As a leader, there is one topic I’m always interested in – what things successful leaders, effective CEOs do differently to get results and to reach ambitious goals?

Research and various studies in recent decades show that the success or failure of an organization depends largely on how effectively the CEOs (Chief Executive Officer) and senior executives use their time, and how well they maintain their focus on a few major priorities.

Research by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Shoshal published in the Harvard Business Review illustrates a similar picture:

Of the managers observed in 12 large companies over a decade, only 10 percent were found to spend their time on work that would have a long-term positive impact on the business.

Those of you who are leaders (CEOs or senior executives) would agree that this is actually true for many companies and organizations. But it can be changed.

Two important traits of effective leaders

According to Bruch and Shoshal, CEOs and other executives who effectively bring very ambitious goals to fruition have two traits in common: focus and energy.

FOCUS refers to clarity of purpose and the ability to see a task through to completion.

ENERGY stems from an intense personal commitment that drives the executive to push harder when coping with a heavy workload or meeting tight timelines.

4 categories of Executives

Bruch and Shoshal contend that every executive fits into one of the following categories, based on the levels of energy and focus that he or she exhibits:

Things Successful Leaders Do To Get Results The Focus-Energy Matrix

Distracted (40%)

Forty percent of the managers studied showed a blend of high energy and low focus. These are the well-intentioned, highly active people who lack sufficient focus. Because they are easily distracted, they tend to overcommit. They are always busy — even frantic — but they often confuse activity with results.

Procrastinators (30%)

The researchers found 30 percent of managers exhibited both low focus and low energy. These are the managers who attend meetings and follow up on phone calls and e-mails, but rarely take initiative and often miss deadlines.

Disengaged (20%)

Leaders who are highly focused but who lack passion and interest fell into this category. Disengaged managers view their jobs as merely a paycheck. Such managers may be burned out, or their jobs may hold little meaning for them.

Purposeful (10%)

Only ten percent of managers were found to be highly energetic and highly focused, the researchers conclude.

11 things successful leaders do

According to different studies, the most effective CEOs (Purposeful) practice these things:

  1. They have a clear sense of purpose that drives their decisions in business and life.
  2. They select their goals carefully, and arrange the external environment to support those goals.
  3. They focus on one thing at a time – no multitasking.
  4. They do not let other people or organizational constraints set their agendas.
  5. They choose not to respond immediately to every issue that comes their way or get sidetracked from their goals by distractions like e-mail, meetings, setbacks, and unforeseen demands.
  6. To maximize the value of their time, they may schedule e-mails, phone calls and visitors into certain times of the day.
  7. When challenges mount, they slow down and reflect on what they most want to achieve.
  8. They carefully weigh their options before selecting a course of action.
  9. They’re skilled at reducing stress, typically through physical exercise and hobbies.
  10. They track where their time goes.
  11. They eliminate unnecessary meetings.

Connecting these ideas with some additional tips

To improve your ability to FOCUS:

  • Review your goals and choose the most important ones to focus on now.
  • Plan weekly and review daily.
  • Schedule a 1½ -2 hour block of time each day for thinking about aspects of your life and business that are important but not urgent.
  • Eliminate distractions – people, phone, emails, notifications.
  • Do only one thing at a time – don’t try to multitask.
  • Cut out unnecessary meetings.

To improve your ENERGY:

  • Identify the time of day when your energy level is highest. Block out that time for your most important tasks and activities.
  • Identify the time of day when your energy is lowest. Use this time for routine tasks.
  • Avoid negative people if possible
  • Spend more time with people who motivate and energize you
  • Get enough sleep to recharge (usually 7-8 hours)
  • Exercise regularly and eat several times a day – don’t skip meals.

You too can start practicing these things – if you don’t do them already.

What do you do to increase your effectiveness as a CEO? Let me hear your comments.


You might also enjoy these posts:

20 Inspiring Leadership Quotes On Focus

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