As CEO, Where Is Your Time Best Spent?

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When you’re the leader of an organization, one of the most important daily struggles is to determine where to devote your time. As a CEO (or whatever title you hold), it’s your duty to take a broad view of the company, recognize untapped opportunities and create the strategy that leads to greater success and prosperity.

Too often we fall into the trap of working “in” the business instead of “on” the business.

This is especially true of small- and medium-sized organizations, where the operations may require more direct oversight by the top leader. Sometimes this sort of personal intervention is necessary to make sure the “trains run on time.”

But if you’re the sort of CEO who wants the business to grow and evolve beyond where it is today, you should set aside time on a regular basis to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Preferably at least once a week, reserve a portion of your schedule to assessing your processes and systems. Are they working the best they can?

It's a matter of being a proactive leader instead of a reactive one. A reactive leader soon finds themselves constantly responding to crises large and small. Their days are so filled with responding to critical situations that there’s never any time to plan and strategize so these sorts of emergencies can be avoided in the first place. You become a CEO that focuses more on fixing the past errors, rather planning for your future successes.

A proactive leader devotes time to looking ahead, finding ways to make the company better and more efficient. They recognize weaknesses in their operation that could lead to strife, and endeavors to improve them so the worst scenario doesn’t come to pass.

It can be very hard to set aside this time to planning. Most leaders of an organization already put in a lot of hours at the office, so it can seem like a zero-sum game. But if you make that effort to spend even a few hours a week toward analysis and planning, the rewards will come back to you multiplied many times over.

From a time management perspective, think of this not as a cost but as an investment toward a better future.

A leader must foment a culture of accountability in their organization that seeps down to the most junior level employee. This includes making sure commitments are met, that internal and external projects are completed on time, and that the outcome is what was anticipated when they were initiated. Individual team members know they can depend on their colleagues to deliver as promised.

When this happens, employees know what the standards of operation are and hold their peers to account. Everyone should feel they have the initiative to say to anyone else in the organization, “This just isn’t good enough” or “That’s not how we do things around here.”

Another thing a CEO should spend time on is thinking specifically about a timeline for enhancement. Where do you want the company to be one, three, or five years hence? Is there a new product or service you want to debut? A key client you want to land? A form of accreditation you want to obtain for yourself or team members? Are you innovative enough?

Whatever your goals are, constantly ask yourself how well you are progressing along the path toward them. Make precise plans with benchmarks to achieve and a calendar for doing so. This will help you decide how to reallocate resources to best achieve those goals.

No matter how well your business is doing right now, it can always be better. The best companies are constantly assessing their processes and procedures, and changing them to suit the constant evolution of the organization.

Try to avoid having your company become too bureaucratic, where the controls hinder your ability to be nimble, flexible and responsive to customers in an entrepreneurial manner. The emphasis should always be on having systems in place that allow you to deliver a product or service efficiently and effectively. Empower your staff with the autonomy to exceed your customer’s expectations.

If a CEO or other leader can regularly devote time to thinking in these terms, you will find yourself well on the way to becoming a better and more profitable company, where everyone enjoys great job satisfaction because they’re functioning as a cohesive team.

Tom Sponsel is managing partner of Sponsel CPA Group.

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