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- A study of time management among executives in leadership positions found that effectiveness isn’t only up to the person in the corner office.
- A CEO’s success depends strongly on their direct reports, and even one report who isn’t performing as needed can dampen the CEO’s own effectiveness.
- This conclusion was drawn by Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, who wrote about their in-depth analysis of how 27 CEOs allocate their time in the Harvard Business Review.
You’ve probably heard that the typical person is the average of the five people with whom they spend the most time.
According to a new study, it looks like that same principle applies to CEOs.
In the Harvard Business Review, Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria write about their in-depth analysis of how 27 CEOs allocate their time. The CEOs primarily run public companies and include 25 men and two women in their ranks. Porter and Nohria tracked them for three months each, relying on executive assistants to detail each exec’s time. All together, they write in HBR, the two researchers collected and coded about 60,000 hours worth of data.
They came to many fascinating conclusions, and the entire HBR article is worth a read. There’s a point, however, that stands out: Just one direct report who isn’t a high performer can dampen a CEO’s effectiveness significantly.
“We found that it’s critical for each member of the leadership team to have the capabilities to excel and earn the CEO’s full trust and support,” wrote Porter and Nohria on HBR. “Any weaknesses in this group significantly reduce the CEO’s effectiveness, because dealing with work that reports should have handled, and cleaning up after them, eats up valuable time.”
“In fact, when our CEOs gathered as a group across cohorts to see how things were going after they had been in office awhile, their No. one regret was not setting high-enough standards in selecting direct reports. Many CEOs told us this was because they focused too much on the present and not enough on the future when they first stepped into the role. Direct reports who could manage the status quo were often not the ones who could help the CEO take the company to a new level.”
Porter and Nohria’s analysis also found that CEOs spend considerable time with the “top 100” leaders and managers in their organization. That time, they wrote, is well-spent.
“The top 100 are often the driving force for execution in the organization, and direct contact with the CEO can help align and motivate them,” Porter and Nohria wrote.
Plus, this “top 100” could include candidates to succeed the CEO’s own direct reports and influence his or her effectiveness on a daily basis.