Adam says I'm dusty… and what a CEO should be doing

Adam’s right, it has been too long since I posted, so the blog is dusty. (Jenny, I cannot believe you haven’t nudged me too. Are you turning patient?) Speaking of what I’ve been doing, well, I’ll answer by covering the question that Om Malik asked me, when we were recently chatting in San Fran: “What should I be doing as a CEO anyway?”

If you don’t know Om, a talented and respected writer, a year or so ago struck out to start his own media group. He’s done well, even running out of ad inventory (go Om!). And he’s now not looking at himself and a handful of freelancers putting this together, but employees and larger responsibilities to partners and advertisers. Om knows well what CEO’s do, as he’s been talking with them and writing about them at Fortune and Business 2.0 for years, but the problem comes from the big grains (vision, principles, foundation) to the small grains (hours and minutes of time). Om was thinking more about the latter… whas he going the right things on the daily and hourly basis to meet his goals… and the big question… what was he missing?

Here’s my answer, based on my experience:

  • 30% should be about customers+prospective customers and their use of your product with your team.
  • 25% of your time should be with customers or key partners.
  • 10% should be spent coaching and mentoring your team.
  • 10% should be with your business’s numbers.
  • 25% should be spent working on tomorrow’s vision and innovation… which includes recruiting and org work!

This can flux a bit, but what’s important is evaluating yourself at the end of each week. How did you do? Where did you spend your time? Was it on your critical areas? What impact did you have in those areas?

I learned this approach to time management when I was working in sales. My brilliant husband taught me the principle of 1/3 of your time prospecting, 1/3 of your time moving deals through the pipeline, and 1/3 of your time closing. And yes, I need to practice it more myself!

What do you think of these time allotments? Think I’ve missed or underrepresented something?

Today, what is on my shirt:

       You have
(make each great)

9 thoughts on “Adam says I'm dusty… and what a CEO should be doing

  1. Who says I’m impatient? 😉

    I’ve attempted several emails poking you about not posting… but then guilt gets in the way for not doing as I say to do, so I don’t hit send. Clearly, I need to post more so I can bug you about it. I miss you when you aren’t posting.

    I think it’s good you gave percentages for time. If you gave hours, you’d frighten the horses.

  2. Axel says:

    “Expect the unexpected, or you won’t find it.” (Heraclit, greek philosoph).
    Give yourself some space – plan just 90% of your time ;o)

  3. How do you find that intercultural challenges affect the recommended percentages?

    My experience is that 10% coaching is a low estimate in multicultural contexts. It’s such an integral part of any interaction that I find it hard to pinpoint exactly how much time & energy I invest there.

  4. Jana Eggers says:

    Jenny, Ummmm… I’ve known you for a long time remember? I know you are impatient, about some things. 🙂

    Axel, yes, I agree. The 10% you are thinking of I’d put in the 25% on innovation + vision. I’m bad at leaving that time to be clear.

    Molly, again, I agree. I see coaching as “living”, meaning it happens all the time, so any time with the team is coaching. Regarding multi-cultural aspects, gosh, this depends on the day for me. Sometimes, I think they are big, and other times, I feel they are just the same issues in a different context, i.e., people are people… which means, it is multi-dimensional, layered. You need to remember to dive into the layers, and be up front about it. It saves time.


  5. You know, it makes me feel better knowing that someone I respect as much as Om Malik is asking questions like these. I know I definitely need to make better use of my time. I’m working constantly, to be sure, but I think I need to re-evaluate how much of it is busy work and how much of it is really moving my goals forward. I suspect it’s a bit too much of the former and that really needs to change. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. David says:

    Jana it is great to see your time allocation and in start-up/nascent businesses the percentages are probably right. However, I think the time you allocate to each category depends HUGELY on the business you’re in, the issues you are facing, the size & sophistication of your team and the make-up of your own personality.

    Two leaders can be equally successful leading a business allocating different time to different tasks. I personally would spend a lot more time with people and a little less with clients, but that is because our passion & proficiencies are different.

    Great post!!!

  7. Amie, Om is extremely thoughtful. More CEOs need to question their time… if only as a check! 🙂 Happy to inspire.

    David, I completely agree that time spent varies… not sure it is hugely though. You know, I’m a customer-focused person. I believe that brings up the right types of businesses. CEOs should be spending time with customers. Too many have no idea what customers want and need, so how can they make the day-to-day, as well as strategic decisions they have to? They need to really understand, not just understand from someone else’s perspective. Also, time spent with customers should be at least 75% with your team as well. It should not be an “exclusive” to be sitting with the CEO and a customer. Team members should be there, as this gives the CEO the ability to see how team members interact with customers too.

    As always, thanks for the perspectives!!! 🙂

  8. I stumbled here from a google search of “tappers and listeners” trying to learn more about Elizabeth Newton’s experiment.

    I’m just a frontline grunt in a science publish environment (an intellecutually bereft one at that so excuse my disgruntled tone), but how does a CEO prevent the too common disconnect with the grunts (one manifestation of the problem of tappers and listeners)?

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