22 Aug '10
Leader Standard Work
All leaders have a set of responsibilities that only they can fulfill. If those responsibilities are not carried out by them because of the press of activities, expectations or simply because they have not prioritized well, the organization or team we lead will suffer.
Think for a moment about the regular commitments you have on an ongoing basis. Those commitments are Leader Standard Work. Then think about the activities that are critical to you as a leader to ensure that the team or organization you lead is led well and stays on track. These are also Leader Standard Work. If all of these critical activities are not placed into your calendar ahead of time they often get lost in the shuffle of activity.
Leader Standard Work encompasses the activities that every good leader must fulfill and because they are the most important activities they get put on the calendar first and are rarely changed. This would include, key meetings that occur at the same time each month, preparation for those meetings (they will only be as good as the preparation) monthly check ins with direct reports, built in think and evaluation time, evaluation of results and so on. For pastors it would also include preparation time for messages.
Can you identify your Leader Standard Work? The truth is that many leaders have never thought about it in this way. Being able to articulate the key activities that you must be involved in ensures a higher level of leadership excellence and execution than if one cannot.
Healthy leaders always schedule those things that are most important first and then fill in their schedules around those first priorities. My calendar in Microsoft Outlook is actually color coded to reflect my Leader Standard Work which seldom changes, and then the various other activities so that I can visually see how and where I am spending my time. Because my Leader Standard Work is scheduled out at least a year in advance, I have the framework around which to schedule other activities and ensure that those things that are most critical for me as a leader are not neglected.
Having identified what I must do on an ongoing basis and getting it on the calendar first gives a rhythm and framework to my leadership role that is freeing. I don't have to wonder what is critical - I know - and it is already on my calendar.
Perhaps the largest impediment for many leaders is the level of discipline this requires. One of the realities of leadership is that the most effective leaders are the most disciplined leaders - around those things that are most important. The key to growing our leadership effectiveness is becoming more focused and more disciplined. There is actually a freedom that comes with that discipline, however, because we end up with more margin and we know that we are paying attention to those things that are most important.
These responsibilities can be supplemented by an Execution Journal built off of a spreadsheet that list all of the tasks and projects we are responsible for along with the date they are due. Every time I make a commitment I place that commitment in my execution journal and color code it so that I know its priority. Each day I look at the execution journal so that commitments I have made don’t fall between the cracks or fail to be finished on time. When leaders don’t keep their commitments, others will not either.
A key to keeping our commitments is understanding that every time we agree to do something, we must build time into our calendar to fulfill that obligation. If there is not realistic time in the calendar we should either not agree to the project or modify the date by which we promise it will be done.
Understanding your Leader Standard Work and ensuring that it gets on the calendar provides the architecture of how you spend your time. The important things get on the calendar first – always – and then other activities are added around the important. Can you identify your Leader Standard Work and does your calendar reflect that work?