Kicking Time Management into Touch

With 5 million applications for the Rugby World Cup tickets, there will be a few disappointed punters. I am pleased to say I’m not one of them. There will be some who say I’m lucky to have got tickets, yet you have to be in it to win it. This is true in business; you need to use strategic time management and effort to achieve success.

So what other learning is there for business leaders from the game of rugby to ensure a winning year? This idea came to me recently when designing  management training with the owner of a fast growing IT company, who used the analogy of rugby to clarify his point.

Where on the pitch?

Robert (false name) said he saw himself as the hooker, always out front, in the thick of it and playing

Is you in the thick of it unable to see the bigger game?
Are you in the thick of it unable to see the bigger game?

most other positions as well. He felt pleased that he needed to be more at the back of the field and let others take the lead. My suggestion was he needed to take time out to be the coach/manager on the bench and see the game from a different perspective to build a winning strategy. The thought of not being on the pitch at all was a difficult concept for Robert to accept.

This is a common issue as a business grows from a one (wo)man band to a team. The owner wants to control everything and be hands-on; and can find letting go hard. There is a real need to take time for strategic management and delegating to the rest of the team. Otherwise, the pressure can be on to achieve unrealistic goals and energy is burnt up needlessly.

We know that kicking a ball into touch in rugby is to avoid pressure from the opposing team in a difficult situation. In business, there are times when we need to kick time into touch in order to reduce pressure and retain a competitive edge. Basically, we have to prioritise the time to plan and strategise, if we want to be effective and avoid burn out. It also needs time to ensure each team player is where they should be, have the skills and are pulling their weight.

As in successful rugby teams, each member of a business team needs to know their position, roles and responsibilities and the overall game plan to achieve the goals. A good manager knows everyone’s strengths and plays to them. No one person in a team should see themselves as the ‘star’ and above the rules.

How often do you take time to ‘step off the field to see the game from a different perspective, become the coach; and give others a chance to run with the ball?’

Don’t Blame Time

One of the most common reasons for not doing things, which I hear from business leaders, is ‘I didn’t have time.’ Time is easy to blame. Yet it just sits there ticking away relentlessly, an innocent bystander. I suggest that it is how we choose to use that time that is important. In other words, it is self and team management rather than time management.

If it’s not time’s fault then what is to blame? From feedback on our courses, it is lack of planning, poor prioritising, lack of clear goals, procrastination, and/or interruptions, especially emails.

As my co-tutor, Huw Bowles said; “a rugby coach knows that they only have a set time to win. Few afterwards would sblame a loss on running out of time to score.  In another sport, Manchester United was famous for wining in the last few minutes of the game. Yet in business, how often do we waste time and overrun deadlines?”

Staying Focused

Few people embody a study of being focused more than Johnny Wilkinson when he’s taking a kick, especially in those pressured moments in the final of the 2003 World Cup.

In business, the leader’s role is to keep the team focused. With so many things coming at us in a day, it is easy to get distracted and drawn out of the flow of a task. This is the reality, so when planning your day, do you build in ‘but’ time; i.e. time you could have got things done BUT for that. On average, this BUT time can amount to at least two hours a day. If you don’t allow for this in your daily plan, then you are potentially setting yourself up to fail.

Distractions can come in all forms, but emails are a major one. Technology was designed to save us time, but there is the risk of the ‘master becoming the slave’. The simple act of timing when you read your emails, rather than letting them pop-up, can dramatically increase your effective use of time. Managing technology is a massive subject in itself and someone may like to contribute an article on this.

Celebrating Success

Another sport which demonstrated this recently was the Formula One manufacturer’s win by Mercedes. Everyone’s contribution to that win was recognised, not just the drivers.

A key motivator for any team is recognition and a common phrase I hear from delegates is ‘we soon hear when things go wrong, but rarely when it has gone right’. Whether a small personal success for a team member or a major business win, it is important to find the time to celebrate that.

Back to the Coach

However successful a rugby team has been, (let’s hope that’s England next year), you can guarantee they will be back in training very quickly. For a business, it is equally important to find time to train and sharpen your skills to keep that keen competitive edge.

Key Learning

Having run the course based on this theme, the key actions for the company were:

  1. Getting consensus and communicating the business priorities to speed up daily decision making and prioritising
  2. Establishing clear expectations based on company values and communicating these to internal and external customers
  3. Setting up regular staff meetings to communicate activities and problem solving – tackling one time robber/month
  4. Planning how to increase the time spent on activities that actually add value to the business
  5. Setting SMARTA goals more often and holding people accountable to achieving them
  6. Setting time aside to tame the inbox. Agree protocols for response times and ‘do not disturb’ periods for focused work
  7. Planning and implementing actions to increase power in the business
  8. Planning effective delegation of tasks especially to free up time for strategy and management
  9. Agreeing how to support and hold people accountable for their actions from this training.

Some Quick Wins

The team have managed to make some quick wins already:

  • Robert has delegated his work and taken a day off to be at his son’s birthday (a first)
  • Agendas for meetings are now timed and actions allocated for accountability. This has led to more effective meetings
  • One member of the team has got out of her ‘in-box’ and has a daily task list, which is helping her focus.

“…..we came here to win, not to come second” Sir Clive Woodward

If you would like to find out more about how you can kick your time management into touch for a winning 2015, then please contact us or book onto our next course on January 22nd 2015.


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