While it is true that there is an initial phase of building a process that then becomes automated, this is not the end of hard work. This is merely the end of a cycle that then begins again – in fact, it must begin again in order for the business to thrive.
The fact is, a leader must constantly patrol the business from an evaluation standpoint and be careful not to become entrenched in the task side of the equation. Once a process is established and the tasks are refined and defined, a leader must shift focus back to the front side of the equation. This is especially important for the S- and C-wired leaders to keep in mind, as perfection and efficiency can lull them into a comfortable place where they are mesmerized with the details but no longer leading. A business without a leader is not sustainable.
A leader must constantly ask three questions:
1. What are this week’s or this month’s priorities?
What do I need to do to grow, improve, or refine the business? Look at the business from a high level – top side thinking.
2. Based on these priorities, what two or three projects need my attention and will provide the best return on my investment?
What can I accomplish that will make a difference to the bottom line? The fact is, if we don’t focus on those, our time will be consumed with the minutiae of the immediate and urgent requests that may not contribute anything to our bottom line. If you’ve ever had one of those days where all you’ve done is answer email, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.
At the end of each day, I write my three top priority projects on a post-it note for the next day. I keep that note front and center during the day to keep me focused on what I must accomplish. And then in the evening, I review the list to confirm that I have completed those projects. This is especially important for the I-wired leaders among us – and serves as an antidote for “shiny object syndrome”.
3. What am I doing that can now be done by someone else?
There comes a point where you have created a process, tested it, and then it becomes a routine. Routines are great – they are essential to keeping the business running smoothly. But, as a leader, we must be very careful to delegate those routines. This may sound irresponsible, but actually, it is just the opposite. Your purpose as a leader is to maintain the health of the business.
Think of it this way. You have appendicitis. You go to the hospital. You are told they have the best surgeon in the state, one who specializes in appendectomies. This gives you great comfort – until they tell you that he is busy serving dinner to the patients and passing out medications. I’m thinking you don’t care if he’s serving the best steaks in town – you just want the surgeon to be in the operating room!
While good meals and medication are critical to healing, let’s face it – if the surgeon leaves the operating room to serve dinner, he has created a critical situation.
You are the surgeon of your business.
Are you in the operating room?