Effective leaders pay attention to both the big and the little things. There are the big projects, the overarching deliverables, and an executing strategy to drive the vision. There are also the details of personal lives to track, and reminders to do the little things with high leverage, because leadership is about working with others.
Remembering people’s birthdays, anniversaries, and special events expresses your care for them. Following-through with the work others are doing helps the team be more effective. Delivering the expected monthly report before your boss has to ask for it demonstrates that you manage well. Preserving blocks of time for biggest contributions is also important.
Therefore, strengthen your leadership craft by developing the habits to capture deadlines and events for yourself and others, get reminded at just the right time, and efficiently follow-through.
The first habit to build is “when I hear about event/milestone/whatever” think “capture in a way to remind me later.”
- When you hear about birthdays, anniversaries, vacation plans, events for people you know – take note of them. Set up recurring events on your calendar for birthday and anniversaries. Set up a task in your Outlook or Google Calendar to remind you to ask about their vacation, their son’s ballgame, that doctor visit, etc.
- Does your boss expect a monthly or quarterly report? Go ahead now and schedule time to work on these ahead of each deadline. Anything predictable in time can be anticipated and built into your schedule – personnel reviews, financial analysis, health maintenance, goal planning, etc.
- When someone on your team mentions a critical meeting or project deadline, set a task to ask about it. I recommend you make reporting back part of delegated work – the work isn’t done until it’s reported. Use the “reminder” strategy to remember to look for the report-back, or prepare to pass along an update to your boss.
- Remind yourself of important things to keep your mental state sharp. Use a recurring task, for example, to bring up quotes and pictures that inspire you. Every two weeks I have these types of quotes and excerpts popping up:
- Boldness bring its own kind of genius
- There are no self-executing plans
- Fear is a choice; I do not HAVE to be afraid
- The “Arena” speech by Teddy Roosevelt
- “You have never met an ordinary person” (C.S. Lewis)
It’s a useful trick. I see the task pop up, am reminded, and reset the task. Bonus: set the task to come up during your lowest energy time of day (for me, that’s mid-afternoon).
5. When you see something that might interest others, or be valuable for them, “capture” is and set up a reminder to pass it along. That might be an email message, adding to the agenda for an upcoming meeting, or leaving a copy on their desk.
One final tip for efficiency: Batch execute. It won’t take long to accumulate many birthdays, events, and other reminders. The problem then becomes keeping up, and still focusing on your big deliverables which require blocks of work. Set aside a few minutes a week – actually schedule the time on your calendar – to write short notes to people, make quick phone calls, print off articles, etc. I personally allocate 3 short blocks of time for this each work week.
Secret weapon: scheduled messages in Outlook. Write the email, then use the “Delay delivery” option so that it won’t be sent until the time you choose. Your message arrives at just the right time (e.g., “I hope you enjoyed your vacation! Let’s talk about the next part of the implementation work at our 1:1 meeting this week.”) even though you sent the message at a convenient-to-you batch processing time.