I do not normally read lists in HR, management or leadership blogs. Which is ironic given that some of my blogs here appear to contain lists. However one caught my eye recently and I ended up reading it.

It was ’21 executives share the daily routines that help them succeed’ by Christina Desmarais, and if I am honest, I started looking at it to see whether I did any of these things! And I was pleasantly surprised not only because I indeed do, but also because there were some things mentioned that I find important and that you don’t normally find in such lists.

So here are my comments on 9 of the actions that I do and have helped me become a much better leader in the various organisations I have run. (If you want to read all 21, Christina’s original article should be easy to find).

Be the first one in the office

I’ve done this in lots of jobs. It gives me time to clear e-mails (especially as I’ve had many jobs spread across different time zones), decide priorities and plan my day. Then I can walk around and talk to people when they come in (see the next bullet). I’ve also worked in cultures where no-one will leave work and go home until the boss does. So coming in early allows me to leave at a reasonable time at the end of the day, which in turn allows my people to go and all of us to have some sort of work-life balance.

Meander through the building several times a day

This is one I have always done intuitively even if it is only to escape my own office and get some exercise instead of crouching behind my computer. But it does mean that you learn about what is happening, enables you to have genuine short conversations with people about work (rather than having an official meeting) and about life, generating enthusiasm, connection and engagement. OK this can be difficult if you have lots of buildings or people scattered in different countries. But as I coached one of my previous bosses who would travel to another of his locations and then stay in his office there the whole day behind a closed door, what is the use of going there if people cant see you and you cant talk to them?

Compliment others

I try at least once a day, often when I am walking through the office or after a meeting, to complement someone. This obviously has to be sincere and real, but it is usually easy to find something positive to say. Especially as a foreigner working in another culture, giving a complement (rather than looking for ‘who is guilty’) can be incredibly powerful in creating staff engagement and enthusiasm. And not just for the person you have complimented.

Keep feedback constant and ongoing

We all know this is best practice and we all know that it is hard to do but gets easier the more you practice. Don’t wait for the annual or six-monthly official performance review process. Give – and expect to receive – real-time feedback as often as possible. It fosters collaboration, helps things run smoothly and on-task and lets people know you are interested in what they are doing and in their success. And is one of the tools you have at your disposal to grow your talent.

Speak to key employees every day

Wherever they are. What are they working on, what issues there are, how can I help them. But not in a way that feels I am checking on them or micromanaging. It not only helps eliminate problems before they arise but also makes my most important people feel valued, because I am interested in them.

Show up

This is interesting, but describes part of my leadership philosophy. Be visible. Go to meetings and discussions you should go to, especially with your own staff. Don’t say you are too busy, or that someone else can do it for you, or that you are too important. This is not micromanaging however! But as Christina says in her blog, ‘your verbal or physical presence in the middle of an action lends strength to the cause and focus to the direction.’ And you can even have impact by just showing up and not saying anything, or just giving a short steer or suggestion. Especially when, as I have often had in my last few jobs, you are dealing with young and relatively inexperienced, but talented, staff.

Keep reminders by your bedside

In the middle of the night I might think of something and write it down, so I usually have a pen and a piece of paper handy, otherwise I would forget. I can never remember my dreams! In addition the mobile phone in case of important messages that need replies, especially when working in different time zones.

Focus on your ‘done’ list as much as your ‘to do’ list

This is one of my favourites and I have never seen it on any other list. I am not a natural list person but I do use them, and I also take notes on meetings I have, to help me not to forget things. (Which is also incidentally why I use Moleskin notebooks, which have the flap in the back into which my Ipad mini fits). But half the time I write or add to these lists so that I can immediately tick things I have already done and cross them off. This gives me a great sense of accomplishment of all the things I have actually been able to do at the end of the day or week, including those that had to be done and yet weren’t originally planned. Rather than the despair of having lots of things on the do-list that haven’t yet been done.

Always think strategically even while operating tactically (or operationally)

I had to learn this when, as a new leader many years ago, I had to develop ways of building shared vision with my people. More recently in some start-ups, I have had to be much more hands-on than I have for a long time, but the advice is the same. All that nitty-gritty work with people should be in line with the business strategy, and vice-versa. So help your people see how it all fits together.

1 Comment

  1. Jean-Marie Bassett

    One does not need to have a corporate leadership role to use this (in photo) technique effectively!


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