Quick and Dirty Time Management for Leaders

Creating a Turn-key Organization pt ii: Developing Leadership Ability Within a Company

Just as you need to acculturate your entry-level hires, you must also train new managers.  If you hire a seasoned manager from outside the firm (a practice I strongly discourage) you will need to acculturate your new hire too.

Your strongest practice is almost always to promote from within.  There are many reasons for this.  Most importantly, you’ll sap employee loyalty and dull the edge of your most ambitious leaders if you give a senior role to an outsider.

Your newer managers are already familiar with your organization; why would you throw away that training?  Your current employees already know your current policies and the way to do things within the company.  And they already have existing relationships that will help them do their job.  An insider is always more loyal than an outsider.

Occasionally a board will hire from outside the company.  The only reason to do this is to overhaul a weak culture.  It weakens morale but sometimes a hiring board feels desperate.  The strategy is tremendously risky and often outside hires leave after a short time.

Best Method to Train Subordinate Leaders

Strong leaders train their subordinates to replace them.   This frees them to move up and builds a strong culture.  Similarly, you can instruct your direct reports to train each of their subordinates to replace them.

Many managers excuse poor delegation.  They insist they prefer to do a task themselves than handing it off because they claim it’s easier.  But this deprives subordinates of learning and growing within the company.

A leader quick to delegate is an effective time manager.  And an effective time manager effectively manages their workload so they can handle more without experiencing burnout.  They can stay calm and unfrazzled in a crisis.  This is a benefit of good leadership.

To teach delegation I issue one instruction. For every piece of paper that arrives on their desk, or every task they’re handed, I insist they ask themselves: “Who of my direct reports can I hand this off to?  Who has responsibility for or is affected by this?”

How do I do this?   By modeling the desired behavior.

Grooming a New Leader

Assume you’re the CEO of your company.  You’ve just hired a new sales and marketing VP.   This role oversees a sales manager and a marketing director.  They both have direct reports as well.  You need to get your new hire up to speed quickly to lead their department.

Had you promoted from within, your new VP would already know and practice these techniques I’m explaining.  But let’s assume you’ve hired outside the company.

To emphasize my preference for ruthless delegation, I assign a new manager every task that comes across my desk.  I also send every piece of paper their way.  I tell her to immediately return back any items that are broader than her department.  (for instance, she’d reject an item impacting both marketing and finance.)   These tasks are ultimately my responsibility, not hers.

While training this new hire, I scan an item or review a task only enough to decide which department head directly below me to whom I can send it.  Only when I can’t further subdivide a task, I’ll accept ownership of it.  I instruct my new hire to act the same way.

I want each task delegated to the lowest rung able to do it.  While training my new manager, I stress I want tasks moved down the ladder one rung at a time.  During this time, I will delegate only to her, never to her staff.

If my new hire takes on a job a subordinate could handle, for instance a sales-only task, then I will reinforce my instructions.  I want her to delegate that task to her sales manager who will then further try to subdivide it.

And she delegates anything related solely to marketing directly to her marketing manager, bypassing sales entirely.  I continue to deluge my new hire until she gets it.

Then I start copying her on items I send to people further down the chain of command that are obviously the responsibility of that billet.  For instance, I will send a question about a California sale directly to the Western Sales manager. I tell her she can then start leapfrogging too.  This is necessary to prevent bottlenecks.

By running through items and delegating quickly, my people learn to speed read emails and make quick critical judgments while learning to divorce emotion from content.

Handling assignments in this way, the only thing on your new hire’s calendar will be those items that directly affect both sales and marketing but not either one or the other.  This means the only thing on your list will be tasks that affect more than one division of the company but not a single division.

If you train yourself and your subordinates to act this way, you will discover your daily calendar freeing up tremendously.  Delegating in this way will end up moving responsibility and activity down the chain of command.  Let’s look at what this accomplishes:

  • By training your people all the way down the line to delegate, they become effective time managers.  Ensuring everything runs through your new hire temporarily will also strengthen the chain of command allowing your leaders to forge stronger bonds with their people.
  • For each task, the employee on the lowest rung possible will handle it.  This empowers everyone down the line, preventing information from being ignored, and frees up the time of senior management.  The organization becomes more efficient and allows everyone to continue learning.
  • If the lowest paid employees do each task, your cost of labor will decrease.
  • You free up your senior people’s time to react to and plan for unexpected challenges and crises.  You change your staff from crisis managers to strategic planners.
  • You create a company-wide delegating culture where nobody is irreplaceable.  This means anyone can get sick, take vacation, leave the company, telecommute as needed, or get promoted.  All without throwing the organization into chaos.

In the next article we’ll continue discussing how create a self-running organization.  I’ll share a way to develop bulletproof strategy while empowering your employees.  And later in this series, I’ll show a way you can offer upward mobility to every employee in even the smallest organizations while sharpening your peoples’ skills.  It’s all coming your way in the next few weeks.  Until then,

profitable business All!

P.S. One of my favorite books on time management is Morgenstern’s “Organizing from the Inside Out”


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