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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manning

Do You Have Enough Time To…….?

Throughout my professional career I have been fortunate to have attended numerous leadership development courses; be they yearlong post graduate interventions such as the Royal College of Defence Studies, or weeklong short interventions such as the Windsor Leadership programmes (which I highly recommend). One of the key takeaways from all has been the lack of time that leaders, and in particular strategic leaders, have to think about themselves, their people, and their organisation. I, like many, have returned from these interventions with lofty ambitions to make more time to just think. But the reality of the modern electronic working environment means that those ambitions and promises fall by the wayside. The reality of the day-to-day business churn, plethora of face-to-face, and increasingly back-to-back, online meetings and myriad of e-mails soak up any available thinking time. Thinking time, I would argue, is what a strategic leader is paid to do in the pursuit of driving the organisation forward. And as for getting out and about chatting to your people…!

The joy of pursuing a second, portfolio, career, is having the time to think and reflect on my previous career. There are so many ‘so what’s’ about how I could have done things better with the benefit of hindsight and time to reflect. I did manage to make time in my various command appointments to think via a lunchtime gym session. This allowed me to process the morning’s work, think about the rest of the day and week, and pick up the mood of my personnel in the gym (who were probably amazed to see that the Boss had actually prised himself away from the computer). But I still regret that I did not make more time to just walk and talk with my people. That said, even as strategic leaders, we do have bosses, and the demands from above do impact on our time.

So how do you actually find the time to think about your personal development, lead your Senior Leadership Team, and subsequently your people, through strategic change whilst engaging and mentoring as you go along? How do you do all that whilst balancing deadlines, meetings, and e-mails! Alas, as I found out, there are not enough hours in the day if you continue to remain responsive to the daily churn. So, do you review your diary and place an hour each day to think and reflect, protecting that time from all distractions? This takes a cultural shift from you and from your personnel, who need to understand that the boss needs an hour a day with a wet towel around their head thinking (on their behalf). Equally, your boss needs to understand and acknowledge that for you to do your job well, and to drive the business forward (arguably what you are actually paid for), you need time to think.

So will you block that hour a day into your diary for pure thinking time (or gym and thinking time; killing two birds with one stone)? Will you take your Senior Leadership Team off site to somewhere such as Ashridge (highly recommended location to think and develop)? Or, do you employ someone like me as a strategic advisor, leadership coach and mentor to add value to your precious time and offer constructive critical thinking. The one thing I do know is that I never had enough time to think and spend time with my people – I wish I had spent more time on both. As all the courses I have attended have highlighted, we as strategic leaders need to change the current business culture and make that time. You, your people, and your organisation will be all the better for it; and maybe the poor productivity rate within this country will improve as well. So do you have enough time to think, walk, talk, reflect or anything else that you need or wish to do, and what are you going to do about it if you do not?

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