The Barbell Approach to CEO Time Management – Mark MacLeod

July 16, 2020 - Mark MacLeod

The Barbell Approach to CEO Time Management

I don’t envy CEO’s schedules. They serve many stakeholders, all of whom want or need something from them. Without strict focus and prioritization, you end up being an inch thick and a mile wide trying to stay on top of everything going on in your business.

When I see some CEOs calendars, it’s just meeting after meeting after meeting. As I have written about before, this madness is often self-imposed because CEOs are not operating at the right altitude. They are too deep in the weeds.

I’d like to propose a simple framework for how CEOs can think about time allocation: The barbell.

A barbell has weights on either end. This is how CEOs should allocate their time. On any given project, say a new product release, a rebranding, creating a culture manual, etc. the CEO can add the most value by being involved at the beginning and end of the project.

Upfront, the CEO can help establish success for the project. What are you trying to achieve? How does this project align with the overall vision and mission?

As the project comes to a close, the CEO should be the final seal of approval. Did the project achieve the success criteria? Does it align with vision and mission?

In between, while the heavy lifting is happening, the CEO should be uninvolved. If the CEO feels the need to step in, then either she has the wrong team on the project or doesn’t trust them or doesn’t have the discipline to stay out of the way. All signs of a company that is on a good, but not great trajectory. Greatness happens when you have amazing, autonomous people, point them in a direction and get out of their way!

Try this on your next projects and see the impact it has on your time and your team’s autonomy and performance.

Questions to consider

What is my current involvement on key comany projects? I am only involved at the beginning and end or am I involved throughout?

If throughout, what is that telling me about my leadership style?

Do I really need to be involved?

If so, what does that tell me about the strength of my key leaders?

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