“I just don’t have time to do this and serve my clients,” my colleague stated very matter-of-factly. He was insistent that time was his barrier to implementing his part of a firmwide strategy. I wasn’t so sure.
Now hear me, I have been guilty of flippantly blaming time, too. However, in and of itself, time is never really my barrier to focusing on game-changing opportunities for my team or my clients. How do I know? Because time is one of greatest equalizers. We all have the same number of minutes in a day for every person on the planet. Yet, some team members are actively and successfully implementing the actions associated with the firmwide strategy and some aren’t. I’m not convinced time is the enemy of those who are not being successful at the same.
So if time isn’t our real barrier, what is? Let me suggest to you three things that, although time takes the blame for, are really at the root of failing to implement and execute strategy:
First on the list: Failing to distinguish priorities. I believe that our behavior is the number one indicator of what we believe—and especially what we believe to be important. We will only make a priority the things we truly believe to have great importance. When I am struggling to innovate, initiate or implement, it’s most often because it’s not my priority, not because I don’t have time. If I don’t believe it’s really important, I won’t make it a priority. As a leader, I have a responsibility for communicating (over and over and over) why something is important to our team, firm and clients. Otherwise, I perpetuate a growing list of “have to” without demonstrating why it matters. Establishing non-negotiable priorities removes the excuse of time—although, not the boundaries of it. So, I also have to understand that adding a (true) priority may mean eliminating tasks or delegating to someone else. Regardless, it’s not about time, it’s about what I prioritize within my time.
Second on the list: Ownership. This is a two-sided coin. On one side, I must take ownership for a priority, as no one else can do that for me. I must feel empowered to both understand and own my part of whatever task/action/strategy is on the table. The other side of the coin comes from my leadership, I must be trusted to own my part. Very often, when we say we don’t have time for something, we mean that we don’t have time to wait on a micromanaging boss to hold up the process or that we don’t feel empowered to take the ball and run with it. Ownership at a personal level is critical, and being trusted with that ownership is too. Time becomes the excuse when ownership is fuzzy and priorities aren’t clear.
Third on the list: Accountability for my outcomes. The number one reason I have observed that large-scale initiatives and strategies fail is because of lack of accountability—and that comes from leadership. Accountability is the way we reinforce ownership and demonstrate the real priorities of the firm. I believe we establish priorities, ownership and accountability by the questions we ask. If I want my team to focus on Strategy A – then my questions can’t be focused on tasks D, E, F for unrelated projects. I hold my team accountable when I reward behaviors that are driving desired outcomes. And if accountability is lacking, I firmly fault the leader.
So, the next time you hear “I don’t have the time” as the excuse on your team, ask yourself:
- Have I clearly established priorities?
- Am I promoting ownership?
- Am I holding my team accountable?
When these three areas are directly addressed, time becomes an eliminated excuse.
About the Author:
Kassi Rushing, APR, is passionate about building the Wise Firm. She dreams daily about the firm we are creating and adamantly believes HORNE is a place where team members can achieve their dreams and reach their Full Potential. You can learn more about our Wise Firm on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at www.wisefirm.com.