Manage yourself before others

On Saturday I attended the National Achievers Congress where the local and international speakers ranged from Janine Allis through to Sir Richard Branson. While each of the presenters where able to impart their area of expertise, what became apparent to me were the strengths they shared – the ability to have a vision, focus on it and execute the vision exceptionally well.

Now this got me thinking about great leaders we see in the workplace. You know the guys who seem to operate with a level of calmness, while achieving great results by thinking strategically and executing tactically. They even also somehow find a way to often anticipate and address challenges and threats. And what shared strength do these guys have? I believe their success is underpinned by the ability to manage themselves.

It’s probably fair to assume that Richard Branson has a team of people who plan and coordinate his every move. The volume of work he gets through is quite amazing though. Take Saturday for example where before speaking at the National Achievers Congress Richard Branson:

  • Visited a prison who are piloting the concept of rehabilitating prisoners by providing an environment where they can directly interact by helping their children with their homework over the internet
  • Launched the latest Virgin Active Health Club (I had no idea Virgin are also into the fitness industry!!) in Melbourne while announcing plans for tripling expansion in the next 3 years
  • Shared with the press his view of supporting healthier eating by placing a tax on sugar

I know you’re thinking if I had the resources at my disposal that Richard Branson does then I’d also be able to manage myself while making major achievements. And you probably could but not everyone can. Remember the perceived leadership failings of Kevin Rudd included his working style of expecting others to work the hours he did (Kevin 24/7) and the view he was a manic micro manager.

Whether you are a manager or not, what can you do to manage yourself? Four tips to consider:

  • Schedule your work – your calendar doesn’t just include meetings with others (often referred to as other peoples meetings) but also meetings with yourself where you are actioning your important work
  • Prioritise – based on what has the greatest impact which doesn’t necessarily mean what is the most urgent or who is yelling the loudest
  • Plan for the proactive and reactive – most of us have a reactive component of our jobs (you know the things we can’t anticipate but generally happen ie. customer phone calls, queries etc) Unless we plan for reactive activity as well then we either need to work longer hours or something will get squeezed out
  • Reduce noise with your email – don’t live in your inbox (I’m yet to see a job description stating to check your emails 20 - 30 times an hour yet many of us do!!), turn off incoming email alerts to reduce interruptions, use rules to filter the volume (are there certain emails you can direct automatically to specific folders?) You might be surprised how much more work you can get done by getting on top of your email

Motivated and driven is how Wagga business woman Simone Eyles felt after meeting Richard Branson. Simone says Richard told her the key to working well is to be productive so there is more time to “have fun and party.”

And I believe that managing ourselves better underpins our ability to be more productive and impact others in a positive way.