Recently we have been having lots of conversations about the main modes leaders live in. There are lots of things on an executives and leaders agenda, and these tend to fall into three main categories

Doing. Strategy. People.

Therefore leaders find themselves in different modes, different work rhythms as they tackle tasks, versus creatively building innovative strategy with their teams versus investing deeply with people. Three leadership modes that need to be managed to ensure leaders deliver.

  • Doing mode – doing work that needs to be done. The administration, the bureaucracy, the compliance, the governance of business. Often time alone, often behind closed doors. Often involving email.
  • Strategic mode – building the bigger picture, making today better while designing tomorrow. Ensuring that as a leader we are building the best possible stage for our people to shine, to thrive and win. Thinking time, collaboration time, curating time. Business performance time – lead and lag.
  • People mode – listening deeply to our people, involved in what’s going on, coaching team members, in touch with the market, face to face with customers in their business, understanding our clients problems, by being involved understanding deeply the insights and trends in the markets we play in, so we actually feel them not just read about them. Team time and client time.

The question always is, how much time do the best leaders spend in each mode, where do great leaders make the most impact? Where does business transform and grow? Where does highest performance live? Where do most of us find ourselves spending too much time?

People mode is where the rubber hits the road, where organisations differentiate by removing obstacles for their people and building deep customer focus and value.

In our experience as leaders a 60/30/10 split of People/Strategic/Doing is the right balance. That is 60% of every leaders time should be in People mode. Minimum. 70% in a perfect world.

If you are spending too much time in Doing mode then you are either too narrow and bureaucratic as an organisation, or you are a control freak and cannot delegate, or simply you are overburdened as an organisation and need to get nimble fast. Doing mode does not enable a business to thrive. In fact often it does the opposite and holds you back. Automate, outsource, dump poor process.

Strategic mode is critical to a business, and driving lead measures, while monitoring lag measures is imperative. Continuously striving to strategically propel the business forward, to strengthen the core business, drive into adjacencies and boldly explore new frontiers to delight customers is more important than ever. Strategic mode in imperative, but in our experience, action trumps thinking and planning.

People mode is where the rubber hits the road, where organisations differentiate by removing obstacles for their people and building deep customer focus and value. Cultivating an environment that allows team members to perform at their best, to grow and realise their potential, to deliver more than leaders imagined is the number one things leaders are responsible for. People mode is about autonomy, purpose and mastery for team members, and about creating new and more value for customers. And once this responsibility is met, then and only then can we deliver new, better, more value to our clients. And this is the sole reason business exists.

It is also a great question for future leaders, where do you get most joy from in your work, where do you get your energy, that real blast of energy. If you desire to be a leader, a great leader, you have to think about where you get your enjoyment from and is this the same place that the best leaders spend their time? Is People mode your passion?

The next questions is, how do we get more time into people mode?