Great leadership comes down to one thing; making and implementing good decisions. Make more good decisions than bad, and you win. Make more bad than good ones, and you’ll struggle.
We often think it’s the big sweeping strategic decisions that matter most to your success. Certainly, they have an impact. However, there’s one micro-decision you make countless times a day that will ultimately determine your success.
The average leader gets 120 work-related emails a day or 15 per hour in an average eight-hour day according to the marketing automation company Campaign Monitor. Add to the mix the countless IM messages and notifications from the various systems you use to run your team, and the number of text-based ‘pings’ the typical leader gets per day grows significantly.
Each of those interruptions requires you to make the decision, ‘what do I do with this?’
Make the right choice and you empower your people and give yourself the head space to think creatively about the long-term. Make the wrong choice and you end up mired in the weeds of the day-to-day actions and tactics.
Great leaders are intentional about processing their interruptions in a way that keeps them focused on doing the work that has the most impact. Here are the six options you have at your disposal and the most appropriate circumstances to use them.
Do this when the information is either completely useless or it’s a quick update. Delete it, don’t think twice, and enjoy the rest of your day.
This is when the information has some use. You don’t need to do anything with it now, nor is there a specific thing you might have to do with it in the future, but you can see that a circumstance could emerge where the information is helpful or valuable.
In other words, you want to keep it as reference material. In this instance, file it away under an appropriate digital folder.
This information does require an action either by someone else or by you, but you either don’t have all the pieces you need in place to set that action in motion, or you deem it non-urgent and something you can initiate at a later date.
Be sure to specify the date to which you’re going to defer the action and set an appropriate reminder. If there is a specific piece of information you need or a preceding task that you’re waiting on, you should make explicit reference to that.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing this with the notion that you’ll deal with it later. Deferring an actionable item should be an intentional decision in itself with clear parameters around it.
Now we’re getting into the real work. Of everything that remains, the majority of it should fall into this bucket. A good rule of thumb to follow is of everything actionable that comes across your desk, you should delegate 80 percent of it and take on the remaining 20 percent yourself.
This is tough for most leaders to get right as it requires them to slow down a little and be more intentional about the decision they’re making, but it pays in spades in the long run.
The best way to find your 80/20 balance is to ask yourself for every new ask that comes into your team ‘Is this something that someone on my team could do even if they required a little advice, guidance, and coaching?’ If the answer is yes, then you should take the time to delegate it effectively.
The remaining items are those tasks, actions, and activities where you genuinely bring value to your team and organization. These should be the things that only you can do. Put them into your regular to-do system and have at it.
Don’t Do Anything.
Of course, you have the option to simply look at the email (or IM, text, etc.) and say to yourself you’ll come back to it at another time, but it’s not something I’d recommend. It’s typically an excuse you use when you don’t want to do the hard work of deciding one of the five options above and only leads to additional work and brainpower further down the line.