Leadership Caffeine™-Improving Your Leadership Effectiveness on the Fly

A Cup of Leadership CaffeineIt probably comes as no surprise that the primary excuse that many leaders cite for not focusing on important priorities like coaching, feedback and development is, “ lack of time.”

I’ve heard this “excuse” over and over again in workshops and mentoring sessions. And while there’s little argument over the importance of engaging in these and other positive leadership behaviors, many individuals shrug their shoulders, admit guilt, express frustration over their inability to carve out time and cite administrative, transactional and span of control issues as impediments.

I’ve attacked this from a number of approaches ranging from preaching the virtues of getting this right (I gain agreement but little behavior modification) to various approaches including re-orienting calendars, rethinking attendance at many meetings and taking advantage of lunch, opportunities to grab coffee, early mornings etc.  Many have reported achieving some progress by reorienting their priorities, but almost all indicate a desire to do more.

What’s a harried, over-worked, time-stressed leader to do?

6 Ideas for Improving Your Leadership Effectiveness On the Fly:

We all have a finite number of minutes in our lives and days and while one important approach to consistently improving performance is to carefully select the use of those minutes (meetings, meeting length, downtime, task priorities), another is to find the way to use every minute more effectively. While the description here may sound subtle, the impact can be profound.

1. Prepare your attitude to be a real-time leader. Walk in the door intent ready to solve issues and create value for your team members on the fly.  This is a very different attitude than walking in the door, strapping ourselves into our seats and firing up our calendars and then navigating the day according to other people’s priorities.

2. Don’t bank (save up) feedback-spend your feedback in real-time. A thoughtful, behavioral sidebar after a meeting or instant guidance in a one-on-one setting makes great use of your contact time.

3. Respond to “can we meet?” questions with, “Can I help you now?” answers. For some reason, many employees feel compelled to meet as part of their attempt to gain support, persuade or highlight a vexing issue.  A manager’s tendency to say “sure,” and then pull up the calendar forestalls an opportunity and reduces effectiveness.

4. Use my “3 Key Questions” early and often.  What’s working? What’s not? What do you need from me to help you make it work?  Then do it.

5. Teach your team to focus on the core. Structure your communication activities with your team members (groups and individuals) to constantly emphasize business priorities and to encourage people to “just say no” to issues that are not core to achieving priorities.  Of course, you should create mechanisms to capture feedback, gauge performance, identify and communicate lessons learned and capture innovative ideas.  Nonetheless, emphasize focus on the core.

6. Teach and delegate decision-making. I’ve written on this extensively, and an effective decision-making culture that facilitates making the calls close to the action is critical for improving real time performance.  One of your best responses in this process to inquiries on “What to do?,” is, “What do you think you should do?”

The Bottom-Line for Now:

While I am always reluctant to encourage a transactional culture, if the quality of the transactions improves, you are doing your job.  This approach to “leading in the moment” doesn’t preclude the need to find deep-thinking, big-picture group and one-on-one time, but it does challenge YOU to be more efficient every possible minute.

There’s little chance we’ll find more hours in a day, but you absolutely have the ability to make each and every minute count just a bit more.

By | 2016-10-22T17:11:57+00:00 January 18th, 2010|Leadership, Leadership Caffeine|11 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Dave Baldwin January 18, 2010 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you Art for a great post. I thought a major part of my leadership responsibility is providing one-on-one feedback and leadership for my direct reports. So not to provide that is shirking my responsibilities as a leader. So, on my calendar there are weekly one-on-ones with my direct reports. I do seven a week. They are set in stone. The times do not change, the days do not change!
    Thank you for reminding us of that.

    • Art Petty January 18, 2010 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      Dave, Awesome! You are an example for all of us. Best to you! -Art

  2. Robert Comer January 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Good post again Art,

    The truth is that if you fail to provide a forum for feedback and coaching for your employee’s, you will be spending much more time chasing the horse once its out of the barn and less time improving your business. Thats my folksy wit for the day’


    • Art Petty January 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Bob, thanks for the folksy wit and the very appropriate reminder! Now where is that horse? -Art

  3. Jason Shick January 20, 2010 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for another great post. I am always amazed when I find a strategy that can be so easily implemented that it will change the way things are done. Your advice to simply respond to the question “may we meet” with “may I help you now” will save so much time. I can’t wait to try it and I have a feeling it may even put some issues into perspective. Sometimes when a person says “may we meet” they think it is a big issue or a big deal, when it’s discussed on the fly without making a big deal about it, I imagine the person bringing up the issue may realize it isn’t really that big of a deal anyway. Not to mention the fact that people feel valued when you immediately give them attention to an issue. Thanks!

    • Art Petty January 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      Jason, thanks for reading and glad some of the guidance resonated! Have fun “leading on the fly.” Regards, -Art

  4. Patricia Comer January 21, 2010 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    First, It is important to change the priority – in other words, if the leader “understood” the importance of coaching, feedback and development this would be a moot issue. So, the key here is understanding. And the key to understanding is education! Keep on coaching Art! You are right on!

  5. Christian Sokoll January 22, 2010 at 8:22 am - Reply


    As managers we can be so tied down in the details of the day we fail to recognize the primary concept of leadership effectiveness: you can only be an effective leader if people are willing to follow. Your points are extremely important as you suggest the concept of Leading by following. The questions; “How can I help you, what do you think you should do, what is working and what is not?” are critical in co-worker development and growth. Without growth of the individual there is not growth for the organization. Thank you for your insight!!


  6. Molly Sandquist January 25, 2010 at 7:09 am - Reply

    This was a great article and gave some great actionable steps one can take. Not just fluff.

    • Art Petty January 25, 2010 at 7:13 am - Reply

      Thanks, Molly!

  7. […] 6. Teach and delegate decision-making. I’ve written on this extensively, and an effective decision-making culture that facilitates making the calls close to the action is critical for improving real time performance.  One of your best responses in this process to inquiries on “What to do?,” is, “What do you think you should do?” via artpetty.com […]

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