For most sales leaders, it seems there is a universal shortage between the demands on our time and the hours in a day. One of the biggest challenges is getting consumed with individual sales rep needs or customer issues that jettison us into problem-solving or crisis management mode. There’s no denying these issues are important and warrant our attention. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that every minute we spend on solving the problems of a single customer or sales professional is time we are not spending on strategic planning and improvement that would have broader, more significant long-term impact.
Time management is indispensable when it comes to being a highly effective leader. Consider these tips to find some additional time (and productivity) in your day:
- Make time for strategic thinking and planning. Set aside at least 45 minutes to an hour each day in which you ignore your email, phone and ongoing “to-do” list to consider long-term needs, goals and opportunities for improvement.
- Look for patterns in the issues you hear from sales reps and customers. Stepping back to consider whether problems are actually systemic issues and then problem-solving with comprehensive process or policy changes could significantly reduce the volume of problems and stress for you and your entire sales organization.
- Block your time. Plan your day by blocking time to get specific tasks or projects done. When it comes to scheduling one-on-one meetings, find the structure that works best for you. For example, instead of scheduling one-on-ones throughout the week, maybe you choose a day and block them together as much as possible. By having them back-to-back or spread over two days in your week, you can take advantage of that extra “in between meetings” time for uninterrupted periods to tackle your to-do list.
- Build healthy habits when it comes to your email; set boundaries. Piggybacking off the previous point, time blocking applies to email as well. Email can be a sales leader’s biggest productivity killer. According to a McKinsey report, professionals spend an estimated 28% of their workweek managing email, on average. Block off time throughout your day to check and respond to emails. Respond to those that can be answered quickly. Flag those that require a more thorough follow-up. The key here is to set expectations around typical response time and communicate that to your team. Let them know you’ll only be replying to emails during your electronically available hours. If something requires immediate attention or is highly time-sensitive, you can set up an alternative form of communication (Slack, text) for your team to reach you.
- Delegate. There’s a long-held business premise that if someone at a lower management level could be doing a task, then they should be doing the task. It’s more efficient and certainly more cost-effective. Dr. Bina Patel, CEO of Transformational Paradigms, said, “Every manager should understand the talent and capacity of each individual on their team.” She explained, “By knowing an individual’s strengths, managers can assign tasks accordingly.” Continually consider the tasks on your plate. Could any be placed with an administrative or another team member?
- Are you solving when you should be coaching? You know the adage‚ “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” When a member of your team comes to you with a problem, pause long enough to consider whether your time is best spent solving the problem or coaching your team member on how to solve the problem him/herself. Even better, coach the team member on how to avoid the problem or situation in the future. Coaching is not an area where you want to be cutting corners; ensure your time spent coaching is as effective as possible.
Reducing our load of daily brush fires will not only make our lives less stressful, but it will also improve our effectiveness and that of the entire sales organization.