January 22, 2020


I met Lincoln D. when he was 18 years old. A high school dropout with two kids, he made $8.50 an hour before working for my father. Two years later, he was making nearly $100,000 as foreman.

It took training for Lincoln’s natural talents in roofing and leadership to become high-level skill. And investing in staff growth gave Dad the time and space to turn On-Time Construction into a multi-million-dollar business.

This style of leadership is how New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick wins Super Bowls. It’s how Mark Cuban avoids meetings. And it’s how successful CEOs grow their companies faster.

First, train yourself

Great CEOs know how to manage their time and the time of others.

“CEOs should have a corner office with a great view and staff who know when to bother them… and when to leave them alone,” said The Memo author and leadership professor Jack Yoest. “The best CEOs have plenty of time and space to think because their teams are trained to be independent and anticipatory.”

Getting to that point is no easy task, especially for leaders of large corporations or those who are involved in multiple companies.

“Interruptions cost the average professional [about] 2.5 hours per day,” productivity researcher and Zarvana founder Matt Plummer told me. “And the more people with whom you interact, the higher this grows—so it’s an even bigger problem for CEOs.” Plummer advised leaders to find places to work uninterrupted, tell staff to not bother them during specific times, and develop “ready-to-resume plans” to “recover quickly from interruptions.”

Robert Koenekamp is a firm believer in the philosophy of removing interruptions. A CEO or majority partner in five companies, two of which gross over $1 million per year, he increased his personal productivity to “be high impact with my time.”

His strategy for success is to dedicate several unbroken hours per day to any one business.

“When running multiple businesses, in order to grow, you have to invest your time wisely,” he explained. “I prioritize the most important tasks that will generate the most revenue, then build the right team to effectively executive the growth strategy.”

Then Train Others

The next level of CEO productivity is to train others to take on as many high-level responsibilities as possible. Koenekamp finds and trains people who can replace him in each of the companies in which he is invested. Each senior leader must “practice emotional intelligence,” decide “to thrive” instead of “survive,” and have the ability to “grow with the company instead of maxing out,” he said.

Yoest calls this “followership,” a method of subordinate leadership that the U.S. military uses to great effect. Plummer simply calls it investing “as much as you can in developing people around you.”

“Many people think productivity is about being task-focused, not people-focused,” continued Plummer. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you can’t get other people to do your work, you’ll hit your productivity ceiling pretty quickly.”

Maximize Profit and Growth

Success can only be achieved if team productivity is high. For Belichick, success is another Super Bowl ring; for business owners, it’s earning more money at a higher profit.

Motivated and trained staff members will make you and your company more money. They will also save money, time and other resources. For example, they will attract better and more customers, and improve customer retention—increasing the efficiency of marketing and sales processes as well as potentially reducing those costs. They will tend to stay in your company longer, which decreases the time and money invested in firing, hiring and training staff. Finally, they will increase workplace safety because they are working cohesively together—looking out for each other, customers and vendors and the company as a whole.

A great CEO’s team maximizes your company’s value each and every day. And you, the man or woman at the top, is now able to do your job better—even if you’re crazy enough to be on a roof at 60 years old.

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