Many of my clients find it hard to make the time available to develop new growth ideas, strategies and plans. Today’s pressures kill tomorrow’s opportunities.

One CEO, for instance, has patiently waited over six months to find the time to develop an exciting new growth idea with his marketing director. He believes it will take another two months before the time can be found to do this. In other words, it will be the best part of a year before they even sketch out the possibilities, never mind do anything about it. The company is potentially losing £ millions in lost future profits through this approach.

But, as a leader of your business, how can you balance your time and effort between managing this year’s performance and developing future years’ successes? Here are five ideas:

  1. Stop believing you’re invincible.

    When you’re on holiday you can’t attend meetings or make decisions. And yet, in most organisations, the business still operates effectively – and sometimes better! You must find ways to delegate more so that you are still aware of the issues, but not micro-managing every detail, and that starts by genuinely understanding and believing that you’re not needed to sort every single situation. Believe me, you’re just not that important!

  2. Fix the pipes and lose the buckets.

    Most ‘urgent’ issues are not one-offs. There is generally a pattern to these issues. In one client, for instance, responding to customers who are frustrated by mistakes in their invoices overwhelms managers’ time. Yet, over the last two years, my client has failed to fix this problem. It is like having a leaking pipe and spending all your time filling and emptying buckets rather than taking the one-time action to fix it! What are the common ‘leaks’ and ‘buckets’ in your organisation?

  3. Agree and communicate demanding development deadlines.

    Accountability and performance improves when you publicly announce that you’re going to do something. The simple act of communication exponentially increases the chances of a proposed action actually happening. When I worked at Boots, a new CEO announced that he wanted the business to focus on improving on-shelf availability of products. As a result, colleagues from across the organisation made it happen, delivering a 3% growth in sales! Let people know that you’re going to do something, hold yourself accountable and you’re more than half-way there.

  4. Adopt the 80/15/5 rule.

    One of my CEO clients told me that he and his executive team had adopted a rule of thumb that they should spend 80% of their time and effort on current year performance, 15% on next year’s performance and 5% beyond the next two years. They regularly review their calendars to ensure that they are broadly meeting this commitment.

  5. Set out big blocks of time.

    You can’t do development work in 15-minute slots between other meetings. You must, instead, block out half days or full days – or at least two hours – to think through the possibilities and drive your ideas forward. In my experience most managers do their best development work in small groups of two or three. Not only do groups develop better ideas, but having the shared commitment to work on the future in your calendars increases the chance that the time isn’t taken over by ‘urgent’ issues.

Which of these five actions would enable you to spend more time on developing new growth ideas and accelerating the growth of your business?


© Stuart Cross 2015. All rights reserved.