If you think most good leaders are extraordinarily busy, think again. The best leaders might have a tight schedule or calendar but they also maximize their efforts to maintain margin for opportunities and situations that come up. They know well that being available is critical for the forward motion of the company and success in staying in tune with those ever-present changes that can happen in a competitive market.
One basic rule good leaders follow is “Handle It Once.” In almost every assessment center battery of challenges there is always one, or even several, exercises that rate a candidate’s ability to prioritize and handle the onslaught of information that is thrown at him or her. This also tests the candidate’s ability to perform under stress. “Handle It Once” involves individual assessment of information, dealing with it, and moving on. Anything else is a waste of time. There may be some circumstances where several pieces of information might be linked, and therefore, require the ability to connect the dots and deal with the situation in an appropriate manner. For instance, an Inbox note from a subordinate several tiers down might leave a memo requesting a personal conference regarding clarification on the organization’s sexual harassment policy. A voicemail message from the same subordinate’s immediate supervisor indicates his request to see you regarding this same employee with an unspecified topic. Clearly, before responding to the employee the supervisor needs to be contacted first. Most prioritization exercises only require the channeling of action to those who can take immediate action, i.e. day off/vacation requests, training requests, etc.
Leaders can easily get bogged down with a myriad of details and need to address situations immediately and then move on to those things that advance the mission so the organization can be successful and/or profitable. “Handle It Once” is another tool in the leader’s toolbox that helps ensure margin is maintained. Show me an organization that has leadership from within that has margin for situations and practices simple exercises like “Handle It Once” and I’ll show you a leadership team that is one step ahead of the less organized competition and has longevity in the field.