The most successful leaders we come across do the same things to prepare each week. It was a startling revelation we had, noticing that success was born in the preparation of each and every week.
This week we discuss six key points we’ve observed about leaders who are successful, as they prepare for each week.
The habits successful leaders use to prepare each week
Episode 104 – The Growth Whisperers
The Growth Whisperers is a weekly podcast hosted by Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence two advisors to mid-market businesses, one Australian, one Canadian, who each work with CEOs and Leadership Teams across the world with a mission to build enduring, great companies. Each weekly episode covers interesting situations and questions from the world of strategic planning, leadership development, talent and hiring in high growth entrepreneurial companies where real results matter.
The habits successful leaders use to prepare each week
Kevin Lawrence 00:12
Welcome to the growth whispers podcast where everything we talk about is related to building enduring great companies, companies that scale and improve and get stronger as they get bigger over time. That’s what Brad and I are passionate about. And we’ll always be sharing something related to that theme. I’m Kevin Lawrence here with my co host, Brad Giles. We’re not here. He’s down under. I’m here up in Canada. And, Brad, how you doing today?
Brad Giles 00:40
Lovely, very good. I tell you what, I’m so glad that this summer is over. It has been the hottest summer ever, in where I live. And I’m delighted that Autumn is now with us. So
Kevin Lawrence 00:53
excellent. I’m glad that our winter is over because summers coming here. And I will tell you interestingly, last summer that we had here in Western Canada was the hottest summer. I think we set some records and hottest summer I ever remember in my life, it was incredibly hot. But I’m actually looking forward to some of that heat. Awesome. So what’s your word of the day today? Brad?
Brad Giles 01:19
You don’t? You’re gonna be surprised at this one smoking. So
Kevin Lawrence 01:26
let’s take it up a new habit. Yeah,
Brad Giles 01:29
and we are talking about habits today. But a habit that people sometimes take up and would like to quit is smoking, right. So smoking is a great Knology for the work that we do, about trying to get things to stick. So that you know, the reason that I say smoking is because when you want to give up smoking, they say the more times you tried to give up smoking, the better the chances that you will give up smoking. And so you try to think about all of the things that we know about building a great enduring business, you can’t do them all at once. And the more times that you try to get any one of those things to stick, the better chance you have of getting that habit to stick smoking, giving up smoking, keep trying. Keep trying, what’s yours give. Mine is
Kevin Lawrence 02:24
Disney. And the Wonderful World of Disney happiest place on earth. My daughter and I went down to LA this week, and spent a few days down in Disney and Los Angeles and just constantly reminded how amazing companies create amazing environments, which they do amazing experiences and right down to the thing with their app that allows you to, you know, pay some more money and beat lions or pre book rides. But they even they have like professional photographers everywhere. And they used to sell you the pictures. But now if you buy the app, you got professional photographers everywhere, they take your amazing thing, these amazing pictures, and they download them onto your phone onto your app, and you can have them for free. Now you can buy products and services, but just how a company has taken and create an experience. Obviously the place is packed. That is just that every little detail is so good. And you just can’t. Even though it’s the insanely massive crowd you can’t come away not feeling great no matter what. And it’s just Disney and the magic of creating amazing environments. So we could say Disney would be magical accreting amazing environments, and maybe they could even help you quit smoking. Maybe they could design a stop smoking program. I don’t know.
Brad Giles 03:44
I don’t know. I don’t know many things. And I definitely don’t know that.
Kevin Lawrence 03:47
No, me neither. Alright, so what do we get into today, Brad?
Brad Giles 03:52
Well, habits, the habits that successful leaders use to prepare each week. See? You and I many many years ago, I came across a book called Mastering the Rockefeller habits. Great book, I recommend that everybody read it. And it talks about habits rather than best practices. We spoke a couple of episodes about your favorite subject of best practices. Yeah, but I think that was episode 1031 Or two. And so what are the habits that successful leaders have to set them out this to set themselves up for a successful week? And you’ve got a bit of an insight I believe on this. Is that right?
Kevin Lawrence 04:42
Yeah, I’m just searching through so my team came up with these cards called coach allegories, which are, you know, meeting starter cards for people to get to know each other because often we drop right into a meeting. And we’ve got questions in there as you know what, what is the biggest hiring mistake? or one that you’ve witnessed? Or who’s your greatest mentor? And what is the best leadership book that I own? Are you wearing Adidas or a Nike person, right, whatever it have Mac or PC, just things to get people going. So I was in some meetings recently, and one of the cards I was playing with, I’m trying to find it right now I can’t, is asking people about what they do to prepare for the week. And it’s interesting, and I did it with a few different executive teams. And the similarity was shocking. And I didn’t know what one in India and one in Canada and one in USA, the ideas were so similar. It wasn’t funny. And, you know, and everyone had some of their own thoughts. But I sat back and thought about it. And I went, Yeah, of course it is. Because high performance requires preparation. Right success is when preparation meets opportunity, and you have to be prepared, it just, you can’t just show up and hope and pray that it doesn’t work. And if we look at our real people are generally very organized and very prepared. So you know, from that, you know, and then Brad, you and I talked about it, and you had also seen very, very similar patterns. So so that’s what we’re kind of digging into to hear today. And, you know, preparation is critical. And there’s one of my favorite quotes from Sunsoo. They are the author of The Art of War. You haven’t read the art of war. It’s a spectacular book, it’s mandatory reading and many business programs. But Sunsoo says, you know, victorious Warriors win first, and then go to war. While defeated warriors go to war first, and then seek to win. And that’s, you know, the best leaders have already thought things through, they’ve got plan ABCD. And they will prevail no matter what, because they are prepared. But
Brad Giles 07:05
pay. What’s odd to some someone might say, but I’m too busy to prepare.
Kevin Lawrence 07:11
Let’s write because you didn’t prepare last week, and you’re still trying to clean up the mess you made?
Brad Giles 07:15
Yes, that’s just Yes, that’s the one poor audio producer just had a fit when he heard that noise. gotta prepare, you’ve got to prepare.
Kevin Lawrence 07:28
I mean, only if you want to be successful. Brad, you don’t have to prepare. If you want to be mediocre, you can just go with the flow and see
Brad Giles 07:33
what happens. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.
Kevin Lawrence 07:36
And sometimes in life, not being prepared. And just going with the flow can be great. It can be relaxing, and you can wander, because you don’t have to achieve anything on vacation. It’s a wonderful thing to do sometimes just see what happens. Not when there’s a job to be done, not when there’s customers involved, or team members involved.
Brad Giles 07:56
Once earlier, in this episode, we spoke about the smoking analogy, right? Just keep trying. But there’s a painting analogy that I love here, which is, if you’ve ever been able to paint your own room or your own house, or apartment, you would know that everything is about the preparation, it’s like 80% of work in painting is about the preparation and then applying the paint is really a very small job, in fact,
Kevin Lawrence 08:26
right and same in construction, there’s a saying of Measure twice, cut once. Double-check that you’ve got the measurements, right, the cuts, are not that hard to do. Doing the right cut is hard. So we could get through it all kinds of good examples and metaphors. But what we’re saying is the same thing. So we’ve got a list here today of six different themes that we have seen in the not just in my recent conversations, but in the executives and leaders that we’ve worked with them, the most successful ones, the ones that we pay attention to. And what they do, and the first thing that we saw in common with these people of how they set themselves up for a great week, aside from the fact they all had a routine is every I’m sure every single one 90% At least said that they made a list of their most important things they needed to do. And you know, in my world from your oxygen mask first we break it down into work, self and life. Some people broke it down into work and life or, or work in personal and family, whatever. However you carve up your list, it doesn’t matter. But in all the areas that are important to you breaking down the most important stuff you got to do. It’s not rocket science, but everybody said the same thing.
Brad Giles 09:49
Yeah, and that is quite interesting. So when we run a quarterly or an annual off site workshop, what you’re going to come away with is the most important priorities for the company and the most important priorities for the individual or the department. And therefore, it gives you the prioritization for the next 13 weeks or quarter. And what we’re saying here is that people, the most successful leaders that we come across, are doing that on a weekly basis, individually, personally preparing so that they’re able to set themselves up for success. So they’re focusing on the things that are important and not urgent, because if you don’t prepare yourself for the week, by focusing and allocating time and energy to the important and not urgent things, you’re going to end up on focus on focusing your time during the week, on the not important things on the things that
Kevin Lawrence 10:48
are non stop, there’s always something more interesting to do, there’s always a fire, there’s always drama, there’s always a problem. But those things generally aren’t on the top of your priority list. But we get sucked into those if you don’t have a solid plan that you’re pursuing or chasing. So absolutely, and it’s, that’s why you need this list. So you can prioritize, and get clear on the stuff that has to happen. And Brad, as you said, you know, in the companies that we work with, and we’re encouraging companies to have their work goals, also for people to have their own personal resilience goal, and their growth goal alongside their work goals. Some in our time, we even have our most important life goal. So we got the holistic goal set there for people to be focused on. And again, this is an activity of going back to that breaking it down for the week. And of course, many of these people also do the same thing on a daily basis after that, sometimes hourly, but on a daily basis, you know, breaking it down further. So make a list of all the most important thing. And the second thing is to prioritize the top few, like what are the ones that absolutely matter most like, I don’t know what you have always got more things to do, then it’s possible to get done. But I generally in my plan for work self in life, we’ll make a list of the top three for work, top threes for self top three for life, I’ll do it for the week. And I do the same thing every day, most days, I do the same thing to make sure that the high value or high impact things get done. And the lower stuff that can be left gets left.
Brad Giles 12:19
Yeah, there’s a simple tool that I use, which applies to a daily or a weekly. And that is, what are the things that absolutely must be done today. What are the things that must be done in the next few days? And what are the things that can be done someday, and it forces you to the habit of prioritization, because you can’t have 100 things that need that must be done today. So then I frame today as being physical or financial harm. For example, if I don’t pay this bill, today, we will incur an interest debt. So it must be done. It must be paid today. If I don’t complete this task today, we might lose the client or we might not win the job, that type of thing. So it really helps to reframe and prioritize around the important things.
Kevin Lawrence 13:05
Yeah. And for me, I just have a simple post, I’m already building mine for this coming week. But a simple post it note to start jotting it down. And then I’ll break it down into three columns with the highest priority ones at the top areas, not rocket science. The other thing is that I throw into this, and from a priority in terms of energy isn’t in my book, your oxygen mask first. There’s this thing called toads, they’re things that you procrastinate and put off because you don’t want to deal with them. And they generally carry a massive mental burden with them. So my recommendation for people as you get to the daily version is what’s the toad What’s the thing you don’t want to do, but you know, has to get done and have that as number one on the list, get it done first. Never mind it’ll give you a boost of energy and take the burden off your brain. It also gives you great momentum for the rest of the day, because you’re not thinking about it. So that it gets down into the daily version of it. The key is just to know what is most important. So that’s number two, prioritize the top few that matter most. Go ahead, Brian.
Brad Giles 14:10
So number three, it makes me think about one of the most successful business thinkers of the last century, which is Peter Drucker, Peter Drucker’s most successful book was the effective executive. And on page one of the effective executive, he said that the job of manager is to be efficient, and the job of executive someone who is in control of their time is to be a failure effective. Yes. So if we think about those people who are executives or are who, who are in charge of their own time, that’s when we think Alright, so we need to Audrain need to review their calendar so that the top priorities can get done and when we’re asking here, are they effective? How effective are people around us?
Kevin Lawrence 15:07
Yes, and that’s their driving effectiveness, they’ve got the priority list, and they got to make sure that it gets done in the calendar. The other thing without effective filter on it, I like that broad, that’s a great reminder, thank you, is to make sure that the meetings that they are scheduled for the week, one that they’re needed to, it’s clear on what the meeting is, and stuff, like there’s an outcome that’s been defined, and there’s agenda, or that even that they’re prepared, but basically, that what they’re going to do in this week is of high value, and they will be able to bring value to those things. The other critical thing when people are reviewing and setting up their calendars is having time for the non tactical stuff, the thinking, strategizing brainstorming, high level problem solving, or you know, deep work, going back to that great book, deep work of really one of the gonna have time to do that stuff. If you don’t block it into your calendar during the week, it often needs to happen in the evenings or the weekends, or it doesn’t happen. So how do you carve out time? And in some cases, the right thought partners for that no matter what, looking at the calendar based on my priorities, does my calendar match my priorities? And if not, how do I adjust or tweak my calendar to make it consistent with my priorities for the week, and then the month and the quarter?
Brad Giles 16:30
So deep work was a book by a guy called Cal Newport, I’m a huge fan of it. If you are enacting what Kevin is talking about here, in your calendar, you may have for example, an appointment that says something like preparation time for meeting with Sue tomorrow. And you’ve got a calendar invite blocked out, you need to spend that time preparing,
Kevin Lawrence 16:58
as I was going through and doing some preparation for this coming week, because it’s Sunday night here in Canada, I blocked out two hours tomorrow to work on a very important project that needs to get done by the end of the month. It’s stuck on one point that I need to be involved in and myself and another team member have two hours just to lock in and get it done. Tomorrow, we have to move some things around in the calendar to make room for it with other people so that now we can go and just crush it tomorrow. Otherwise, it’s not urgent, although it is very important. And it just it won’t get done for weeks if we don’t crush it tomorrow.
Brad Giles 17:36
And some people even take that as far leading into the next point to allocate time for email processing. So they might say, I’m going to have 25 minutes or 20 minutes in the morning, and then 25 minutes in the afternoon, where I’m going to process emails, and focus on doing the other work outside of that. Yep.
Kevin Lawrence 17:58
So that was point number three about going and looking at their calendars to make sure it matches the priorities for is to already activate very important priorities now, setting meetings, changing meetings, asking for information about meetings, sending emails to for people for information that you need to share or get delegating work or projects to other people. And again, lots of people will do this and whether mon we’ll talk about when in a moment. But the idea is to already activate the critical stuff. So the week has already started before you get into your week. Yeah, yeah. Number five is personal habits. Everyone’s got their own things that they need to do just like the rock stars, some of them just like green m&ms, whatever your thing is, it’s it’s personal habits. You know, and I’ve heard executives say lots of things like you know, one word chatting with and I remember this because we’d had just a great Sunday night and dinner party games night. And I was hurting a little bit on a Monday morning had a little bit too fun on a Sunday night. And one of the executives said he stopped drinking on Sunday nights. You know, he liked he enjoys his beers and beverages. But he said I stopped drinking on Sundays. So I can be fresh and ready to hit the road solid on Monday morning. Some people need to organize their house. Some people need to make their plan their meal plans for the week. Some people need to sort their office, some people need to pack their bag if they’re traveling for the week, or pick out their clothes for the week or make their date night dinner and movie plans or whatever it happens to be. Make sure they’ve got the time set aside for their kids, their activities. Maybe they pick the running routes, everyone’s got their own things they need to do. But there’s a bunch of those things to set the person up themselves to be successful, just outside of the tasks and work things
Brad Giles 19:53
that they need to do. Otherwise those things will creep into your work time. So you need to prepare plan for those personal things.
Kevin Lawrence 20:01
Absolutely. So that’s number five personal habits. Everyone’s got their own different things. And then the six is when the heck two people do this. So consistently, and in the West, we work on Monday to Friday week, generally for office space people. You know, in other places like India, it’ll be Monday to Saturday for a lot, or most Saturdays and Middle East. It used to be actually interesting Sunday to Thursday, but some of the countries have now switched Monday to Friday. But basically, it’s the day before the night before I’ve heard people doing commonly Sunday morning or Sunday evening is the most cited times when people do this prep for the week. Some do it Monday mornings, but what people have said consistently, if they leave it to Monday morning, odds are something happens and it throws their week off, and then they don’t get to do it. So it’s we’re not recommending everybody should working on the weekend. And we need downtime for sure. It’s just common for a lot of the highest performers that we work with that’s a timeframe, they often do this before they step into Monday morning,
Brad Giles 21:10
of course, I’m going to be the outlier here and do something completely different outside of the norm. Yeah. And so I, I prepare on a Friday night or Friday evening, afternoon, or Saturday morning. Because I find, that means that if I’m prepared for the next week, I can kind of shut off from work, and then really, really be able to enjoy my weekend or not think about it. And then Sunday night as mine, let’s say, but then I’m all prepared and ready to go and just start up. So I find for me, it’s a good way to close out the week, preparing for the next week. Actually, I’ve
Kevin Lawrence 21:54
heard a few people say that, but you’re right back, because you can psychologically close the week and be set up for the next week. And you don’t you’re not feeling like it’s you need to be thinking about getting prepared, it’s already there. So again, it’s a personal choice, what works for you. Awesome.
Brad Giles 22:14
And so an interesting chat. Today, really, you know, this is just something that we’ve observed, being prepared as a leader gives you the best chance of becoming more effective this week. So as we quickly cycle through to close out, the effectiveness of a leaders week is dependent on their preparation. If you don’t have a great week, you got to have a good amount of preparation. Kevin, as he said, he’d been surveying in a informal manner many leaders and found that everyone was kind of preparing in a similar way. And it’s the preparation that matters. So make a list of things that are important, but are not urgent for the coming week. Things that you need to focus on in the business, to be able to set yourself up for the week. So make that list to begin with. prioritize them from most to least important. Review calendars. To ensure that people around you are also working on the most important things. Kevin, would you like to move on to number four?
Kevin Lawrence 23:22
Yeah, and also with your own calendar review to make sure that it matches your priorities. And as you’re not, you know, going down a completely different track than what’s most important. And to take proactive actions to kick off the week of sending emails, meeting invites, asking for clarifications, so you’re ready to roll. And then there’s some personal habits to just set you up for the week. And whether you need to pack your bag, organize your house, drink or not drink, spend time with friends, pick your clothes out, pick a running route, who knows whatever it happens to be. And then finally, it’s about when you do it. Lots of people in the West seem to do it on Sunday morning or Sunday evening. Brad talks about Friday afternoon, which is even ultimate, if you can get it done at the end of the day Friday because you could close your week off and then be free of needing to think about it until you fire it back up again. Point is whatever works for you. How do you dedicate that half an hour or hour that you need to really get ahead of your weekend as Sunsoo said victorious Warriors win first, and then go to war. And the week can feel like a war. A nice version of a war anyway. And that you want to make sure that you are more than well prepared so you can lead your week and not have your week leading you.
Brad Giles 24:39
Awesome. Good chat, Kev. So my name is Brad Giles. You can find me at evolution partners.com.au and Kevin, Kevin Lawrence is available at Lawrence and co.com. I’ve got a newsletter Kevin’s got a newsletter. They’re both pretty good, maybe interesting. for you about our range of different and interesting topics to build an enduring great business, you can also find us on YouTube. If you just search the growth whispers on YouTube, you’re more than sure to come across us. Thanks for your time today. Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and look forward to chatting to you next week. Have a great week. Have a great one.
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