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Evolutionary Leaders Focus on “High Value” Tasks

September 16, 2013


A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that a good percentage of leaders spend time on paperwork and meetings in fact up to two thirds of their time.

The workplace imperative today includes the need for  higher productivity and a mandate for leaders to focus on high value work such as coaching team members, improving team performance and building team skills development. So why are leaders spending a third of their time on low value work?

The study identified that although there may be knowledge that a leader  is not being highly productive but it is difficult to diagnose the root cause. The study interviewed 45 knowledge workers/leaders in 39 companies across 8 industries in Europe and the US and found that even the most dedicated spent large amounts of time on tedious low value tasks. Why?

The research  showed that low value  tasks could be easily delegated and that there were psychological roadblocks to offloading these non high value tasks included wanting to be perceived as part of the team, building presence for the boss and a feeling of accomplishment in completing low value tasks. The feeling of accomplishment of making progress on a low value task increases feelings of engagement and satisfaction- a sense that ‘work is getting done’.

So what is the solution? Providing workers with the same opportunities as an entrepreneur- a small company with few employees will outsource low value tasks so that the CEO can focus on business expansion, developing competitive products and working with other CEO’s to increase business.

When leaders and knowledge workers see themselves as “CEO’s” of their department they begin to look at their ‘return on time’ investment differently. They have to consistently ask themselves if the task they are doing is adding value to the business or could be better completed by someone else.

The first step in making progress on shifting to a ‘high value task’ focus is to become clear on what is considered low value and high value, the second step is to plan what will be outsourced and finally allocate free time to strategize and plan. Once these three steps are completed the leader must ‘commit to the plan’.

Use the questions below to determine whether you are spending time on low value or high value tasks and make the commitment to shift your focus to be more of a “CEO” of your department:

Does this task warrant being done by someone of my pay scale?

Yes it is a “CEO” activity that will actively build business for the company

No it is a task that I can outsource, train and allow someone else to do

Imagine or pretend you are going on an emergency trip tomorrow- what would you let go?

A meeting with another department on a product update

A major client proposal that only you can finalize

Why do I like doing this task and am I ‘handcuffed’ to it because I like it but it could easily be outsourced?

Because it makes me feel like I am accomplishing something

Who could do this task based on his or her skillset

Am I willing to train/teach someone else to do this task and replace it with something of higher value?

An evolutionary leader focuses on ‘high value’ tasks as they know that the time they invest in coaching, training,and guiding others create a huge rate of return on time and productivity for the team.

Once you have taken action to identify the low value tasks and answered the questions above to help you outsource them you can focus on what to do with the reclaimed time. Make a list of one or two things you want to focus on and make a commitment to replace your low value task time with these higher value tasks.














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