Situation: A company has had one primary focus for the last few years. They are now developing another capability which takes significant attention from the CEO. How do you balance multiple foci, while maintaining a balance with family life? How do you balance multiple businesses?
Advice from the CEOs:
Find people you trust and delegate – ask them for help. Give them lots of leeway – just ask for updates.
Prioritize your weeks – big boulders and small rocks – decide weekly how you will focus. A week is a good planning time frame.
Identify and come to grips with your situation – the brutal facts – this will help you to prioritize.
Set boundaries based on time, relationships, priority – have realistic expectations of what you can accomplish. Set others’ expectations on when you will respond to their calls, emails, etc.
Compartmentalize your time for full concentration and focus. Focus on one thing at a time instead of multi-tasking.
Eliminate non-value added “stuff.”
Avoid letting others impose their schedules onto yours.
Use exercise time to refresh your endorphins, clear your head and give you time to reflect on priorities.
Situation: A company wants to execute a strategic shift in direction – taking it into a new business which will diversify its offering to customers. The CEO needs to assure that everyone is on-board to both speed the shift and minimize cost. What are the keys to successful strategic change?
Advice from the CEOs:
Be front and center with your vision. State the vision clearly, in terms that everyone will understand. Focus on the benefits of the change for the company and employees and be realistic about the challenges involved.
Be enthusiastic. This is critical to all change efforts. Be cheerleader as well as leader.
Plan ahead and begin to communicate well in advance of the anticipated change. Plant seeds and encourage the team to generate options or solutions. Give all levels of the organization the opportunity to become involved and participate in both design and implementation of the change.
Be consistent in messaging and support across the team. Don’t vacillate or promise what you can’t deliver. Employees will watch for the presence or absence of consistency. If it’s absent, they won’t join in.
Conduct scenario analyses. This enables you to try out different futures and implementation options.
Identify critical issues. Look at possible results – first consider the “most likely”, then “best” and “worst” possible outcomes. Considering best and worst generates new alternatives, and improves the perspective on the most likely outcome.
Conduct visioning exercises. Create a graphic vision of possible futures.
This increases group participation and sparks creativity.
It improves group function, thereby enhancing results.
Visual representation is more memorable than standard bullets and lists.
Special thanks to Jan Richards of J G Richards Consulting – jgrichardsresults.com – for her insight on this topic.
Situation: The CEO typically works long hours and frequent weekends. This taxes family life and has resulted in neglect of activities that were previously enjoyed. How do other CEOs maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Advice from the CEOs:
Life is more than work. Just the fact of your asking this question indicates that you already know that too much focus on work is not good for you.
Develop and devote time to your hobbies. The CEO and engineers in one company developed a company robotics club, and even participate in robotic competitions. This has a number of benefits:
It provides fun away from work while keeping their creative engineering skills sharp;
In the process of competing, they meet and form relationships with potential business partners and customers;
It builds camaraderie and cohesiveness within the team;
They have the opportunity to involve their kids in this activity, and
They translate this into a public service by assisting local schools who have their own robotics clubs.
Regular exercise, particularly with a group, helps you to be more effective at work. This is supported by substantial objective research.
Involve other people – friends and family – in your hobby or exercise activity – it will help to both strengthen relationships and resist distractions.
To assure that this becomes part of your life, put it on the calendar and don’t let other priorities displace it.
Learn to say “no” to things that would displace this activity.