Killing Time Bandits

“I would have written you a shorter letter, if I had more time….” quoteWe can’t count the number of times a CEO has told us, “I’d implement a leadership development program and deliberate strategic planning system to provide focus, but I don’t have time…I’m too busy with daily crisis.”

But the truth is you can’t afford NOT to develop these foundational building blocks of a high performing culture. If you can’t figure out how to do it, your competition certainly will. In our world where business is all about change, culture trumps everything else. So what’s the answer?

The answer lies in killing Time Bandits. These guys are stealing your future, every day. They hijack your team, rob your customers, drain your profits, and give the advantage to your competition. What are some of the characteristics of organizations where Time Bandits thrive?

  1. Time Bandits thrive in organizations where there is no focus. These organizations either do not have a strategic plan or fail to rigorously implement it. Team members will tire of working hard with nothing to show for it. Good people vote with their feet. Valuable time is wasted.
  2. Time Bandits seek out an organization with silos. Silos destroy teamwork and stifle initiative. Silos stop the free flow of information. Knowledge is power. Even more time is wasted.
  3. Organizations without leadership development programs generate even more inertia. Did you hired the wrong leaders? Are you continuously recruiting to hire, train, and retain the best? Remember that B-players will not hire A-players. What goes around, comes around. Your team deserves the best leaders.
  4. Time Bandits thrive in long, back to back meetings without clear agendas. (A senior executive told us recently she had just attended 4 consecutive 1 hour+ meetings – and she was mentally exhausted by the end of the second one!) To make matters worse, meeting results are often not captured in minutes with actions, responsibilities and timelines. This is a great way to waste valuable time and burn good teammates out.
  5. Time Bandits flourish in companies without clear operating procedures. Without process, nothing is scalable and more time is wasted with chasing unattainable safety, quality and customer service goals.

The Time Bandits won’t die of old age — you have to seek them out and destroy them (good military analogy, eh?). From the CEO to the newest member of the team, everyone must focus on taking out the thieves of your most precious resource other than your people — time.

Here are some proven techniques to begin to take back your time:

  1. Embrace deliberate strategic planning. It is a leader’s responsibility to provide unambiguous focus for his or her team. In the end, the clarity of a well-developed strategy is the best thing you can do to destroy Time Bandits. Review the progress of your strategy with your leadership team on a regular basis. What progress are you making to achieve assigned goals and objectives? What adjustments need to be made? Keep the strategy alive with drum beats of success. Momentum is important.
  2. Focus on recruiting and leader development. Strive at all times to ensure that you have the right people on your bus, in the right seats. Don’t suffer fools. Work hard to recruit team members who are self-disciplined and walk the talk with your company values. The right leaders provide focus and allow you to decentralize and empower your team.
  3. Communicate often to empower your team with information. Conduct team meetings on a monthly basis to ensure your strategy is embraced and well understood by your entire team. Talk about results and what needs to be done. Celebrate success and bring your values and culture to life with stories. You’ll be amazed how this level of clarity will affect your company’s performance, morale, and efficiency. Silence Time Bandits.
  4. Spend more time developing your people. Leadership is a learned skill. To that end, devote time every day to growing your leaders. Develop a leader certification program. Use situational training exercises to help teams learn to solve tough problems. Conduct After Action reviews (AAR) after major events or incidents to determine what happened, what needs to be sustained and what needs to be improved. Assign responsibilities and timelines. We’ve never met a leader who told us they were too highly trained, or too well mentored. Think about what your team could accomplish if you trained them more actively, every day, week, and month. The more you silence the Time Bandits, the more time you can devote to this key task.
  5. Insist on meeting discipline. Issue agendas ahead of time. Assign a note taker. Publish the minutes and actionable items — assign responsibility and a timeline. Meeting discipline drives the Time Bandits crazy.
  6. Create white space on your calendar. Don’t schedule meetings or events back to back. Your team needs time to prepare for follow-up from meetings. Set aside time for email — don’t send and answer messages continuously throughout the day. Lead by example. Set yourself free.

Killing Time Bandits will give you more time for your clients and customers. With more control of your time, you can now call one of them every day to see how they value what you’re doing for them — and learn more about what you’re not doing that you could do better. Use your new found time to think strategically and to listen to your team, customers, and suppliers. Killing Time Bandits will go straight to the bottom line.

There’s no time like the present to go on the attack. Let us know how we can help you take better control of your time. Enjoy the journey!