S12E01: Making time for strategy, and why it will change your world

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S12E01: Making time for strategy, and why it will change your world

In this season, Davina Stanley speaks with Xquadrant's founder, Richard Medcalf, about his new book, Making Time For Strategy. Today we explore why Richard wrote the book, understand how even top leaders struggle with overwork and tunnel vision, and look at why conventional approaches to time management don't work in today's connected age.

In this conversation, you’ll learn:

  • What the "infinity trap" is, and why it's causing most leaders to underperform
  • The definition of "strategic time", and why it's the #1 predictor of your future success
  • Why making time for strategy isn't a tactical productivity challenge, and what the real issues are

"Strategic time is your #1 predictor of future success."

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Transcript

Davina Stanley
Welcome back to the Impact Multipliers CEO Podcast. I'm Davina Stanley and I'm here today with Richard Medcalf from Xquadrant and I'm so excited to be telling you all about Richard's new book. Hello, Richard.

Richard Medcalf
Hi there Davina, great to be here again, looking forward to our conversation.

Davina Stanley
Absolutely. Me too. I have loved reading your book and I'm really excited to be part of bringing it to show everyone else. So tell us a little bit about this book. Making time for strategy is such a great name. Why did you write it?

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, making time for strategy. The reason I wrote this book is because I'm on a mission to help leaders break out of all the busyness or the incrementalism and into exponential results. So what I see for example, let me tell you about one of my clients, Mike, Mike, he runs a 2 billion, multi billion dollar company. He's got many responsibilities. He gets up early to deal with one timezone. He goes to bed late to deal with another timezone. He's really committed to the business and yet, he says, you know, I'm working so hard, flat out, solving these problems, doing all the things but I get to the end of the day, and I go, have I really made the progress I need to make. I've got these ambitious objectives, am I really going to get there? To have what it takes is the first time in my career, I'm wondering this and I just see all the time, this situation smart, successful leaders with big goals but the bigger the goal, the harder they feel, they have to work and there's no more hours in the day, or they're rushing so fast, they'd go, I haven't got time to even think, really, I haven't got time to step back, see the bigger picture. and this comes up in every conversation, every conversation, when I'm working with a new client, then again, the normally smart, successful leaders successful in their own right and yet they're looking to make something extraordinary happen, multiply their impact. So as we have that conversation about what's it going to take for you to multiply your impact. They'll say, You know what, I need to elevate my focus and actually, even if you go back to previous episodes, for this podcast, I interviewed different chief executives, I asked him that question, what do you need to do differently to multiply your impact? And they'll often say, elevate my focus, let go of certain things. Create, speculate more time for the next level of activity. It's that reason, that led me to write the book.

Davina Stanley
Brilliant and this, this notion of the Infinity trap is a really powerful and isn't it? I think everybody I work with, it doesn't matter if they're mid level executives, or really senior executives is battling with that, that just that overwhelm and I love the way you talk about that. Tell us a little bit about that infinity trek concept.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. So sometimes I work with clients who are coming into a role now, if everybody but the will, is quite interesting. Just imagine this scenario of somebody coming into a new role, and often talk with them few weeks in. I love it. I'm so busy. I'm super busy. I'm racing lots of things. I'm really, you know, drinking from the firehose, always kind of all this kind of stuff and I have to slow them down. Okay, this is great. What's really going on? What are you missing and they'll start to think, and they'll go, oh, you know what, I haven't done this, or, you know, I haven't spoken to this key stakeholder yet. I thought with one, one client, and they hadn't even checked in with their general manager for the previous six weeks, because they were so busy delivering on a whole load of initiatives and adding value. It's great that they're adding value but actually, there are two main reasons this person had been hired. They were laser focused on one that completely forgotten about the other one and they hadn't checked him with their general manager for six weeks and so they're kind of getting disconnected and another client I can think of was racing super fast, working super hard and when I slowed him down a little bit, he realized that his whole approach to building his new strategic plan as he was in his first 90 day period, was flawed that he was building his plan but he wasn't taking the time to bring on board certain key stakeholders who would be essential to the success of that plan. In other words, the Infinity trap, it's when we get so busy in what we're doing. So focused on the immediate goals that we've set ourselves, and all the all the incoming demands, we live in a world of infinity, right? There's always more stuff coming in. So there's always more emails coming in, there's more messages coming in, there's more things being put on our plate, we're working hard and we get tunnel vision. We miss those opportunities just off to the side, or we forget what we're not seeing and so for us, we have in our world, it all makes sense, and when we're driving forward and what matters but we're actually not seeing the big picture and we're getting caught into that incremental progress that I talked about.

Davina Stanley
Yes, yes and just so busy, we can't see what else is going on around us, which is why it's such a trap, isn't it and if if I think, quote you back to yourself, if you give busy people, or successful people more to do, they'll just they'll just go harder one day, and that's not the solution, when you're making this kind of step change to the impact that you want to make and they're, you know, their key stepping points on there in a journey, a career journey, where you've really got to make a big gear change in the way that you're thinking about it and you've talked a bit about, you know, the Infinity trap, but also the ceiling for complex complexity and, and just how to get around that and, and how to actually focus on the things that matter. You've got a beautiful term for it, which I'm going to let you introduce.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, so let's talk about strategic time and my point here is that strategic time is your number one indicator of future success as a leader, strategic time is the number one indicator of future success. What's the strategic time? Well, it's the time that you're spending, thinking and implementing your next level, breakthrough activities. Okay, so if you'd like there are two, there are two sorts of activities there are, there's kind of using time doing all the operational tasks are the things that crop up every day, every week, and every month. All there's all the things that are put on your plate, all the noise, the whirlwind of operations, as somebody's caught it and then you have, then you have the strategic stuff, the things which are going to build new capabilities, address critical risks, build the team, right, catapult you forward. So you have these two areas and strategic time is when you create that space in your diary to work on the things that are really going to be the game changes and the reason I say it's the most important key performance indicator for any leader is, I can show you people who, you know, who are just permanently busy, permanently overloaded, permanently behind the curve, their to do list is under control. They're always feeling guilty for not having gotten through it all and there were other leaders who are achieving more and more, getting more things done. They don't have any more hours in the day but they seem to be on this rise. They're making things happen and actually, they're not necessarily overloaded and strategic time is the answer. It's how we actually slow down to speed up, when we invest time in our future success and that compounds over the years. If we do one thing this week, that helps us out next month, we're going to be in a better position next month, probably even have a little bit more of extra time free, that we can reinvest in making it even better in the next quarter and that is how trajectories, separate over the course of weeks, months, quarters years and careers. So strategic time. It's important. It's really why I wrote the book, I want people to create more strategic time in their lives.

Davina Stanley
Now that makes it makes perfect sense and, you know, if we think of big name leaders out there who've just got monstrous, we can imagine they may have monstrous to do lists, you know, Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk being to contemporary leaders with enormous areas of responsibility. You know, you could be forgiven for thinking that they never sleep, couldn't you? If you think of all of the things they're responsible for, they must be really great at not only having strategic time but using it extraordinarily well. So you've worked...

Richard Medcalf
On that one that is Bill Gates, right. He was famous for going away even more he'll CEO of Microsoft for a week at a time with a whole pile of books, think and reflect. Now, I don't want to make the point that this is only something you can do when you've got a global organization, right? And, you know, you need to afford yourself the luxury of weeks away, right? Sometimes that's appropriate, it's not always appropriate. For you, it might be creating five minutes strategic time in your day, right? Or an hour or half an hour, or whatever it is. So I don't want to create goals, which people feel completely impossible here, it's important to say, no, no, what you want to do is just start to create that extra bit of time. Get the benefits from that and actually, that will allow us and give us confidence to actually create a bit more strategic time in our lives but you're right, everyone has 24 hours in the day. The question is, how well are we using that time for our future success?

Davina Stanley
Absolutely and it's the same to your point, it's the same as whether you're a mid level person or a senior person, even if actually you're an individual contributor, thinking about how you can get some strategic time is relevant, isn't that it's not at all only for those really, leaders of multinational sorts of corporations, for sure. You've got an example there from somebody called God that you're talking about that you might have wanted to flesh out a little bit.

Richard Medcalf
Just an example. So yeah, I was working with working with one leader and he was a senior finance leader in a large organization, one level below the CFO and he was overloaded. When we first started working he was he said, I've got no time for anything. I'm super busy. I haven't spent enough time with my team, I'm so busy and when we looked at his time, we found 30% was on recurring activities, which just happened every month, he had mastered them, they were very complex and that was how he'd become successful was being the person in the organization who really knew this back to front, inside out but that was holding him back and I said to him, that 30% of the time is just keeping the lights on, it's not going to make you CFO, because CFOs don't do that stuff, and you're doing it and so how you're going to pass that on to your team, how are you going to delegate that how you're going to structure it in a way that you feel, okay, you can let it go and we had to deal with some of these mindset issues along the way but when he did it in just a few months, he was able to literally go to his boss and say, hey, I'd like to take on more responsibility, please, I've got some time and I think there are these areas in the business that I can contribute to and so he got there, he got extra responsibility. I started to move up. So creating strategic time is a game changer.

Davina Stanley
Absolutely and it's so much more, isn't it that been more productive, you know, working out the thing, looking at the things that we're currently doing, and ranking them and prioritizing them against importance and impact is only helpful to a certain extent, which is why you're sort of not really offering another book, just focusing on productivity. This is much more than that. Talk to us about productivity and why it's important to think about so much more than just, you know, just being productive.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, so again, back to this idea of the Infinity trap in a world of infinity, where things are coming at us all the time. We can never get through it, we can't beat infinity with productivity and most leaders don't need just another tip on productivity. Instead, we need to reinvent ourselves. It's a deeper game that comes up in my conversations with you know, one on one work with with with key leaders, as I said as the one of the first steps I need to free up time and we already find that there's a deep issue there. It's a It's not that they just need a better email program, righ? Or a slightly different workflow on how they process their their meeting invitations. That can be part of it sometimes, right but, but the deeper issue is how do I need to reinvent myself? How am I going to let go of some of the things that have made me successful in the past some of the ways I add value right now and I feel comfortable with? Am I going to let go of some of those things to free up time for the new things. How am I going to think differently about my role and the outcomes they want to create and so what I find is that there are four main areas which I kind of cover in the book and we'll get on to in a later episode. They actually still the acronym time, which which I, which I was very happy about but I've been working on these areas for years and I see that they come up time and time again. The first one is tactics, blocking and tackling. Yeah, we need to get that stuff clear and make a plan to free ourselves up influence, because we need to actually work with our stakeholders to free up time. It's not just something we can do by ourselves. Mindset, because as I said, often we have to look at that deeper level is normally our own thoughts about what's necessary, possible and desirable and it's holding us back from moving forward and then environment, how are we actually going to shape a broader corporate context. So that the whole organization becomes more strategic, and aligned, and lets go of the busy work and stops bothering each other constantly but with low level issues. So there are these four areas and so therefore, what I wanted to write the book that covered that gave a holistic view on what is really going to take for you to become a more strategic leader. It's not just about a couple of quick productivity hacks. It's a personal challenge and it's a leadership challenge.

Davina Stanley
Yeah, absolutely and look, I, for one, have loved reading it, and reinforcing some of the things that we've talked about personally, but also going much further than that and this notion of the personal challenge is something that's been quite relevant to me, I know, you've pushed me sometimes and it can really feel that sort of, oh, my gosh, that's pushing me further than I want to go until you get out of your own way a little bit and think, actually, that just makes such really good sense and, for me, it's been a little bit the sense of what's possible, just believing that it can be done and I think that that's possible. I don't know, I don't want to speak for other people but that's certainly been a really encouraging shift for me to think what actually these things are absolutely possible and the tactics and the techniques that you've offered in the book, I think, really, really helped with that. So where do we go, when we go from here? Should we jump into the first area of tactics? Or, you know, what, what do you think? What's next?

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. So, I think before we do that, before we get into tactics, which is obviously a great place to start, in many ways, we need to actually do a little bit of groundwork, which is, we need to be clear about what we truly want to achieve what you will truly want to create in our lives and our business. What is it that's going to create those breakthrough results? Because until we know that, like, why are we freeing up time, right? What are we going to do with this time that we've created? And so it's not just freeing up time, it's time for strategy. So that's the first section of the book is called The Power of strategic time. So I think in our next episode, let's cover that. Let's understand what when we create this strategic time, what are we going to do with it? How are we going to make the impact to be truly want.

Davina Stanley
Fantastic. Now I'm really looking forward to bringing that to everybody and if you do want to see the show notes from this episode, and others, you're welcome to go to xquadrant.com/podcast and in the next episode, we look very much forward to bringing you some ideas to help you get out of being stuck in the weeds. So thanks so much for being with us. We really look forward to talking to you again soon.

**Note: This transcript is automatically generated.
Please excuse any errors.

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