How CEOs Manage Time, Customer Pains: How Airbnb’s CEO Discovered Them & TV Can Make You Entrepreneurial
16 July 2023 Newsletter
“Wherever you place your attention is where you’re placing your energy”
– Dr. Joe Dispenza
Hope you’re Thriving!
I’ve enjoyed some time off this past week. It’s been great to slow down, spend time with the family and reconnect with nature. This was a theme in last week’s newsletter about ‘the real reason we are tired and what to do about it’.
Thank you to those of you who emailed me about this; it seemed to have struck a chord with our culture of high achieving, high producing chronically tired, burned-out individuals. We must understand rest and time management if we’re going to live meaningful, productive lives.
How CEOs Manage Time
According to Warren Buffet, time is the most valuable thing in the world. In this 90-second video, Bill Gates discusses how he learned the importance of time management from Warren Buffet and why protecting your calendar is one of the most important habits you should work toward.
So how do we do that so that we can become more effective?
In 2006, Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria launched a study tracking how large companies’ CEOs spent their time, 24/7, for 13 weeks: where they were, with whom, what they did, and what they were focusing on. They gathered 60,000 hours’ worth of data on 27 executives, interviewing them—and hundreds of other CEOs—about their schedules.
Here are some of my top takeaways to consider;
- Every meeting should have a clear agenda, and to minimise repetition, attendees should come prepared. Effective CEOs spread these meeting norms throughout the organisation.
- CEOs need to cordon off meaningful amounts of alone time and avoid dissipating it by dealing with immediate matters, especially their inboxes.
- They slept, on average, 6.9 hours a night, and many had regular exercise regimens, which consumed about 9% of their nonwork hours (or about 45 minutes a day). To sustain the intensity of the job, CEOs need to train—just as elite athletes do. That means allocating time for health, fitness, and rest.
- CEOs should recognise that the majority of emails cover issues that needn’t involve them and often draw them into the operational weeds.
- On average CEOs spent 43% of their total time on their quarterly priorities, working toward their agenda to achieve for the quarter.
- The number one regret was not setting high-enough standards in selecting direct reports. Direct reports who could manage the status quo were often not the ones who could help the CEO take the company to a new level.
- Spending time with employees and customers to reliably gain information is a major challenge.
Read the article here: How CEOs Manage Time
How Airbnb CEO Learned Customer Pains
As we scale our businesses, we often implement systems to solve or avoid problems.
But are these systems creating customer pains?
Or have they passed their used-by date?
Often leaders can be consumed by the day-to-day, as outlined in the article above, and can get stuck in the ‘ivory tower’, oblivious to the problems and frustrations experienced by staff and customers. I mean, have you ever tried to contact your bank or phone company? These may be extreme examples, but these issues aren’t limited to large enterprises and can be problematic even for small to medium businesses. Indeed the article above states, “CEOs face a real risk of operating in a bubble and never seeing the actual world their workers face”.
At Gazelles and in Scaling Up, we spoke about the 4Q conversations where executives are asked the following and report back to the leadership team.
- How are you doing?
- What’s going on in your industry / neighbourhood?
- What do you hear about our competitors?
- How are we doing?
This simple-to-follow formula provides something that market research or mystery shoppers can’t – it enables executives to hear directly from customers and feel the frustrations and pains they’re experiencing.
This week, I came across an interesting article about Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and how he addressed this issue. Now Airbnb has copped a lot of flack in recent years, and some of it rightly earned. So Chesky realised during the pandemic that he could work from anywhere, so he decided to go and stay at Airbnb’s as a customer.
However, the idea of a frontline CEO is not unique to Airbnb, especially as companies re-evaluate their post-pandemic business model amid cultural and inflationary pressures. Laxman Narasimhan, who took over as CEO of Starbucks in March, said in a letter to employees that he planned to take barista shifts once a month. And Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi got behind the wheel and moonlighted as a driver during the pandemic, which led him to “re-evaluate every single assumption that we’ve made”.
The result for Airbnb? They released over 50 new improvements based on the customer pains that Chesky experienced.
The TV You Watch When You’re Young Can Make You More Entrepreneurial
There are many perspectives on how to parent effectively. And if you’re interested in advocating entrepreneurship for your children, perspectives and passions can run strong. Is it nature or nurture I discussed only a month ago in this newsletter.
In an interesting study released by the University of Groningen and Viktor Slavtchev, a researcher with the German government, he studied TV signals in East Germany from the 1960s to 1989 and individual and local rates of entrepreneurship there after German reunification. They found that people in households with access to West German broadcasts were more likely than other East Germans to launch companies later in life.
In the period they analysed, 1993 to 2016, the rate of business creation was more than 10% higher in areas that had received broadcast signals from West Germany. It was greatest among people who were children or young adults when they’d watched the Western shows. And it persisted: The parts of the former East Germany that got TV signals from West Germany are still more entrepreneurial than those that didn’t.
The conclusion: The TV you watch when you’re young can make you more entrepreneurial.
Read the article here: The TV You Watch When You’re Young Can Make Your More Entrepreneurial
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