This week on the Growth Whisperers podcast, Kevin and Brad discuss the time horizon that each role in a company should be focused on. How should leaders spend their time?

Different roles in an organization should be focused on different time periods. Each person in each role should know what time horizon they should be focused on, and create priorities relevant to that period. If you are focused on the wrong horizon in your role, you will not be as effective as you could be.

In order to lead your company well into the future, you have to be thinking a lot about that future, and laying the foundation. And if you keep getting sucked into the day-to-day or week-to-week tasks, it might say something about the people who are reporting to you, and accountability that they need to have.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Brad Giles  00:13

Hi there, and welcome to the Growth Whisperers where everything that we talk about is building enduring, great companies. Kevin, Hello, how are you doing today?

Kevin Lawrence  00:32

Great, Brad. Always fun putting together these shows and taking our different experiences and perspectives and coming up with one kind of unified perspective on a topic. And I’m really looking forward to the show today.

Brad Giles  00:45

It’s a friendly arm wrestle, isn’t it that we have?

Kevin Lawrence  00:47

That’s the thing. We have different views. If we both thought identically, it’d be boring for us too. So yeah, it’s great.

Brad Giles  00:54

Each week, we like to start with a word or phrase of the day, Kevin, what might you have in store for us today?

Kevin Lawrence  01:15

I was thinking about this one. And, you know, there’s always so many, you know, different things. But the, the tough the one today is tough decisions, or calls. And, you know, they say it’s, it’s, it’s what separates the men from the boys, and also separating, you know, the little girls from the women, ie about growing up and becoming a better version yourself. But it’s tough decisions. You know, I have a client that had to make a very tough decision last week. And it was excruciating for them and a number of people involved in this decision. And it’s just interesting watching the build up to it, making the decision and watching it unfold afterwards. And yeah, and as we know, in business, if you don’t make enough of those tough decisions, you will get smothered under the burden of your organization.

Brad Giles  02:12

Well, each week, you like to stitch together the two. So I’m looking forward to seeing you stitch in that with this. Ah, my word is actually a book. It’s called Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. Yeah, this is the original. And the best, I would say it’s such an excellent example of companies across America who have built companies that aren’t solely focused on becoming big, they’re focused on becoming great. And I’ve had the opportunity a few times to reflect on that in the last week.

Kevin Lawrence  02:51

Yeah, it’s the tough decision to not be big, right? There’s this tough decision to be a small giant, which is hard in our culture because it’s always about bigger and better. And it’s, it’s many ways, it’s almost like the Zen minimalist view of things. How do we keep it simple and amazing? And yeah, that’s one all right. Oh, so hard bread. Tough decision to be a small giant.

Brad Giles  03:21

And what are we talking about today?

Kevin Lawrence  03:23

You know, it’s, it’s a topic we’ve talked about before, it’s a real favorite for me. And it’s basically, you know, it’s almost like, you know, we’re in a world of racing cars, it’s Wherever you look, you go. So if you’re going around a corner, and you start sliding sideways, you look at where you want the car to go in the end. And with practice your hands automatically correct and generally take you there. Same thing, if you’re sliding in the snow, and you’re in a car drifting around in the snow. Hopefully, you’re doing it for fun, not because of an incident. And you just point the car, we want to go mash the throttle, especially if it’s all-wheel drive, it takes you there. And it’s the same thing when it comes to leadership. It’s about whatever you focus on, you get, you know, if you’re running a marathon, or a race, and you’re staring down at your shoes while you’re running, it’s probably not going to go very well, because you’re going to go down you’ll face first into the ground. So this is about where do you focus as a, whether you’re a frontline worker, a manager, an executive or CEO, where should you be looking? And where should you be spending your time? So it’s basically no more Yeah, more eyes up, but how far up where should you be looking as a leader?

Brad Giles  04:38

Yeah, it’s, it’s really interesting. I had a chat with one of the teams that I work with recently and the CEO, they’re growing quite fast. They’re growing really fast. And he’s kind of he can see the pain in the team and he said to me, Look, I’m I’m I just want to bounce it off. You I’m thinking maybe I need to spend some time doing the job, like, I got to get out there, these, the team needs help, I need to get on to the frontline and help. And it will be the bold and brave thing to do. They’ll all feel like I’m doing the right thing and so forth. And no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, that is not a good idea. Let’s just put it into a ship analogy, right? So you’re there instructing the person who’s steering the ship, and you’re saying to me, I need to go and climb the masks and hold the sails. And then we’re and then I’m gonna go down to the engine room and go and work on the rudder, or the or the propeller, if it’s an engine powered boat, yes. No freaking sense.

Kevin Lawrence  05:40

And leaders do it all the time. Because in the moment, they they’re just trying to be helpful, but they don’t realize now they’re taking their eyes off the horizon. Now, they’re not thinking about the next moves. Basically, they’re, you know, as a CEO, if you’re, if you’re spending a lot of time on the day to day, you’ve got serious problems now, whether the problem is you and your leadership style, your management style, or your team or your business. CEO shouldn’t have to spend on very little time on the day to day, because that it’s a bad sign. It’s a really bad sign.

Brad Giles  06:27

Yes, yes. Because you’re doing other people’s jobs. This is the probably the key theme that I wrote in my book Made to Thrive. As a leader, you need to do your job and do it well and not do other people’s jobs. Because as soon as you start doing other people’s jobs, it’s taking away their autonomy. And it means that no one’s doing your job.

Kevin Lawrence  06:50

Exactly, it means your role is vacant, you know, it also in my book, I had a chapter as well called Make Yourself Useless. Yeah. And your job as a leader is not to have anything to do your to support your people make them so strong they can do without you. So you can be eyes up focused on what’s next. Now, if you’re, you know, running a team on a factory floor, what’s next might be thinking about next week’s production or enhancing production. You know, if you’re a CEO, it’s about, you know, the future. So what we’re going to dig into, and it’s, it’s, there’s a lot of variables that go into being able to do this. And I’ll say, one of this, this, this came up for me recently, when I was talking with one of my CEOs about enhancing and I talked a lot of the CEOs about enhancing their abilities. And we talk about for CEOs, and even C suite about becoming the strategic CEO. Yes, strategic CFO. And I’ve worked with many the year over the years to make this transition. And even if we take the CFO role, you know, there’s the CFO who’s basically like the senior accountant, getting the numbers, right, working the systems. But a true strategic CFO is focused on the future, there alongside the CEO looking 1 to 3 years down the road, and building the models and helping to make the decisions to take the business in that direction. But if they’re an operational CFO, they don’t have time, nor the thinking time, or the bandwidth do that kind of same of the CEO. I call it the capital C CEO, or the strategic CEO. Yeah, that is the person who’s truly doing that CEO job. And you know, in our first one, we’re talking years, the CEO, CEO should have a big portion of their time on three to five years in the future. They should be looking at enhancing the strategy, they should have a lot of think time, a lot of think time thinking about things, talking to people exploring models, maybe they’re looking at acquisitions, maybe they’re spending some time on future products, or understanding future needs of customer who knows what it is, but they’re working on things that really have a payoff and an impact that are three to five years in the future.

Brad Giles  09:06

But that’s a really big payoff. Let’s be clear. So I’m going to just bounce that back to you for clarity. Now, because this is the this is the kind of the headline that we’re saying here. The CEOs focus primarily for a huge part of their time should be focusing on three to five year period, focusing on the strategy, executing strategy, becoming deferring the market, maintaining the gross margin, making sure that we if we need to make acquisitions or what’s happening in the market, not so much. If something happened in the factory yesterday. That’d be nice to know.

Kevin Lawrence  09:49

Maybe they do and maybe they spend a few minutes on it. Maybe they have to lend a hand once a while when something comes up. But it’s gonna be wrong numbers 50% of their time. focusing on though and driving those things in the future.

Brad Giles  10:03

Yeah. And that’s hard. All of those things in the future need work to be done to get there, like, you need to do something this quarter, and the following quarter, and then the following quarter. So understanding that communicating it to the team, and continuing to think on that is a huge part of the focus of a CEO.

Kevin Lawrence  10:25

Which is basically not involved in the day to day almost at all. And a lot of times, it’s building relationships you talked about in your book, The ambassador role, it’s building relationships with key people, it can be, you know, being involved in recruiting key talent, maybe they know that they’re going to expand into another country or another vertical of the industry, and they got to go and find some heavy hitters, you know, maybe they need to find some sizzle, basically, three to five years out a lot of time to think and enhance their understanding and develop, because if not them who everyone else is fighting fires doing this, it’s a key part of their job is to lay the track for the future.

Brad Giles  11:05

A quick example of this. Yesterday, I was speaking with a CEO. And he is he’s the owner of the business looking to put a CEO in to his role in a three to five year period. He’s looking to hire a key executive who maybe can come into that role. And a lot of the work that we were doing was around analyzing the candidates and understanding who is the person that has the best chance of being able to take on that role. So this is not only about the strategy, it’s about all of the things that are going to happen and get clear on the vision at that point.

Kevin Lawrence  11:43

Yes, all of the things that generally have a three to five year payoff. Interesting. Brad, I had another conversation with one of my CEOs last week on the same thing. Yeah, we went through did a talent review of all of their direct reports, looking for their successor, because they want a successor in place probably in about five years. And at least being developed. So that you know, in 10 years, then they can step up over that role. And goose egg, there wasn’t a single person on their team, we’re now going to go look, couple layers, the layer underneath it to look for candidates. Same thing I did two weeks before that with another CEO. We went through their team, there’s one that could don’t know, they don’t know if that person would want to know, but there’s one that could, but if not as the conversation is, you know, if you have a whole team, and there’s no one that could be your role, you probably need to do some swapping, and get somebody else working with you directly that could take your job. But again, that’s a but that’s your replace a CEO is a mill three to five year project even longer sometimes to do it right, especially in a an enduring company.

Brad Giles  12:58

So as the CEO, yeah, go ahead and say, three to five years. So what happens when we step a layer down? So now we’re looking at the key executives or the people who report to the CEO. So they should be spending their time with their head in the 90 day to one year period, executing the annual priorities, the annual budget and the quarterly priorities in the quarterly budget?

Kevin Lawrence  13:29

Yeah, and no, it’s not that it’s some executives will spend a bit of time with the CEO on some of those longer projects. But it’s not their core responsibility. Let’s just say, you know, for round numbers, the CEO spends 50% of their time on a three to five year horizon or more. Yeah, the executive is going to spend 50% of their time or more on that 90 day to one year time horizon, making and then they might put some time, shorter term might put the longer term, but they really own delivery of the annual and quarterly plans.

Brad Giles  14:00

And they have big things, the big rocks that you see plans, the big, you know, what are the top three to five things for the whole company? What are the for the year? What are the top three to five things for the quarter, and for the department? All of those things are big, and they’ve all got these executives name against them. So executing a lot of these things as well as executing the budget within those timeframes.

Kevin Lawrence  14:28

The big critical job is basically making sure the company is runs. Basically, they’re running the company successfully. Yeah, that’s, you know, which is, you know, we measured, so that’s pretty, pretty straightforward. We’ve dropped down to the senior managers know in some, some in the West, we call them directors can be senior managers, all kinds of different titles, but this would be the, you know, the people that would report to an executive like, you know, and if you’ve got a CFO as an executive, this would be like your controller or your other rolls like that that reporting. And they’re basically making sure that their teams are really successfully this week getting what they got to get done. Yeah. And all the way up to 90 days, they kind of meet the executives at that 90 Day piece, where they’re focused on delivering that plan. And again, now they don’t focus other places. But senior managers are basically this week to this quarter. And they’re not really thinking about the rest of the year, they’re just trying to make sure all that critical work is getting done.

Brad Giles  15:31

So the senior managers focused on one week to 90 days, the senior managers building or owning the 90 day plan that’s executing the budget and the priorities for that department. Okay. But then the managers are focused on each of those 13 components 13 weeks of that quarterly plan? Yep.

Kevin Lawrence  15:57

Pretty straightforward. Yep. And then we’re dropped down to what you would call a manager or a supervisor. And this could be, you know, an HR manager, it could be, you know, someone, someone leading an accounting team, this could be a manager of a certain product, it could be a fulfillment manager, all kinds of different roles manager in a factory floor, whatever it happens to be. And the managers and supervisors who are generally overseeing frontline staff, they’re thinking about today in the week, they’re not thinking about three years, they’re there, they’re not even thinking about the year, they’re just trying to make sure that everyone has a great productive day. And all the critical stuff is getting done today, tomorrow, the next day and next day.

Brad Giles  16:40

Yeah, yeah. And getting the team members who report to them to be productive in that week to execute that week’s plan to execute the numbers that they need be at sales or output or whatever it is making sure that these people this week, everything at that level between the senior managers and the team members, for the managers and supervisors, everything is about this week. And then we step down to the team members, the frontline staff, for them, their primary focus is about today. And if you speak to them, it probably is. Their focus is we’ve got to get this done by the end of the day. And that forms a part as we begin to go back up words, what they’re doing on a daily level that forms a part of the plan of the managers and supervisors, which forms a part of the senior managers, which forms a part of the executives and ultimately eventually formed part of what the CEOs plans up.

Kevin Lawrence  17:47

Yeah. So if we really break it down, everyone has a different time horizon, what’s their primary responsibility, and people might focus longer term or shorter term depending but for just a thinking model, it’s basically where at least 50% of their energy is dedicated. And truly, when you get down to the team members of managers, it’s probably 90% of energy isn’t that time horizon? So team members is today managers is today to a week, senior managers is a week to the 90 days in the quarter executives is the 90 days in a quarter to a year, and the CEO is three to five years plus, right and really driving the longer term. And the key thing is, you know, these are guidelines, the main thing is step back and Zoom Out is are you spending enough time on your core responsibility, ie for a CEO? Are you spending enough time thinking about and working on that three to five year time horizon? And if not, what are you going to do to calibrate it to get it there? Because in order to lead your company, well into the future, you have to be thinking a lot about that future, and laying the foundations for that future.

Brad Giles  18:58

And maybe whatever level you’re at, if you look and think I can’t think that level, I keep getting sucked into the day to day or the week to week, maybe it says something about the people who are reporting to you, and accountability that they need to have.

Kevin Lawrence  19:15

Right or how you’re interacting with who knows what it is, but it’s a great thinking model. All right. Well, thanks for listening. This has been the Growth Whisperers Podcast. I’m Kevin Lawrence. This is my great partner, Brad Giles for the YouTube version. Go to YouTube and the growth whisperers search for us. You’ll find us there if you want to watch the video for to get a hold of Brad and for his awesome newsletter evolution partners.com.au And for myself, and my, I think, awesome newsletter we share the best insights we can. We’re here to help. Lawrence and co.com Hope you have an awesome week and good luck putting your right focus on the right timeframe