
  7. Dwell on the past
  8. Repeat their mistakes
  9. Resent other people’s successes
  10. Give up after their first failure
  11. Fear “alone time”
  12. Feel the world owes them something
  13. Expect immediate results
I’m sure you will benefit from learning more about this important subject.   Headline in a Newspaper The other day I read the following headline “Pressure on Apple for Its Next Big Thing.”  This headline reminded me of one of the key things I learned when I was consulting at a company in the midst of a turn-around attempt.  The simple lesson is that there is never a “Silver Bullet.”  The company I was working with got into deep financial trouble because they keep searching to the one product that would save the business.  In fact they already had an excellent product offering that they could not reliably and consistently deliver.  One by one their retail customer base stopped ordering from them. You may be thinking that their silver bullet was fixing their fulfillment process.  Their inability to fulfill orders was a result of several factors including poor inventory control, poor bookkeeping and a lack of sales analysis, to name just a few.  One of the main messages of the ActionCOACH 5 Way Formula – Business Chassis is that your business can achieve massive results if you cover your bases and grow your business in balance. My colleagues and I will be happy to work with you to implement any of the concepts mentioned in the blog.

Why You Need Written Plans

“Planning without Action is futile, Action without planning is fatal” Unknown

One of the most profound concepts I have embraced since joining the ActionCOACH team is the many positive results of having written plans.  It is commonly believed that those who have written plans outperform their contemporaries by a large margin.  While the often quoted alumni studies at Harvard or Yale are urban myths, one actual study conducted by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, (to you can read her research summary click here) provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools:
  • Accountability,
  • Commitment and
  • Writing down one’s goals. This study demonstrates that writing one’s goal enhances goal achievement.
You may fall into the group, along with the vast majority of people, who tried writing a plan on one or two occasions only to conclude that planning does not work.  Perhaps, you bit off more than you could reasonably accomplish, set unrealistic deadlines, did not set deadlines or your plans and goals were not specific enough.  Maybe you believe or concluded that planning is useless because plans are obsolete as soon as they are finished.  Regardless of your reasons for not planning in the past, I urge you to consider planning your business and your life starting now for the following reasons and benefits. First of all, planning is an ongoing process.  The main value of planning is periodically thinking about your business and your life in an organized manner.  When a planning process is followed, several things naturally occur:
  • You attain focus – you weed out the noise that naturally occurs in your life
  • You prioritize – things in a logical order prevent you from over committing (biting off more than you can reasonably accomplish).
  • Your filters open – your conscious and subconscious mind are opened to collect the resources, knowledge and partners you need to achieve your goals
  • You communicate – a plan is a great communication tool to use when you delegate and seek assistance
  • You create a great “rallying point” for your team
As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  We all have only twenty four hours in a day.  Effective use of time has a direct relationship to a person’s level of success.  It is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful, in all aspects of life.  Having plans will greatly increase the results you achieve from your twenty four hours. Finally, and most importantly, most businesses develop and grow organically, with little or no planning.  Many grow and reach a “point of no return” where, for example, they may be supporting an inefficient or counter-productive structure, the right people in the wrong roles or the wrong people in the right roles, or worst of all the wrong people in the wrong roles.  Their business may not be able to adjust to current market conditions in a timely fashion.  They might have over-expanded, under-expanded, passed on a promising opportunity or pursued a disastrous opportunity.  These situations become disastrous after a business passes the point beyond which it cannot “undo” and restart without more investment of time and capital than is available.  Thus, it is essential to avoid growing organically and hitting the point of no return by adopting a planning process as early as possible and of course sticking to it.  You can either have a reactive business or a proactive business.

Can You Afford To Abdicate?

Abdication cost New York City more than $700 million for one project.  How much could abdication cost you? New York City’s Department of Investigations (DOI) released a report late last week about the $1.3 billion (original estimate) project to overhaul the NYC 911 emergency dispatch system.  The report, which is highly critical of the administration of former mayor Michael Bloomberg, contains the following sentence: “Bluntly, the most senior members of the administration simply failed to pay attention.” Further, DOI Commissioner Mark Peters said the city “paid a huge amount of money to a bunch of contractors and assumed (for a quick laugh regarding assumed see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfvTwv5o1Qs ) they’d get it right … in 2004, we say it’ll cost $1.3 billion and it’ll be done in 2007.  In fact, it’s going to cost more than $2 billion, and it’s not going to be done until 2017.” I noticed the following evidence of abdication, rather than effective delegation:
  • “The city relied excessively on outside consultants and failed to adequately monitor progress.” Simply setting things in motion without proper follow up and metrics is Abdication.
  • Whatever follow ups and measurements that were in place may not have been on an appropriate schedule – Abdication.
  • “An inordinate amount of time” on paperwork “detracted from the ability of staff” to do their jobs. Having ineffective reports and paperwork amounts to Abdication with a false sense of security.
So the primary question is, what are you abdicating in your business, and what could that cost you?  Obviously, your budget is not the size of NYC’s ($76.9 billion for fiscal 2015).  However, in proportion, your lack of effectively delegating key projects or ongoing operational tasks has the potential to do way more damage to your business.  The cost in lost profit, customers and opportunity could be enormous, if not fatal.   This is another installment in my ongoing series about the art and science of successful, effective delegation.

Effective Delegation vs. Abdication – Part 4

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, I will discuss two topics in this blog; The prerequisites of effective delegation and how to prepare to delegate. The Key Prerequisites Of Effective Delegation There are a number of essential items you should address before delegating a particular responsibility or task:
  • Delegation Plan – As is the case in many business projects, planning is a key element of success. Therefore, you must have a delegation plan.  This plan should include:
    • What is to be delegated – a clear description of the task or responsibility you are going to delegate
    • Who is this item going to be delegated to – not only who, but you will need to have a clear understanding of why the recipient is the ideal person (or team) to accomplish your goal
    • Definition of Success – have a clear understanding of what your expected result will be, and be able to clearly communicate this definition of success
    • Metrics – know how you are going to measure progress toward success
    • Time frame – is the item to be delegated on-going or finite
    • Follow up – know how often are you going to check on progress toward success
  • The Why – You must have a clear understanding of why you are delegating the item. Your why may include some of the following:
    • You do not have the necessary skills
    • You do not like the task to be delegated
    • Someone on your team (either internal or external) has more experience or professional training
    • The item is not the most effective use of your time and attention
  • The Item Must Be Something That Can Be Delegated – Simply put, if you are the surgeon, you must do the surgery. On the other hand, if you are the surgeon, you will certainly delegate the anesthesia.  It is counterproductive to delegate something that only you can accomplish AND is core to the success of your business
  Preparing To Delegate Not unlike real estate, effective delegation has three very important items you must have in order to delegate:
  1. Communicate the responsibility or task to be delegated – know exactly how you are going to define what you expect
  2. Communicate the definition of success – know exactly how you are going to define and measure success
  3. Communicate the bigger picture – know how you are place the delegated item into the context of the businesses success and mission
Unlike real estate there is a fourth important item you must be prepared to do in order to have effective delegation, not abdication – you MUST be prepared to not take the item back if it is being accomplished but not exactly as you would accomplish it.  As long as it is moving forward, you must be prepared to LET IT GO!

Effective Delegation Part 3 – What You MUST Delegate If You Want Your Business To Grow

As part of my on-going series about the art and science of effective delegation, and in response to questions I have been asked, I have developed the following Top 10 List:   The Top 10 Items You MUST Delegate

10. Activities that will speed up your cash flow – This includes collection calls, invoicing on a timely basis, responding to inbound customer inquiries, processing and shipping orders and making it easy for customers to buy from your business, to mention just a few.

9. Tasks that are already streamlined and documented – This is one of the keys to achieving both leverage and consistency in your business. Without leverage and consistency your business will become increasingly chaotic as it grows, if it grows at all.

8. Tasks that involve government or other outside, often-changing regulations – You simply do not have the resources to keep up with regulations. Make sure to delegate to trained professionals whose job it is to be up to date.  For example, a while ago I was introduced to a customs lawyer.  She told me that her new law practice was booming because U.S. Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.  She mentioned she found many companies that have been importing materials for years, always completing the paperwork the same way that are un-wittingly, no longer in compliance.  Worse yet, the potential penalties are many times larger than before DHS was formed.

7. Anything that you want your team to master – You will never achieve leverage in your business if your team does not master operational tasks. Mastery supports consistency.  Consistency is a prerequisite to growth.

6. Tasks where you are the bottleneck – If everything goes through you, your company can only work at your speed and capacity.

5. Areas that are beyond your skill-set or competence – Simply put, if you are not good at it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

4. Anything that you shouldn’t be doing – If you are tempted to do that low-value task that is not time sensitive, stuffing envelopes, shredding out of date documents, etc., you are keeping yourself from adding the most value you can to your business. Remember, all of us ultimately are compensated for the value we add, not for the time we devote.

3. Tasks that keep you from growing your business – The main responsibility of ownership, whether you actually own a company or simply take ownership of your responsibilities, is to develop and grow your business.

2. Anything you hate to do – If you hate it, you most certainly will not do it well.

1. Anything that requires specialized knowledge – You cannot possibly be an expert about every subject necessary to build a successful business. You can never go wrong delegating to expertise on an as-needed, demand basis.

Bonus – Any subject where you can benefit from someone else’s experience – We are not omnipotent; learn from the mistakes of those who went before you.

One very important word of caution: You must not abdicate any of the above; you must learn and practice effective delegation. Please share your experiences and results from delegation or abdication with my growing community.

Would I Fire My Client If I Owned His Company?

During a coaching session the other day, one of my clients asked me a very interesting question.  To paraphrase his question –> given his shortcoming number one, and shortcoming number two, and etc., “if you (meaning me) owned my (meaning his) company and I was your employee, would you fire me?”  At first I was, I must admit, speechless.  After gathering my composure I realized a couple of things:
  • All of the shortcomings he mentioned represented areas that are outside of the ownership zone. They all focused on working IN the business rather than working ON the business. They revolved around tasks that he could, and should delegate.  My client owns a mid-sized manufacturing company with a front office team that has the theoretical capacity to accomplish most, if not all, of the items he mentioned.  On the other hand, his front office team may not be the right team to accomplish the items.  Which led me to my second realization …
  • Being an owner is very different from being an employee. An owner has several prime responsibilities, among them are:
    • To create and maintain a success environment for his team
    • To create, communicate and live the company’s Mission, Vision and Culture (M/V/C)
    • To design, build and lead the company and its team to ensure consistent delivery of the company’s M/V/C
So my answer to his question was that as an employee I might fire him.  As an owner however, he, as is the case for all of us, could improve.  I told him that it is time to build the kind of team to whom he could confidently delegate, not abdicate, those items that he shouldn’t be doing, is not good at or simply doesn’t like doing.  Effective and successful delegation will enable him to concentrate on working toward growing the business and fulfilling the company’s M/V/C, in other words, to grow as an owner.

What Can We Learn About Business From The Boston Pops – Part 2

About two weeks ago I went to a wonderful Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood.  While enjoying the concert, my mind wondered to business and I had two Blinding Flashes of the Obvious (BFOs). My first BFO was the subject of Part 1 of this post, that a well run business is like a symphonic orchestra.  The second BFO I had at the concert reinforced one of the core themes of my coaching; the goal of successful, effective delegation as opposed to abdication or, even worst, keeping every responsibility and task for yourself.  Something I call responsibility hoarding. I know this is an extreme example, but imagine for a moment that there were no section leaders, concert masters or first chairs in an orchestra.  That there was no one the conductor could delegate local leadership to, no one to be responsible for assisting the conductor with interpreting and communicating his or her vision of the performance of each piece of music to be presented. Without section leaders present during rehearsals, both the conductor and the orchestra cannot maximize the value of their time.  When the conductor works with the violins, the other sections are listening but idle.  Major orchestras with section leaders, often have separate concurrent sectional rehearsals, a much more effective use of everyone’s time.  During concerts, when the conductor turns his or her attention stage right, toward the violins, the other sections do not get lost, they can follow their section leaders.  Bottom line, the conductor, and by extension, the entire orchestra, gets the benefit of tremendous time and operational leverage. So in your business, you should always be aware of the following key questions:

-Have you identified your team (both internal and external)? -Are you delegating?  Successfully and effectively? -Are you even trying to delegate those things you are not good at, hate doing or shouldn’t be doing?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, you must answer YES to the next question:

-Are you your businesses biggest roadblock, in the way of growth and long term success?

No delegation equals no consistent growth, no long-term success and you becoming, if you haven’t already, a slave to your business with no exit plan.  I don’t mean to imply that successful, effective delegation is easy.  Delegation is both an art and a science which must be studied before it can put into your daily routine.  It starts with your desire to get leverage in your business, a desire to delegate. If you are not currently delegating, are not getting the results you expect in your business, have no plans to delegate or don’t know how to begin delegating, get thee to a business coach.  Any of my colleagues at ActionCOACH and I are expert in successful, effective delegation.