Why LinkedIn's CEO Schedules Time To Do 'Nothing' Every Day?
By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International
CEOs and senior leaders need to invest the necessary time and effort in themselves every day in order to lead more effectively.
Imagine for a moment that you're the CEO of a business that is going global. You're swarmed by people asking for your help; your time, your expertise, your opinion. Watching your inbox is like seeing a surge of flood water coming your way and your to-do list seems to be rising at a similar rate!
Meanwhile, you're the person who's ultimately responsible for ensuring that thousands of people are led effectively so that they are doing meaningful work and also get paid each month. To top all that, the reputation of the business depends on you and your ability to lead - any bad decisions made and you're publically shamed. Sounds pretty exhausting, right?!?
Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn; he has been in the role since the end of 2008 and been responsible for leading the business through massive change that has included its acquisition by Microsoft. In spite of the constant demands and pressures, he deliberately schedules at least 90 minutes each day to do nothing.
"In aggregate, I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks)."
- Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
1. A CEO Can't Solve Every Problem!
The bigger an organisation gets, the more problems it will naturally face as it touches the lives of more people; staff, customers and other stakeholders. Ever heard the expression 'it's easier if I just do it myself'? Well, whilst this can be applied on a small scale, it gets more and more challenging as things grow as Mr Weiner explains...
"It's often quicker for senior leaders to solve people's problems for them. You've amassed years of experience solving the issues being brought to you. But doing so provides short-term relief at a longer time cost. As the organisation gets larger, so too will the frequency of those issues, yet there remains only one of you.
Unless you can coach others to address challenges directly, you will quickly find yourself in a position where that's all you're doing (adding even more meetings to your day). That's no way to run a team or a company."
2. The Need To Do Your Own Thinking
As CEO, the buck stops with you! In his role as a leader, Jeff Weiner sees the critical importance to be able to see the bigger picture. If he does not take the time to do this, then the consequences are that he'll spend more time trying to fight fires than build a compelling vision for the organisation to follow...
"Thinking, if done properly, requires uninterrupted focus; thoroughly developing and questioning assumptions; synthesizing all of the data, information and knowledge that's incessantly coming your way; connecting dots, bouncing ideas off of trusted colleagues; and iterating through multiple scenarios.
In other words, it takes time. And that time will only be available if you carve it out for yourself. Conversely, if you don't take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it. The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with."
3. The Need To Empower Others
Mr Weiner recognises that if you hop from one meeting to the next, then you will not be properly prepared to mentor someone to find their own solutions in line with the company's vision. It requires more thinking and reflection to lead someone to the place where they can solve their own issues...
"Learning what makes people tick -- their unique perspectives, fears, motivations, team dynamics, etc. -- and properly coaching them to the point that they can not only solve the issue on their own the next time around, but successfully coach their own team takes far more time than telling them what to do.
The only way to sustainably make that investment in people is by not jumping from one meeting to the next but rather carving out the time to properly coach those who stand to benefit from it the most. Equally if not more importantly, is taking time in between those meetings to recharge. I want to ensure I'm at my best when coaching the next person who needs it."
4. The Need To Look After Yourself
Leading requires investing a considerable amount of energy which cannot be sustained if there is no time invested to renew and assess your progress. Mr Weiner reveals a trap we can fall into if we try to do everything...
"Above all else, the most important reason to schedule buffers is to just catch your breath.
There is no faster way to feel as though your day is not your own, and that you are no longer in control, than scheduling meetings back to back from the minute you arrive at the office until the moment you leave.
I've felt the effects of this and seen it with colleagues. Not only is it not fun to feel this way, it's not sustainable."
Quite an insight right?!!
What Mr Weiner has discovered is that we can actually achieve more with less effort if we know where our attention and focus needs to be placed! If we act in a way where we believe that we have to do everything, then we will either limit the impact we can make or we will burn ourselves out. Taking time to reflect and do focused thinking will help us to stay in control and ensure we are in the best place to help others.
Here's Jeff Weiner's blog post on LinkedIn.
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