Skip to main content

As a Leader, Time for MY Work Has to Come First

by Leadership Participant

I thought this would get easier as time went on, but had been feeling the opposite.  When I got back from Session 1, I was jazzed.  Before my flight back to CT, I wrote my boss a genuine note of thanks for the opportunity to participate in the MOR program and told her about the new tools and techniques I was excited to try when I got back.  I was going to be aware of my leading/managing/doing ratios, use defensive calendaring, think more strategically, be intentional, as well as ask for and provide feedback.

The first few weeks were great.  I was feeling confident and tried lots of different things. In meetings, I would “get on the balcony” and ask the strategic question to identify the underlying issue rather than go down the rat hole.  Other times I would ask for feedback, and give it just as freely. I set up a strategic thinking meeting where my staff and I tried to figure out what our organization should focus on in the future.  One of my colleagues even went so far as to tell me I was “looking leaderly” ever since I got back from Stanford.  

Knowing how my days typically felt, I knew my calendar would be key for me.  I chose to color code my time; green for “leading,” yellow for “managing,” and orange for “doing.”  Whenever I added an entry on my calendar or accepted a meeting invite, I would color code it.  Doing this would give me a visual of just how much I was leading versus managing versus doing.  I could see I was heavily into managing which is not surprising considering the nature of my job, only slightly into the leading, and probably a little heavy on the doing, but not horribly.  It confirmed for me, however, that I needed to get rid of whatever yellow and orange I could, and add a little more green.

So, every morning began with a 15 minute green “Be intentional” calendar entry where I thought about the meetings of the day.  Every day ended with 15 minute green “Plan tomorrow” calendar entry which got me thinking about tomorrow’s meetings.  And every Friday ended with a 30 minute green “plan next week” entry which got me thinking about the meetings on my calendar for the coming week.  Staff 1-on-1 meetings went from 30 minutes to 25 minutes with a standard agenda.  All my 1-hour meetings went to 50 minutes with an agenda.  As a result, meetings were more productive and it gave me a few minutes to collect myself and think about how I wanted to arrive at the next meeting.

Sounds good, right?  What went wrong?  Well, I’ll tell you.  After a few weeks, for some reason it felt like I got sucked into a vortex of time.  I felt like I was being ruled by calendar again and wasn’t quite sure why.  Enter Mike Sullivan, my MOR coach.

At our 2nd coaching session, I explained to Mike that although I came back from the first session eager to try the techniques we learned, I was feeling like I was back in the same routine – feeling like I was going from meeting to meeting and being ruled by my calendar. Turns out that where I had fallen down was in not taking the time to plan the time on my calendar for my own goals.  Yes, I color coded the entries on my calendar and was thinking about how the meetings would go, but the entries were for OTHER PEOPLE!  I was serving someone else’s agenda – not my own.  I needed to plan the week around MY OWN goals and MY meetings – not other peoples’.  And I needed to be greedy about the time I took on my calendar, and learn how to say No to others if it meant I had to sacrifice doing my own stuff.  How very basic, how very embarrassing, and how very helpful!  Thank you, Mike, for reminding me of the value of saying ‘NO’, and insight to the fact that if I don’t plan time on my calendar for my own goals, then everything falls apart.