A True Leader Serves Their Constituency

A strange phenomenon has developed over the past decade or two.  People with the title of “Leader,” however one may define that, have lost sight of the most important aspect of the position: a leader is simply a servant of their constituency.  A prime example of this is the election of a Governor.  Only by the vote of each and every constituent who takes time to elect their leader does the Governor assume his or her position.  What is surprising is that many leaders do not understand the relevance in their particular situations.  The CEO of a public Fortune 500 company serves many constituents: shareholders, Board of Trustees, the SEC, and customers to name a few.  The CEO of a non-profit organization serves his or her donors, professional staff, volunteers, and end users.  Even a small business owner serves their customers, employees, and vendors.  While a formal election may or may not take place in these instances, one fact remains:  You are only a leader for as long as the people you serve deem you worthy to serve.

The common thread among these examples is simply this: all exhibit the servant nature of leadership.  Individuals and organizations which truly grasp and understand this concept are typically at the forefront of developing future leaders.  Traditionally a strong mentoring and/or development program has been created where executives work with their staff to make sure opinions, ideas, and thoughts are honestly considered.  And, most importantly, there is a strong team-oriented culture of trust.  Hundreds of other examples could be substituted but the fact remains that developing the talents is truly an exhibition of a servant leader.    Felix P. Nater (@FelixCanHelp) summarized it best when he said, “When I look in the mirror my reflection speaks volumes about what I learned from other’s interests in me.”

The opportunity to make a positive difference and serve a constituency effectively begins with recognizing that it is our responsibility to share wisdom and knowledge with our colleagues and, more importantly, with future leaders.  According to Oscar Wilde, “In America, the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.”  We all wish we possessed current day wisdom before we needed it.  Unfortunately, some feel that emerging leaders should acquire their knowledge on their own, instead of sharing it with them to help develop them further.   It was Walt Disney’s belief that “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.”  As a leader, it is our responsibility to mold and develop promising future leaders who will further advance our efforts.  You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself.

In concert with the aforementioned ideas, my own philosophy on the servant-leader centers around leaving the project/people involved in a position where momentum is moving in a positive direction once my participation is complete.  Frequently, I share with colleagues that I do not join groups or associations because I wish to be viewed publicly as a success.  Rather, my goal is to be viewed as someone who contributed through leaving a positive, lasting impact.  My legacy I hope to leave behind is this:  to be remembered as a leader who helped others help themselves and, in the process, produced a measurable improvement.  The words of John Quincy Adams eloquently articulate my desire to be a difference-maker: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

4 Tips for Making Time – Tip #4: Delegation is Key

The final installment of the time management series will likely be the most difficult aspect to implement.  For many of us, the idea of having someone else “perform our work” is frightening and gives us cause to find some way – any way – from allowing it to happen.  Unfortunately, it is exactly that thought process that creates our time management problems.  We have all been taught the old adage: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”  Regrettably, most of us did not receive the lesson which follows where we learn that proper assignment and supervision will have the same outcome as performing the task ourselves.  If you are genuinely interested in better time management, then you must embrace Tip #4: Delegation is Key, because it will be a constant uphill battle without it.

Delegating tasks to others is not a sign of weakness, though some believe it is.  In fact, the opposite is true.  It demonstrates your ability to realize you are unable to give everything your full attention and have determined those projects which require your concentration.  Though I personally still struggle with delegating items, I have seen a marked difference in what I can accomplish when I do delegate.    Even if the task hasn’t been fully completed, when I am able to get involved again it has certainly progressed rather than becoming sedentary.  Through consistent practice, I can honestly say I delegate more now than I ever imagined I would.

The only way for delegation to be successful is to give up some control of the output.  For example, because something is written or presented in a form which isn’t “your form” does not make it incorrect or ineffective.  You must be willing to accept that different does not mean wrong.  Clearly communicate the desired goal or outcome while recognizing the process and methods utilized to complete the assignment may differ from your opinion on how it should be completed.

The results of your delegation will greatly improve if you include each of the following in describing the tasks you assign:

  • Recorded
  • Time bound
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Realistic
  • Ethical
  • Agreed upon

We all think we possess the ability to do everything ourselves.  The truly successful people are those that admit they cannot, and outwardly seek assistance.  These individuals realize more tasks will be completed if many are being pursued simultaneously.  This concurrent pursuit of goals will allow you greater flexibility and time since tasks will be completed, in whole or in part, instead of still waiting to be started.  Remember, delegation is not giving up control for it empowers you to make more time available for other equally important endeavors.

4 Tips for Making Time – Tip #3: Know When You Work Best

Now that we have our schedules planned properly with our tasks separated and organized, it is time to move from planning to execution.  There is no need to second guess the planning and progress to date; necessary changes will become apparent as you move forward.  Your progress will increase exponentially through the inclusion of this next time management tip – Know when you work best: perform your most important work optimally. 

Each of us performs our best at different times throughout the day.  For some, it’s first thing in the morning; for others, late in the day when the office quiets down.  During that time, our concentration, focus, and energy are at peak levels.  If you are unsure about your optimal performance window, monitor your productivity over a period of time – typically one to two weeks.  When you have determined your optimal time, ensure that is when you schedule to perform your most important tasks.  Significant projects require your greatest effort and knowing your optimal performance window is paramount to getting the job done.  It is certainly possible to have multiple times throughout the day when your performance increases.  Personally, my optimal performance periods are early in the morning and after returning from a lunchtime trip to the gym.  In my experience, this optimal time tends to be, on average, a one hour period.

During your peak performance time(s), it is crucial to avoid distraction as much as possible.  Avoid email, phone calls, and other unnecessary interruptions to the best of your ability.  Spend that time, however long it is, on your most important task.  Even if you don’t get the entire task completed within the hour, you will find that you are much further along due to your increased energy level.  Continue this process over the course of a week and the results will be measurable. 

Today’s culture of doing more with less forces us to seek ways to work smarter, utilize our time and effort better, and increase our productivity.  Too often, we are focused on trying to figure out when to get things done instead of how to get things done more effectively and efficiently.  Knowing when you work best will certainly give you an edge.  Give yourself the opportunity to perform better by taking the time to plan your work, then work your plan.

4 Tips for Making Time – Tip #2: Get Organized

As we continue our progression toward better time management and regaining control of our busy schedules, the second part of this series will empower you to have a clearer vision of what tasks remain while giving you a sense of accomplishment.  While many authors on time management are strong proponents of creating only one “to-do” list, my theory revolved around two lists.  The “Get Organized: Create two lists” hypothesis is centered on the belief that all tasks fall into two categories: those with a negative impact if not completed and those with no impact or a positive impact. 

Personally, I have found much success when actively utilizing this theory as have colleagues with whom I have shared this principle.  While simplistic in its approach, one of my mentors who taught me this principle assured me the results are quickly evident and measurable – and he was absolutely correct.  The process is as follows: first, review your open tasks and separate them into the two lists previously described – those with a negative impact if not completed timely and those with no impact or a positive impact.  Second, organize the negative list according to the ramifications (i.e. due dates, penalties, lost revenue, etc).  Naturally the most serious should be first.  Along with that, make a note with the approximate percentage of completion of each task.  Next, perform the same exercise with the other list – organizing it by positive impacts first followed by no impact.  Again, make a note regarding your progress to date. 

Once you have both lists completed, you will have a clear vision of where you need to concentrate your efforts.  Additionally you will be reminded of the each item’s progression to date.  This is extremely important because it may be beneficial to complete three or four positive items which are 70-90% complete before getting to another negative item, time permitting.  As we all know, it is the last 10-30% of a project is typically the most difficult to complete.  With that in mind, this technique serves as a source of inspiration as it reminds you just how close you are to removing items from your lists.

As the list of negative items begins to shrink, you will feel more energetic and positive about how your time and efforts have been utilized.  A sense of satisfaction will grow and propel you forward with a feeling of accomplishment.  Most importantly, this technique allows you to rest easier knowing that, to the best of your control, items which had the potential to create a problem have already been handled or are under control.  The end result is a positive disposition combined with a sense of accomplishment, success and the knowledge of what remains to be completed.  Who among us isn’t interested in that experience?