“You should be spending 20% of your time on strategy. Spend time thinking about the bigger picture, about how things are going, and how we might do things differently. Take time out of the day-to-day and think about this.”

When I got my first official team lead position, this is what my manager said to me.
I was incredulous. Where would I find the time? What about all the tasks I needed to complete? What about all the additional projects I was managing?

To top it off, whenever I asked him for a prioritisation so that we could identify which things didn’t need to get done (so I could manage my workload etc), I left with more tasks from him.

I decided then to ignore his advice.

I felt smart. I thought I’d figured him out.

Yet I was actually still listening to him. I kept my current workload. I only took on a new task if he mentioned it a second time (he had A LOT of ideas, he followed up on very few of them I learned the hard way).

So I was doing what he told me.

Except I wasn’t spending 20% of my time on strategy.
I wasn’t giving myself the headspace to step back from the grind, to look at the big bigger, to look comprehensively at how we might do things better. I wasn’t looking at the long-term vision, only responding to the latest hot topic or emergency.

That one key thing that would transform me from a Doer into a Leader? I ignored that advice.
I was an excellent doer. And I wanted to create the necessary changes that would make the work easier and more effective.

I wanted people to be able to grow and co-create the best solutions.

I wanted us to be able to fix problems in a structural way, not just patch up and make workarounds until we can find the time to do it right.

I wanted to be able to anticipate the needs and create a system to fulfill them, instead of playing catch up.

Yet I scoffed at the idea that I should spend 20% of my time on strategy.

I have since learned the value of regularly taking time to look at the big picture, look at how the world is changing, check in with myself about what is my vision now, and how do I want to go about creating it.
And then dive back into the tactics and the doing.

On the whole, this particular manager was not someone I would put in my top ten of managers I’m happy that I had. And there’s a whole bunch of things I learned NOT to do from them.

But this one piece of advice turned out to be gold.

Spend 20% of your time thinking about strategy.
Be a leader, not just a doer on the hamster wheel of never-ending tasks.

This post is part of my special Coaching Tips Series. This series was inspired by my clients and the core themes in their challenges. When we can apply these tips, we bring a lot of ease into our lives and step into our leadership. Want to talk it through with me? Call me and let’s make a Game Plan together.