Developing yourself, and the business, takes time and tenacity. 

And one of the best ways of ensuring you get the best from yourself is by using the importance / urgency matrix developed originally by General (later President) Eisenhower and represented in the image above… but, I can’t help thinking, hopefully not too arrogantly, there is a bit missing from Eisenhower’s model and that is – developing others…

Let’s look at the big picture first and then dig a bit deeper into the detail…

The big picture

One of the most inspiring stories I have heard about the route to success was about Anne, a friend of a friend, she started with a very large engineering consultancy company as a trainee and last I heard made it all the way to deputy chief executive… we haven’t spoken in a while, so could well now be in the top slot!

She swears by the Pareto principle, the law of the vital few over the trivial many, otherwise called the 80/20 rule.  She has applied it with dedication and rigour.  In short, the Pareto principle suggests that 80% of your results will come from just 20% of your efforts, whereas, the remaining 80% of your efforts delivers just 20% of your results.  So, if you can establish and focus on the 20% of activities that give you most bang for your buck, the best results for your precious time, and jettison the 80% of the activities that deliver just a small part of your results, you can become both more effective and more efficient very quickly.

But, how do you do that? …fundamentally, it’s got to be about developing your team to a point where you can never use the excuse “I might as well do “X, Y or Z” myself”.

I personally think one of the greatest privileges of being an owner manager is that you have cart blanche to really focus on doing do the things that you really love, and if you focus on the things you love, you’re likely to be happy, fulfilled and very successful.

And, if you focus on the things that you love and can develop others around you, so they focus on the things they love, you’ll have a glorious recipe for success.   Word is “develop” not “dump”, it will take time, it won’t happen first time, but it can happen in time.

So that’s the big picture what are the mechanics of making it work?

The detail 

Planning and thinking time 

Planning and thinking time are the initial and correspondingly critical components of the mix.  You need to know your objectives, that is your personal objectives and your business objectives, as the mechanics of making a process like this work is to be confident that you start with the end in mind.  You know where you’re headed and have a plan to get there.  There is absolutely no point in climbing the ladder only to find out that you placed your ladder against … the wrong wall!

As a result, your personal objectives need to be placed in the context of your overall plan, the detail of which has been discussed on previous occasions, you might like to check out:

Once you have undertaken your planning and thinking time and you’re clear about the overall objectives, it would be useful to undertake, and perhaps verify with others, an activity inventory.

The activity inventory looks at the tasks that you are undertaking over any given period, so is likely to be different for different periods; day, week, month and quarter and it seeks to establish:

  • The percentage of time allocated to each task
  • Your level of competence
  • Your level of enjoyment

In undertaking the above you can determine the tasks that take large chunks of your time and over time, systematically develop others to undertake them for you so you get to focus more and more on the things you love.  The more you enjoy something the better at it you are likely to be but it also means that you want to be delegating and developing others to do the bits you don’t enjoy … but, they do.

Be accountable 

As an owner manager you have no one to report to, which is sometimes a big disadvantage.

I remember being told by my first proper boss, a great guy called Pete Davies (who sang in a blues band for fun…very cool), that “we judge ourselves by intentions but others judge us by our actions”… what he meant was, it’s far easier to make promises to ourselves and then “conveniently” forget them, the promises we make to ourselves somehow feel less “sacred” than the promises we make to others.

It’s all too easy to make excuses especially if you are the owner or manager, so I think one of the single biggest influences on how you develop yourself is having somebody to make you accountable.  This is exactly why I have a business coach… he pushes, cajoles and generally harasses me (to distraction)… but it ensures we push the business forward.

Having someone that will hold your feet to the fire is an incredibly powerful weapon in your personal development armoury. 

Plan your day before it starts 

Given that you’ve had your thinking time and done your planning you should know what your big goals are.  I remember years ago when I undertook a master’s in business administration, reading a paper that said most executives, with profit responsibility, said they spent most of their time “planning, organising and coordinating”.  However, the researchers then examined the same people and found that the average time between one task and the next was a massive 6 minutes!  That’s not a lot of time for planning, organising and coordinating!

The point is most leaders get “hijacked” almost as soon as they walk through the organisational door.  You need to plan your focus.

Focus on your major outcomes everyday 

You need to plan your day to be absolutely sure, and focused on, what you need to get done.

I don’t think there’s any point in pretending that you’re not going to get hijacked but if you have done your planning and you are clear about your major outcomes for the day and have planned time in the diary to execute them, you stand a significantly better chance on delivering them.


I’m pretty sure I’ve said before, the one job of leadership is to develop others in order to make yourself redundant, which is exactly what you need to do if you want to get the best for yourself.  If you take the view that you are the only person that can do certain things you will never going to be free of the need to do everything yourself.

You need to spend time working out what you love doing and not “just” delegating, but properly developing your people to a point where they, and you, are confident that they can execute the task better than you ever could.  That’s a process that’s going to take time effort and maybe money but it’s time effort and money that will be incredibly well spent.

Order to get the most from yourself you need to invest in others so that frees up your time to get even more from yourself… a virtuous (not vicious) circle.

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