4 Leadership Habits to Schedule

During my bout with the flu when my husband was proceeding to tell me about how busy his calendar was, he showed it to me on his phone later.  He actually did this while we were in the emergency room while I was hooked up to an IV that was administering fluids and nausea drugs to me while I waited to be admitted.  Hey, there is only so much you can talk about in the ER.  I was somewhat out of it (go figure) but talking about his schedule for the week reminded me of some good habits we ought to schedule as leaders:

1. Write one handwritten note to thank someone each week.  His calendar had “write notes” scheduled in a fifteen-minute time block one day a week. I didn’t ask but I know this is a reoccurring “appointment”. I know this means he is to write two notes thanking someone on his team or one of his colleagues at work for a job well done. He started this habit several years ago and has stuck with it.

Go order a box of fifty personalized notecards and write one a week each week through the year. You’ll know you’ve met your goal if you run out before the end of the year.

2. Check in with your team regularly in group and one-on-one sessions.  He starts his day off at 6:30 am every morning with a fifteen-minute meeting with one of the departments he manages. It helps them know what happened the previous day and night (he works for a hospital, so they are never closed) and to make sure everyone is on the same page for what needs to be accomplished that day.

He also had a couple of one-on-one meetings with direct reports on his calendar. These are scheduled monthly in one-hour meetings.  He also had his one-on-one meeting with his boss on his calendar. I like that this is the standard that all leaders follow in the organization. He also had a bi-weekly executive team meeting on his calendar that is also the standard for the organization.

Schedule time to regularly check in with your people at intervals that make sense for you and your team. I do a monthly lunch with each person on my team, and we have quarterly group meetings. Daily meetings aren’t needed for the type of work we do, but they are needed in short intervals for the work one department my husband manages. Figure out what is right for you and put it on your calendar and stick to it.

3. Professional Development Time. When I was in the hospital sick, one thing my husband was trying to get out of going to was a training on time management. Granted, he had a valid excuse to not go because I was in the hospital, but all he had to do was walk down the hall to attend and I didn’t need him.  I actually wanted to go listen in more than he did to calibrate the training content he was getting against what we use for time management training content. Nevertheless, he has quarterly two-hour professional development trainings that are incorporated into his calendar.

Professional development often gets pushed aside in our schedule, but it is necessary for so many reasons and it can be done in so many different ways. We schedule one major conference for professional development for everyone on our team each year and then talk quarterly about “continuous improvement and learning” (one of our company values) goal for each person.  It could be as simple as researching certifications in a field of interest to reading a book to attending some type of formal training or class.  Just like your cadence of meetings with your team, figure out the professional development cadence that works for you and schedule it.

4. Planning Time. My husband had time blocked off on his calendar to prepare and plan for certain things. A meeting on a Friday, for example, might prompt an hour time block on the Wednesday before to gather materials and prep for that meeting. He is diligent about not walking into anything unprepared.

I’m not as good as scheduling these prep blocks of time, but I find sitting down on Friday afternoons or Sunday afternoons and plotting out the three main things I need to get done for the week and the other tasks that need to get accomplished is important. The week goes much better when I keep this habit. I put the goals/to-dos on a calendar for the week while looking at what meetings are scheduled. This helps me to mentally block adequate time off to get the important things accomplished. If I’m not best suited to do it or I don’t have time to do it, this is the time that I delegate tasks and schedule time for follow-up with the person I’ve delegated the task/goal to if necessary. We also use a CRM/Project Management system Insightly to help with this.

Start scheduling time to express gratitude, to lead well, to grow professionally, and to plan – all habits that a leader should have on their calendars. And quite possibly, in that order. If you aren’t doing any of these things now, start with gratitude, then add the next habit once you’ve made gratitude a reflex.

Where are you lacking in one (or more) of these areas when you look at your calendar? Where are you excelling in scheduling these leadership habits?

Mary Ila Ward

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