Show Notes - Leadership is about time


Leadership is about time

Aired on A Journeyman’s Travels Podcast on April 21, 2023
These are the notes from which I recorded the show. They’re a little unpolished since the original audience was just me. But I’ve added some of the reference material that I allude to in the podcast and post it here, should anyone want to ‘see how the sausage is made’.

Show Notes


Last time we discussed Leadership - Not About You, and discussed the critical facet of leadership in it’s focus on others, and their work and impact. Today let’s build on that a little in some practical ways.

Leadership is not a Promotion, but a career change!

  • When you first are ‘promoted’ into a Leadership position a great deal changes.
  • But calling it a promotion isn’t really accurate. Think about your previous promotions! Which was more similar moving from Jr Engineer to Engineer or from Sr Engineer to Engineering Lead?
    • e.g. Jr Engineer to Engineer is a growth in the same kind as before. Effectively do MORE of what you used to.
    • Sr Engineer to Engineering Lead is a step away. It is to STOP doing what you used to, while keeping the knowledge and elements of the coaching aspect that were added to your job.
  • The is often pointed to with the phrase ‘what got you here, won’t get you there’
  • This then leaves us with a question: How do we really Lead then?

Leadership is about time

  • Look at how you spend your time then.
  • Attention of focus is the chief commodity of Human kind. And we have to spend it. It’s what all the online adverts are trying to buy!
  • But it’s difficult to measure, so we often use the closest proxy: your time. Where do you spend your time?
  • We already covered that we shouldn’t spend our time the same way we used to if we are not to lead… but how should it be different?
    • Obviously we shouldn’t be doing our team’s work for them… because then our work wouldn’t get done! but what is our work as a Leader?
    • We’ll dive into this more, but part of a Leaders job is to DISCOVER, or DECIDE what the work is to be done.
    • This is the strategic work, communication, and sometimes even accountability.
  • But this Brain work is of a different kind altogether, and will require you to reclassify your time in new ways. That is to think about your time in new ways

Thinking about time.

  • One of the best models I’ve found for thinking about my time in new ways is the classic Eisenhower matrix.
  • {Explain the matrix}
  • Note the Matrix is NOT a static model stating that all time such-and-such is Q1. Rather it is a lens and tool for deciding what time actions we should focus on, by helping us to intentionally classify our time based on our role and where we ought to serve.
    • Example - Jr Engineer would classify designing systems, learning a new language, and writing code in Q2. But the Engineering Lead should classify writing code as Q1, Design might be Q2 or Q1 depending on the circumstances, and learning the new language might straight up be Q3, a distraction. Because of the nature of his role!
  • So we’ve got the model… now what? Without some sense of where you are, it can be difficult to identify a better path.
    • By in large, once you’ve ID’d the kinds of work that belong in each Quadrant for your role, the next step is to Measure.
    • Start by tracking your time at the 15min blocks for a week, and categorize each activity. Be brutally honest. And if you need help bring this data to a trusted mentor and walk through it with them.
    • Then based on your findings, start cutting out the Q3 and Q4 time. And look for way to control the Q1 time. That might mean reserving time for Q2 on your calendar.
      • I strongly suggest the Pomodoro technique, which I have found help me establish a strong rhythm in my work around half-hour productive time blocks.

Outro - Leadership requires changing your relationship to Time

  • Leadership is founded first on a change in your focus, off the self, and onto the effectiveness of a team of others. It is more akin to a career change than it is to a promotion. New skills, and new ways of thinking are absolutely necessary.
  • One of the critical changes is a change in how you think about time. You aren’t a better leader by spending More time. Instead you need to learn how to focus on the RIGHT things, not doing your team’s work, but doing the RIGHT work and finding that RIGHT work.
  • Leadership is therefore about how you spend your time.