Leadership

Are You Killing Your Productivity?

3 easy ways to pull back from day-to-day tasks at your company and put your focus where it's most needed

Written by Phoebe Fung

At a certain point on a company’s growth trajectory, the CEO starts to get in the way.

When I first started my company, it was relatively easy for me to stay on top of all the details. Now, with three businesses in three locations—and 62 employees spread between them—the reality has finally sunk in that I can’t do it all.

As an entrepreneur, there’s a good chance you’re hard-wired to want to do things yourself, especially if you’ve built the business from the ground up. But as your organization grows, you no longer have the luxury of doing all things.

You simply can’t be involved in every small detail of running of the business—no matter how much you may want to do so. You need to make tough choices about how to spend your time.

I recently spoke about this challenge with Sean Durfy, corporate strategy speaker and former CEO and president of WestJet. He put it best: “Do the things that you’re good at, and hire or delegate others to do the rest.” Essentially, your business is successful because of the things you do well; not because you do everything. And knowing when to step away is a crucial milestone on the growth trajectory.

I’m learning to do just that. Here are three lessons I’ve learned about removing myself from the day-to-day:

Related: 5 Ways to Delegate More Effectively

1. Do what’s best for the business, not just what’s best for you

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is the face time I have with our guests. I love doing it. In fact, when I first opened in 2008, I would spend five nights a week at my wine bar, interacting with guests.

But it’s not the only thing I’m good at; I’m also good at running the business. And now, with three operations demanding my attention, it’s no longer practical for me to spend so much time on the “fun” parts of my work. I’ve had to step back to focus on the behind-the-scenes orchestration required to keep things running smoothly.

It wasn’t actually benefiting the business to have me interacting with clients all the time. In fact, it was draining my energies from the work that really needed my attention.

So, I’ve hired managers who are more than capable of being the “face” of the business. And, besides, I didn’t give it all up. I still spend two nights a week out on the floor of my bars.

2. Play favourites in developing staff

I believe there is nothing more important than a leader coaching for performance. It means that you care about your employee, and that you can keep your finger on the pulse of their performance to match your targets. But you can’t be a hands-on mentor to everyone, nor can you spend all of your time coaching.

You’ve heard the term “management by exception”? I prefer the phrase “manage with purpose,” which means spending more time on developing some employees than others. So, I no longer coach all staff. I’ve learned that it’s most useful to spend my mentoring time on only a few specific areas.

The first is my direct reports—and that usually means teaching them how to coach their own teams. I’ve set up my organization with dotted-line relationships for junior and senior managers, in which the senior managers have weekly coaching sessions with their junior managers; it’s part of the senior managers’ performance contracts to do so. The feedback so far has been positive and has helped to create the culture of mentorship and teamwork I’ve envisioned.

I also get involved in coaching staff in areas of the business that are struggling. When my analysis of weekly performance indicators suggests that certain staffers are struggling, I’ll get involved directly in helping them to change course—always in a constructive way, of course.

Most important, I always take time to celebrate milestones and successes. Everyone likes to be celebrated, after all, especially when it comes from the top.

3. Block out time for what really matters

In most operations—especially in people-intensive industries—it’s easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent. As CEO, you probably receive more than 200 emails, phone calls and text messages per day. The vast majority of these notifications do not require your immediate attention; some may not demand your attention at all.

It’s so easy to spend time on the wrong things.  Do you really need to take that five-minute cold call from a rep selling a product you will never use, or listen to an ad pitch when you’ve already allocated your marketing budget? It’s OK to say no. Just say it nicely.

Related: The 7 questions great delegators ask

We entrepreneurs are busy people—but we often are busy working on the wrong things.  We can’t create more time in a day, but we can spend the time we have working on the things that will make a difference.

I learned how to master the seemingly endless to-do list years ago, when I was still working at a multinational firm. The president would colour-code his daily and monthly agendas based on his top priorities related to strategy, operations and people. He’d review his agenda religiously—and make adjustments regularly—to make sure he was spending the right amount of time on the right things. It was an agenda with purpose.

Taking control of my agenda has been one of the most useful things I’ve done in running my business. How does it work?

I block out times in my calendar to deal with specific tasks, such as answering email. How many of us have stopped what we’re doing when we get the “ping” of a new message on the email? We can’t help it. We’re action addicts. But it takes an average of 11 minutes to get back to what you were working on if you are interrupted.

It’s so much more efficient to create blocks of time to work on specific tasks. So, I got rid of the temptation. I regularly set my email to work offline, and only look at it during the time I’ve blocked out in my daily calendar. Try it. You’ll be surprised how much more efficient and effective you become.

You can apply the same approach to other parts of your business. Block off time for check-ins with your key managers—in person, if you can swing it.

And block off time to give good, uninterrupted thought to your firm’s strategy. I find it’s useful to get out of the office to do this. I also find that a glass of wine helps to get the strategic juices flowing. Hmm€¦

Want more business-building content from PROFITguide.com? Then sign up for the PROFIT Report: our daily e-newsletter full of tips and tactics for the innovative entrepreneur.

Phoebe Fung is the proprietor of Vin Room, a Calgary-based wine bar with two locations that ranked No. 25 on the 2011 PROFIT HOT 50 list of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies; proprietor of VR Wine, a boutique wine store; and a former financial executive with a multinational energy company.

More columns by Phoebe Fung

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com