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Leadership & Productivity | Just pals – or Sleeping Together?

“Make use of time, let not advantage slip.” ~  William Shakespeare

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

As we’ve all learned, most of life’s lessons don’t travel in a neat formation accompanied by bugles and cavalry. They arrive filthy and unkempt, prominent in the mess we’ve made around our foxhole. These lessons are typically the offspring of hubris, naivete and ignorance … or from overlooking the land mines hidden beneath our feet.

Every Tuesday, we’ll share valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader  … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders.


Protect the Castle from the Intruders

From the unusual amount of email I received following Are Distractions Destroying Your Brain?, I realize we share a universal revulsion for the distractions that confound our days.

We’ve taken the first step to taming the behemoth by trying to understand these forces and how they derail our focus and productivity.

Leadership & Productivity are Sleeping Together

Some of you probably expected this article to appear in our Productivity Tips series, and it certainly fits there as well.

I included it here because I think that as good leader, you absolutely must spend more time devoted to what only you can do, as well as thinking” about what needs to be done.

Some of the techniques that can provide that untethered head space require more than productivity tools. If you can protect yourself from the casual interlopers that eat up your day, your ability to be a great leader, and to be productively engaged with the most important aspects of your life, will grow exponentially.

Stop the Death by a Thousand Cuts

There are countless tactics and techniques to deal with these pesky intruders, but many of them are tourniquets to quench the flow from the death of a thousand cuts.

As a leader, you must ask, “how do I stop them before they get in the door?” (While you’re building the moat around your castle, you may want to check out some of the posts in our Productivity series, including the the value of checklists; the importance of getting rid of the crappy stuff;  the nightmare of the cluttered mind; and that feeling of being buried all the time. 

Build a moat … then barricades … lookout posts ….

First, you need to build a moat around your kingdom … and then a defensive perimeter … and then erect a few more barricades and lookouts.

Think of a set of three concentric rings, with you in the bulls-eye. If each of these rings is defensible, and nearly impregnable, you’ve got a fighting chance to find the head room you need to be an effective leader, destroy the detractors and relaunch a more productive life.

1. Defend Your Schedule

Think of the ring furthest from you as the one that protects your schedule. Time is your most precious resource so allowing everyone to manage your calendar defeats the purpose of your control of your day.

Mark off some “office hours.” Block some “do not disturb” time. Get out of the office where you can close the floodgates for a while.

2. Defend Your Turf

What is your turf? It’s what only YOU can do. I’ve often referred to what only the CEO can do, but the same concept applies to every executive.

There are certain things that only you can do. You have the experience … the perspective … the expertise to accomplish certain things that you do better than anyone. More importantly, if you’re not doing them, no one else is either.

Be careful to defend this ground so that you’re laser-focused on getting done those things that only you can do.

3. Defend Your Space

The closest circle is your physical space. You control who stops by your office, how much time they take, whether you can afford the time at that exact moment.

One attractive tool to manage the “drop-bys” is to take a close look at the time-honored system adopted by college professors … “office hours.”

Some of you will say, “Nah, I don’t like that. I like to have an open door, be accessible to my people whenever they need me.”

What that really means is that part of you welcomes the interruption. You get a lot of satisfaction by being the “go-to” guy or gal, the firefighter that people look to when they need help.

It’s a great skill … and firemen are in great demand … but not if the job is building a skyscraper.

4. Defend the Bulls-eye

The bulls-eye is you in the castle keep, and your defense needs to be strongest when the enemy is breathing on the other side of the door.

This is the head-space you need to actually think … to reflect … to make sure before you climb the ladder, that it’s up against the right wall.
Make time for reflection. There’s a lot of power in a blank sheet of paper.

To find this time for reflection, you’ll also find some excellent ideas in Managing a CEO’s Scarcest Resource. Consider “Tactical Mondays, Strategic Fridays” … or joining a CEO group (the Exkalibur Leadership Forum is one example) … or the concept of “5% Think Time” used at Detroit-based ePrize.

The Concept of “5% Think Time”

Here’s what its founder Josh Linkner says:

“If someone works 40 hours per week attacking their to-do list, they would have a certain level of productivity, but if they devoted two hours per week to just think, they would be equally or more productive, plus they would occasionally come up with a brilliant idea. I want to create a greenhouse for creativity.”

So, go for it. Manage the keys to the kingdom to get the most out of your day. Don’t work longer hours … be more productive. Don’t hesitate to defend your domain.

You can bet nobody else will do it for you.

Have you got it figured out? What’s working for you? Are you able to clear the decks to get some genuine “think time”?


Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses in the wine and other industries, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit Exkalibur.com for a library of valuable resources, articles and insights or connect on Twitter, LinkedIN or the Exkalibur fan page on Facebook.


The North Bay Business Journal, a publication of the New York Times, is a weekly business newspaper which I have served as a regular columnist for over three years. The Business Journal covers the North Bay area of San Francisco – from the Golden Gate bridge north, including the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties.


Article published as Vol. 85 on March 28, 2010: The electronic version of this article, as published by the North Bay Business Journal, may be found here. ******************************

Any related materials or articles referenced in the published column, or otherwise applicable, are referenced in this digital version of the article.


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