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Be remembered for what you do, not just what you promise to do

As a project manager, one of the things I enjoyed most was seeing a plan come together into a finished product.  Last month in the sphinxx Take the Lead mentoring programYvonne Butler talked about the important role that implementation plays in leadership.  Yvonne pointed out that the best leaders are remembered for their results rather than their strategy.  That is, they become famous for what they actually do; not just what they say they’ll do.

Think about Jack Welch.  Would his strategy of being number 1 or number 2 in any market have made him famous if he never actually implemented it?  Of course not.  GE would have remained a good company but not a world leading company.  It became a leading company because it’s leader, Jack Welch, delivered results consistently.

We are all good at coming up with ideas (also called strategies, if they’re business ideas), but how good are you at translating your ideas into outcomes?  Is it something that comes naturally; or is your “to do” list getting longer by the day as you add new tasks without ever getting them finished?

It’s never been truer that there’s so much to do and so little time.  But how effectively are you using the time that you have?

For example, do you regularly get to the end of the day and think “wow, I achieved more than I expected today”?  Or have you ever reflected at the end of the day that it feels like you haven’t achieved anything at all?  If you’re working in CorporateLand you’ll know what I mean:  back to back meetings, spot fires to put out and what is it with all these people issues that seem to crop up every day and detract from actually getting stuff done?

So how can we as leaders get more effective at our “doing”?  I reckon it comes down to 7 key behaviours – you can read about them here and if you’re really serious about getting better at getting stuff done, then come along to the sphinxx development day on 21st May and I’ll show you how to do just that:


  • Structure your work into thinking time and doing time.


A partner in a professional services firm told me recently that he works from home one day a week – partly so he can spend time with his young children, but also so he can step away from the buzz of doing and give real thought to how he can lead his business more effectively.  His days in the office are doing time; and his day at home is thinking time (and playing time too – but don’t forget we learn the most when we’re having fun!) 


  • Set more deadlines.  If you’ve ever worked side by side with working mums you may have noticed how efficient they can be and how they seem to get through so much more in far less time that the average mere mortal.  I reckon it’s because they have the ultimate deadline: they must be at that childcare centre before it closes at 6pm!  Work will expand to fill the time you allocate to it; so if you regularly set deadlines and work to them, you’ll find yourself able to get much more stuff done.
  • Constantly recalibrate your to do list.  What I mean here is that you need to prioritise and re-prioritise on a regular basis.  Your to do list is like a project manager’s gant chart: every day when you review it you’re looking to determine which of your activities is the most important today, and what is the most logical and productive order to do them in.  You may be able to buy time just by grouping tasks or changing the order you do them in – such as making all your follow up calls and business development activities at once so you can use the same analysis or enter your contacts more efficiently into your contact management system.
  • Start things once.  Related to the previous point, this one is about doing the right things at the right time.  If you can sit down and do something from start to finish all in one sitting, you’ll save a load more time that you will by picking it up and putting it down over several different sittings.  This might mean that you don’t start it til you’re ready and have the time to do the whole task; or it may mean putting off other things you were planning to do so you can focus on getting this one task done.  For me this is my most effective time management technique – it just works a treat!
  • Call in favours.  I reckon blokes are particularly good at this and I’ve learned a lot from the men I’ve worked with about how to ask for help without looking like you’re palming everything off to someone else!  But really what this is about is using your network to multiply your productivity.  We already have more in our job description than one person can possibly complete.  So as you’re working through your to do list, think about each task and consider who do you know who might be able to share some tips or short cuts or put you in contact with resources to help you get the job done.  Then call them and ask if you can have a few minutes of their time to share their expertise.  It’s such a compliment for the person you’re calling to be framed up as the expert that their ego simply won’t be able to resist giving you a hand!   You’ll be on your way to the finish line in no time at all, and you’ll probably have caught up with at least one person you’ve been meaning to call for the past 6 months anyway!
  • Get real about what you’re taking on.  Really, are you sure you want to put your hand up to organise the Christmas in July party this year?  Is it really where you should be spending your time and effort, or could you save yourself a lot of hassle and heartache by simply saying “no, I’m afraid I can’t help this time”.  We women have a tendency to take on a lot more than we need to and it often comes back to bite us.  And just because you say yes in the heat of the moment, it doesn’t mean you can’t retract your offer later.   Take a good look at your to do list and decide whether everything on it is a value adding activity to you or someone important to you.  If not, perhaps it’s time to give it the flick and cross it off your list for good.
  • Delegate.  Don’t forget that even if you’re responsible for certain outcomes, it doesn’t mean you have to deliver it all on your own.  There are people on your immediate or virtual team who can help, and who may well be more efficient and effective than you in delivering the outcome anyway!  The key success factor in delegating is to do it early in the process so you allow a reasonable time frame for the task to be completed and you can review progress to ensure the work is tracking as you expect.


These are just my thoughts to get us started.  But you’re the experts – so can you do me a favour and share your top tips for getting stuff done?


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