As legal leaders reflect on the new demands of their role in the light of the pandemic, how do you create the extra time you need to answer the increasing expectations of customers, commercial colleagues and your team members? How do you make a difference to the future, as well as managing today? With many of us facing continued challenges in terms of balancing caring and domestic responsibilities as well as work, putting in longer hours is not necessarily the answer. Here are our top tips to help you increase your impact and work smarter, not harder.
Be a smarter manager…
Leading a team remotely can be more difficult, without time together, bonds can loosen and the team dynamic change. Similarly your one-to-one relationships with direct reports need more conscious nurturing.
1. If you haven’t already, schedule a daily or weekly video conference check-in or Huddle. Make attendance every time optional but watch out for people who aren’t joining – they may need extra one-to-one support. Keep it short and use it for people to share updates and ask for help on projects or decisions.
2. If you are already hosting these, ask for feedback – are there too many? Not enough? Does everyone feel heard? Make sure you ask in writing, so that people who might not want to contribute on the call can share their views.
3. Make sure your team aren’t overloaded. Read our blog here for our guide to prioritising and re-routing work.
4. Role-model behaviour that helps your team to manage their work/life balance and look after their mental health. Talk about and share any resources you find helpful, take time off and be open about how you are managing.
5. Be aware of each of your team members’ different circumstances and their outlook. At times of stress or extreme workload, it is easy to focus on the tasks at hand rather than our people. Take a conscious action to reflect on each team member’s needs and responsibilities. Are you confident that you are being realistic and respectful in terms of your expectations? If not, where can you make adjustments?
Be a smarter collaborator…
It’s human nature to over-participate and it’s the easiest path to burnout. Put aside an hour to look at your workload & your diary. Switch off your ego and ask yourself the following questions for each “to-do” or event
1.What is my role in this project or meeting? If it’s not clear, clarify it with the rest of the team. Are you a contributor, an advisor or a decision-maker?
2. Does this project or meeting really need me? If the answer is “no”, bow out.
3. Does this project or meeting really need this much of me? If the answer is “no”, participate only as much as you need to or ask for regular updates.
4. Do we have a common and worthwhile objective? If the answer is “no”, be the person that helps to define it, or bow out.
5. Are the right people working on this project? If the answer is “no”, re-shape the team or review your external supplier/advisor.
Be a smarter contributor…
Make the time you have to spend on actually doing work as productive as it can be by being fiercely protective of your “GSD” (get stuff done) hours.
1. Block out GSD time in your calendar and treat it as you would a meeting with a VIP
2. Try to schedule this for when you are at your most productive – are you a lark or an owl?
3. Switch off email and messenger notifications during GSD time – you can put an out of office on with instructions to text you if something is truly urgent
4. Identify your natural rhythm and take regular short breaks, try the pomodoro method or similar
5. Be honest with yourself about the time a task will take and plan accordingly.
Be a smarter business leader…
Your visibility within the organisation has never been more important. Leading a dispersed workforce, especially when some are working on-site and some remotely, requires you to communicate with greater clarity to make an impact.
1. Reflect on the wider issues facing your organisation and pick the area you feel you can make the most personal impact on. This might be a focus on inclusion and tackling inequality, on new risks, on customer-centricity – – what is it that you feel passionate about?
2.Set out your vision for your team for the next six months and be clear about what you aim to deliver and why it’s important.
3. At every opportunity, reiterate how your passion and vision are shaping the decisions you are making, action you take and the work you and your team are delivering.
4. Say “no” to discretionary projects and activities that don’t further your vision, however worthwhile they are. Be constructive and helpful when you do, but don’t dilute your impact by taking on too much.
5. Make time to seek out feedback, from within your team and outside it. This could be as simple as ring-fencing five minutes at the end of your 1:1 meetings with your reports. Or inviting yourself to join a team meeting in another area of the business. Flex your plans and vision where you need to, based on what you hear.
Be smarter outside work…
You will not be effective at work if you are not looking after yourself and your life away from work.
1. Don’t sacrifice sleep. If you genuinely only need four hours a night, then great. The fact is most of us don’t and performance is impaired by loss of sleep.
2. Guard your personal time. Human brains are not good at multitasking. Avoid the temptation to fire off an email at breakfast time and instead focus on quality time away from work.
3. Fake your commute. For many of us, the physical transition between home and work was a space to refresh. Leave the house for a walk, jog or even sit in the garden for 30 minutes at the end of your day and resist the urge to go back online.
4. Drink water. Dehydration impairs mental performance. Get a fresh glass every hour.
5. Do your best. It won’t be perfect. Sometimes you will feel you are letting other people down. Sometimes you’ll see peers, especially on social media, and think they’re doing better. That’s OK. Just bring the best you can to each hour you have. Find our blog on avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism here.
Find our interview with Ian Hacon, wellness expert and CEO of energise.me here for more advice.
We hope at least one or two of these tips help you to be the best that you can be and thank you for taking some of your precious time to read this piece.