February 4

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Freeing yourself up for strategic activity

What’s the #1 metric that determines your future success?

I’ll get to that in just a second, but first I need to introduce you to a couple of people…

A tale of two execs: Introducing Nat and Sam

Meet Nat 

Natalie or Nathanial, as you prefer. Nat is an organised and disciplined executive with a large scope of responsibility, and is known for solving problems and creating results. Highly competent, Nat is known to be a safe pair of hands.

However, Nat is crazy-busy. Their days are packed with various operational reviews, project updates and meetings. Their inbox is bulging with requests from across the business, and they’re swamped.

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They’re making progress, but it’s taking a toll and they just can’t seem to free themselves up to work on some of the big ideas and initiatives that they’d like to put their attention on: there’s just too many urgent issues to be addressed.

They keep telling themselves, “It’ll calm down in a few weeks after this project or after that event,” but it never does.

Nat’s on the “hamster wheel” of operations and it seems impossible to get off.

Now meet Sam 

Samantha or Samuel, as you prefer. Sam seems to be more relaxed and less overworked than Nat - but their results are incredibly good. What’s going on?

Sam’s working hard, but they’re not swamped by the whirlwind of operational demands. Busy but not over-busy.

Somehow, they’re managing to find time to really progress some major organisational change initiatives and the “important but non-urgent” stuff. As a result, Sam’s organisation is really breaking new ground.

Sam’s on a “flywheel” - momentum is building and building, because they’re able to invest time in more strategic activities. As a result, their organisation is levelling-up and their personal impact seems to be accelerating.

Interesting perspective on the #1 metric that governs future success...."Strategic Time"

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Two strategies, two worlds

Nat and Sam are fictional, but I see their stories time and again. They represent the logical outcome of two different strategies to delivering results.

The “Nat approach” is to work harder, take on more projects, solve more problems and address more customer demands. The problem is you rapidly hit the “ceiling of complexity” where there’s no more hours in the day and you’re wearing yourself ragged. You USE your time.

The “Sam approach” is to shift up a gear. Instead of solving this month’s/quarter’s issues, work on different problems and projects, the things that will make next month/quarter/year/decade far more manageable and impactful. You INVEST your time.

For the financially minded among you, I describe this as an “opex/capex” issue.

The first approach is “opex” - you’re spending your time on tasks that need to be done, but those same tasks are basically going to reoccur.

The second approach is “capex” - you invest time now to create a permanent improvement in future.

  • Opex is “working at McDonalds”. Capex is studying so you can “run a McDonalds”.
  • Opex is “buying a McDonalds burger”. Capex is “saving so you can buy a McDonalds franchise.”
  • Opex is solving short term needs. Capex is creating long-term impact.

The #1 metric that determines your future success

So with that in mind, let me suggest that the #1 metric that determines your future success is:

Strategic Time: The hours in your week working on the “up-levelling” projects that’ll put you and your team in a far better place to deliver on your operational goals in the future.

Strategic Time allows you to work on the “up-levelling” projects that eliminate risk, overcome bottlenecks, or build new capabilities in the business.

When I joined Cisco, the team was in “Nat” mode: seen as solid and dependable, doing their job but not really moving things forward. We decided, as a leadership team, to extract our group from a lot of the lower-level activities that people had come to depend on us for, and replace them with fewer and more impactful engagements.

This involved a real effort, and building systems and processes that didn’t exist before, but the outcome was that we managed to keep our existing stakeholders satisfied AND create a whole level of impact by serving a new set of stakeholders - all the way to Cisco’s CEO.

This was a true “Nat” to “Sam” journey, and I’ll tell you later on more about the key moves we had to make to ensure success.

Learn how to free yourself from operations

So you get the importance of extracting yourself from lower-level tasks and focusing on the most strategic levers to increase your impact. It's a crucial skill for anyone who wants to "level up" and play a bigger game.

But when you are in a position of responsibility, with plenty of operational demands, it’s easier said than done, right?

I’ve prepared a short (and free!) six-part email series called "Freeing Yourself Up For Strategic Activity”, where I share some fresh insights on this crucial topic. If you’d like to benefit from this series, please click the button below.

The goal is to help you shift your thinking and find new avenues to grow your own productivity as an executive and business leader.

We’re going to explore why most productivity tips don’t work for business leaders, and instead look at the real reasons why you and your team are snarled up in operations and what to do about that.

In the meantime, if you know any “Nats” - leaders who are overloaded with operations and want to free up time for more strategic activities - why not invite them to follow along on this journey?


P.S. Doors have just opened on Impact Accelerator. If you're ready to create a breakthrough in your leadership impact, grow your influence and get out of the weeds to be more strategic, this is for you. It's a group coaching experience over 5 months that will transform your ability to lead strategically and influentially. We had rave reviews when we ran it last year. Don't miss out - apply now.

PLUS, whenever you're ready, here are 4 ways we can help you multiply your impact on your people, your purpose and your profits:

  • Work with me 1:1 and your whole future will shift. I work with just a handful of 1:1 clients at any one time, so you need to be committed creating a new level of impact. It's a five-figure investment and you'll need to ready to be challenged and stretched in all kinds of ways. The results will be remarkable.  Let's start with a 15 minute chat.
  • Create a cohesive and high-performing leadership team. Our team coaching approach focuses in on the critical few shifts that will make the biggest difference to your team's performance.  We start with a quick discovery process and take it from there.
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  • Shift your organisation's thinking.  Invite me to speak at your leadership team meeting, annual kick-off, or conference. We'll make it engaging, inspiring and thought-provoking...and yet grounded and practical.

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