How One Successful Senior Executive Juggles All the Balls

Posted 03.28.2022

One of the impacts of the shift to working virtually is an increase in the number of topics we find ourselves dealing with on a daily basis. The ability to log in and out of one meeting after another without the friction (or the respite) of having to move our physical bodies from one place to another has made it easier to pack more meetings and conversations into a day. As a result, many of us are juggling more balls than we were a couple of years ago.

In my work, I’ve observed that’s especially true for senior executives. Many of them have their days packed with meetings in which they’re expected to weigh in with perspective or direction. How do the best executives keep their focus and add value while they’re juggling all those balls?

I heard some great strategies recently from two high potential leaders in my Next Level Leadership® group coaching program who spent a day virtually shadowing a senior executive in their company as she moved through ten different 30-minute online meetings. The high potential leaders were super impressed by how this executive stayed fully present in each conversation and guided the participants to meaningful outcomes before she had to log into her next meeting.

Before they wrapped up their day with the executive, my high potential leader friends asked her to breakdown how she had accomplished what they had witnessed over the course of the day. Here’s what she told them:

Establish Common Cultural Touchstones – The executive shared that she’s been intentional in establishing cultural touchstones and expectations for how she wants her team members to engage in meetings. She expects and encourages an open and honest recap of what the team has been doing, what they’ve accomplished and what remains to be done.

You Fail If You Get Too Functional – She explained that you fail if you get too functional. As a senior executive, she has to stay out of the functional details. She expects and relies on her teams to pull the relevant functional details through the conversation so that she can focus on where she can add unique value.

Offer Help, Not Answers – This executive fights the urge to give answers even when she can because she recognizes that would stifle the capacity and creativity of the team. Instead of giving answers, she asks, “What do you need from me? How can I help?”

Get to the Gist – Those two questions – What do you need from me? And, how can I help? – are forcing functions the executive uses to get to the gist of the conversation. In addition to keeping her and everyone else focused on forward progress, they set the expectation that the team is coming to her with a request that leverages whatever it is that only she can do as the senior executive.

Define Next Steps – Before the meeting wraps, this senior executive makes sure that the next steps for her and the team are well defined. In addition to reinforcing a bias for action, clarifying next steps keeps her personally focused on what she needs to do and what she should expect to hear from the team the next time they report back on what they’ve accomplished.

So, how do you juggle all the balls that are being thrown your way? I think you could sum up the strategies of this successful senior executive with two big ideas – stay present in the moment and have a process for determining what you need to do next. That works for her. What would work for you?

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