Finding Balance Within Your Bandwidth

Running a successful business is hard. Running a successful, profitable business is even harder. Running a successful, profitable business year after year is harder still.

What I’ve learned throughout my career is that you need to keep plugging away while also making decisions that will continue to propel you and the organization forward, understanding that competition for your time and attention is fierce. Limited bandwidth is a common complaint I hear among my peers, and the primary culprit is our inability to find balance when juggling competing pressures, deadlines and constituencies. Here are eight practices I incorporate into my daily routine to help find balance within my bandwidth:

1. Be decisive

This is number one on the list, and for good reason. Above all else, decisiveness can make or break an executive. Do you make decisionsH based on all the information available and what experience has taught you (not to mention your intuition)? Or do you end up in a perpetual state of quagmire, wanting just a little more intel before making a final decision? As a key executive, your company’s stakeholders—whether that’s your employees, managers, customers, board or shareholders—count on you to act decisively and demonstrate sound judgment.

2. Inspire urgency

Good leaders inspire teams to act with a sense of urgency. This is especially true when timing is critical in delivering against expectations. If you notice teams lacking a sense of urgency, dig deeper to find out the root cause. There might be a lack of clarity around the importance of the assigned project or task. Or perhaps they’ve grown too comfortable in their roles. One way to inspire urgency is to praise employees who model the organizational urgency you desire from the team.

3. Be selective

It’s better to attack fewer projects and do them well than it is to tackle many that end up half-baked or poorly thought out. Focus on the business drivers that are most impactful and deserving of your attention, particularly those that have the biggest impact to revenue, cash flow, customer acquisition, etc. Avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae (though some quagmires may require executive attention to better understand the issues and provide guidance). The key is to drive toward successful outcomes. Recognize when to play an advisor role and relinquish subject matter expertise to the appropriate team member. If you try to take on every project that comes your way, this could backfire and end up costing your business significantly.

4. Delegate liberally

Are your managers and teams prepared to inherit project ownership? Do they have the knowledge, understanding and ability to do so? And have you inspired the confidence in them to want to take on these projects? If not, how can you work with them to ensure that projects delegated to them are successful and not squandered? While you’re at it, consider what meetings can be delegated. Those involving sensitive, personnel-related conversations are best handled by a direct supervisor and/or HR. And how are you delegating the generation of thoughts and ideas? If you’re leading creative brainstorms, the team may hold back as you inadvertently suppress freedom of thought in the group.

5. Build trust

Consider the types of behaviors in individuals and teams that help build a solid foundation of trust across your organization. For most, consistency and follow-through are essential behaviors in building trust. There can be exceptions when circumstances change (e.g., markets, resource availability, etc.) which may require pivoting or regrouping to address new situations, but follow-through should be habitual. Without it, your commitment is questioned. When you say you’ll do something, do it.

6. Attack fears and anxiety

Don’t let fears or anxiety stifle progress. You will encounter failures and roadblocks, but your organization depends on you to overcome the fear of things not going as you would like. What can you do in these situations? Consider asking a trusted advisor for guidance. Or take a breather and recalibrate before proceeding. Learn what methods work best for you and nip those fears and anxieties in the bud to find balance within your bandwidth.

7. Institutionalize knowledge

Where do you store knowledge within your organization? Is it held by just a few top lieutenants who could walk out the door tomorrow and start their own company? And how does your team access these knowledge repositories? Identify opportunities to institutionalize organizational knowledge, ensuring that repeatable functions can be accessed by as many employees as necessary. Standards and conventions around “how we do things” are necessary for driving consistency, control and efficiencies.

8. Assess your performance

Lastly, audit the projects you’re working on. Would you include any of them on your resume? Are some less noteworthy and simply filling your already busy schedule? Beyond just looking at projects and outcomes, also assess your performance as it relates to how you complete your projects. Do you work well if you’re constantly interrupted? To what extent are you multitasking? And are the results better or worse when you do so? Understanding what you’re doing and how you’re doing it is critical to your success—or failure—as an executive.

Final Thoughts

While we all struggle to find balance in our professional lives, I believe building these actions into our job functions will free up some much-needed bandwidth and mold us into more efficient and effective business leaders.

This article was first published in Forbes Business Council on August 23, 2022.