August 19th, 2014

Annual Budgeting Using The Hope and a Prayer Strategy

Drukker quote about planningEvery year all companies face the same challenge of developing the budget for the upcoming year… something that we are currently finalising. The extent of that planning will vary among companies, but generally companies need to have targets for the next year which are focused on revenues and expenses, resulting in what everyone hopes will be a healthy bottom line and reasonable growth.

Great companies are very good at this planning process, understand what it takes to meet their targets and their forecasts will be fairly accurate, not withstanding the obvious impacts of recessions and other unforeseen calamities.

Many companies however employ a less than strategic approach to their planning, and very often managers are allowed to feel like they don’t actually “own” the plan. In these circumstances the numbers achieved are more a result of chance, than of planning and execution against a plan!

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” Peter Drucker

This is what I call the Hope and a Prayer Strategy.

Step 1. Pick a number

Step 2. Share that number (maybe)

Step 3. Hope you hit that number

It is not a very satisfying way to manage, because every month when the numbers roll in those managers cross their fingers and hope. Invariably fate is not kind and the result is a habit of failure, and excuses for that failure.

“Planning is a process of choosing among those many options. If we do not choose to plan, then we choose to have others plan for us.” Richard I. Winwood

Managers MUST truly OWN their plans. They need to own the targets, the responsibility for the tactics that will ensure their success, and for adjusting those tactics along the way when things don’t go as planned!

This is a more strategic approach to the annual budgeting exercise, and has a far higher chance of success!

Step 1. Develop a budget with input from executive, management and delivery teams. It should be realistic but with adequate growth, and built based upon known opportunities and reasonable expectations.

Step 2. Communicate the plan to all concerned, together with the tactics that will be employed to meet the plan. Adjust tactics at this point to ensure success and ensure that everyone buys into the targets. EVERYONE needs to accept accountability at this point.

Step 3. Start to execute against the plan.

Step 4. Measure on a regular basis, at least monthly to ensure that assumptions are reality, that activity is tracking as expected and that results are in line with expectations.

Step 5. Adjust tactics as needed to ensure the next results meet expectations, and will compensate for any shortfall year to date.

Step 6. Go back to Step 3 and repeat every month (or chosen cycle) through the fiscal year.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

The big word here is ACCOUNTABILITY. Everyone needs to be accountable so that the culture is one of pursuing success, not one of developing excuses for failures.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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August 15th, 2014

Making Tough Business Decisions

Jim Rohn quote on leadershipTo operate a successful business, or even division within a business, there needs to be a pragmatic approach to solving problems. It should be a dispassionate look at problem situations with the desired outcome being the correct “business decision” for the company.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” Jim Rohn

As a leader making these decisions you will invariably be faced with tough calls to make, ambiguous circumstances that can muddy the waters and the need to make unpopular decisions. In those cases you need to do the best that you can, understanding that you can’t please everyone.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Bill Cosby.

As a business owner who has faced many of these decisions over the years I think I can provide some guidance based on experience. Here are some thoughts:

  1. The worst thing that you can do is to avoid making the decision!
  2. It is OK to consciously choose not to change things, after considering the facts.
  3. You will not always be right.
  4. Business decisions must always be fact based, not emotional decisions. Don’t get caught up in the emotions.
  5. Be decisive in your actions… don’t let the problems hang around.
  6. Communicate as much as possible with people, but at the end of the day most people are smart enough to know “that decision” was coming, even if they don’t like it.
  7. It is normal to feel bad about decisions that affect people, but if your decisions are based on facts, and in the best interests of the company then you have done your job.
  8. It is difficult to remove emotion from situations when you are emotionally involved. There are good reasons why leaders should not have close personal friendships with people that work for them.
  9. I find that it helps to have partners who I can talk to before during and after the tough decisions. For some leaders there are no peers within the company, so finding an outlet is important. Peer groups like YPO can help.
  10. At the end of the day we are at work to work, and the focus needs to be the success of the business or everyone suffers. Leaders are expected to make reasoned, timely business decisions. They are not in their role to win a popularity contest.

“One rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits.” Robert K. Greenleaf

The most difficult decisions will always affect people, their livelihood, their career, their success within the company or not. When business decisions do affect people negatively then leaders should accept some responsibility, act with compassion and treat people as fairly as possible. If you are unfair, unreasonable or insensitive in your decision making there is likely to be a ripple effect which should be avoided where possible.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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August 11th, 2014

Love What You Do Is More Realistic Than Do What You Love!

Happiness is a choice sayingWe are often told to do what you love, that you should choose a career that will inspire you and will fulfill you.

Here is the thing … it is not always that easy.

There are a relatively small percentage of people who achieve that goal.  For most people the answer is somewhat different.  We human beings are complex creatures and while we might love a certain “calling”, there are other considerations that might make it the wrong choice.  It might not pay enough for us to have the standard of living we want or it might be somewhere we don’t want to work … or any other factor that might impact our career choice.

I will tell you that it is possible to love what you do, even if it was not your first choice in career.

“I have decided to be happy because it is good for my health.” Voltaire

Here are some facts about Loving What You DO:

If you can love what you do:

  1. Your stress levels go down immeasurably.
  2. You will be happier.
  3. You will be more successful.
  4. All parts of your life will benefit.

 “The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else…The driving force of a career must come from the individual. Remember: Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!” Earl Nightingale

How do you learn to love what you do?

  1. Look for all of the positive aspects in your work.
  2. Come to work and be as effective as you can … no matter what your role.
  3. Have the attitude of a business owner.
  4. Recognise that you have to work anyway, so you might as well enjoy it, and be as good as possible at it.
  5. Always be open to learning.
  6. Associate with the positive people.
  7. Avoid the negative people.
  8. Find ways to help those around you.
  9. Try to do more than is asked.
  10. Be proud of your role, and recognize your own achievements.

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.” Pearl S. Buck

Happiness is always within your own control and more about how you react to situations than about the situations themselves.  Job satisfaction is no different.

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

Take control of your own job happiness!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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August 8th, 2014

Your Personal Vision Statement

quote about visionariesCompanies create vision statements, with the intent of picturing how the company might look at some point in the future.

It is just one way of bringing order to how a company is run.

If you get the vision right, it becomes “the goal” and every business decision needs to move you towards that goal.  It makes it easier to ensure everyone is heading in the same direction, it brings clarity to business decisions that might otherwise be murky.  If you are making a decision that would result in a negative impact on your suppliers, and part of your vision was to build long term partnering arrangements with your suppliers, you might want to rethink that decision.

We can use this exact same methodology personally!

If you can determine what your “personal vision” should be, then it can guide you in decisions along life’s path.

For instance, if you see yourself as a successful business owner at some point in your future then you can make career decisions along the way that will be valuable when you reach that “goal”.

If you see yourself in a different career, geography, industry or whatever future you can imagine … you have something to aim for.

Take some time to think about what you want to do with your life.

Imagine yourself in the future and try to decide what you want at future to look like.

Then, start to find ways to move in the direction of your “vision”!

Some thoughts …

1.  Aim big.

2.  Understand what is important to you, and weave that into your vision, or make it the focus of your vision.

3.  Talk to people, read a lot, explore the internet and understand possibilities.

4.  Be positive, believe in yourself, read about people that have “done it”.

5.  Motivate yourself to always be moving towards that vision, and reward yourself as you reach the little milestones along the way.

You only live once … make it count!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Gain a competitive edge!  Join Eagle’s Executive Consulting Network!
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July 28th, 2014

A Sense of Humour At Work

Quote about humour from Bill CosbyWhat role does humor play in the work place?

There is plenty of scientific support for the fact that laughter is good for you.  It is good for you physically, because it brings oxygen rich air into your body that stimulates your lungs, heart and muscles in addition to releasing endorphins from your brain.  Laughter is good for you mentally because it reduces stress and it is hard to feel anxious, angry or sad when you are laughing.

I don’t need the science to know that I like to laugh.  It just feels good.

I also know that I like to be around positive people, and most especially positive people that make me laugh.

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo

Business is serious.  There are always issues, challenges and stress.  There are financial pressures, targets to meet, competitive pressures, market pressures and the ever present need to grow.  There are employee issues, product issues, customer issues and supplier issues.  It is easy to let business get you down!

So what role does humor have in the workplace?

In my opinion a workplace without humor is a soulless place and the more humor you can have the better!

Cartoon man laughingHere are 10 thoughts about humor in the workplace.

  1. The person who brings a smile in the work place brings a “value add” above their other skills.
  2. If humor can reduce stress then that alone is a big reason to find ways to introduce humor.
  3. Humor needs to be universal … some humor can be at the expense of others and that can be destructive.
  4. People who can make others laugh tend to be positive people, and you should always want positive people around.
  5. Humor defuses tough situations, which frees up people’s brains to focus on the issue without the distraction of stress.
  6. A smile is infectious so humor can have a positive effect on a whole team, even those who don’t necessarily get the humor!
  7. I don’t want to work in an environment where there is no laughter, so I assume others feel the same way.  Laughter is therefore good for staff retention.
  8. Leaders should actively encourage humor.  This may seem strange, but given that there are so many benefits, why wouldn’t leaders want to put a focus on this?
  9. Business is serious, but finding ways to bring humor into the workplace is likely to improve performance because everyone is less stressed.
  10. Leaders need to set the example.  A smile costs nothing, but is worth a lot.  Laughter costs nothing but has positive physical and mental impacts … just do it!

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Charlie Chaplin

A CEO, a supervisor and a line worker went into a workplace…
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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July 23rd, 2014

Change Your Results … Or Have Them Changed For You!

Change quote from HeraclitusThere are two basic ways in which change will happen to your results.  The more desirable way is Proactively, where you change the things you are doing and the way you are doing them.  However if you do not change your behaviors, inevitably change will come Incidentally, because the world will change around you! 

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change”.  Bill Clinton

This is one of the prime motivators for companies to pursue growth strategies, because otherwise they WILL go backwards.

The same principle applies to us as individuals, if we stop learning and growing, pushing and improving, then we will be overtaken by change around us and most likely by those who are willing to keep changing.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”. Charles Darwin 

Here are some of the common comments from people resisting change:

  • “We have always done it this way.” Or “Everybody does it this way.”
  • “Why change something that is working?”
  • “I know best.” (One of my all time favorites)
  • “We worked hard to get to this point!”  (The unsaid statement being that it will be hard work to change it.)

As a leader you will need to overcome those objections from your team but more importantly from within your own brain!  If you don’t believe in the change then you are never going to convince others to go along!

Here are 10 practical things that you can do:

  1. Involve everybody affected in the development of the “new way”.  They don’t need to all be in a big strategy session, but they do need some way to provide input and they need to understand why the change is happening.  People will react better if they feel a part of the change as opposed to having change imposed on them.
  2. Don’t make the change too big … try to break it down into manageable bites.  Get some small wins to build on!
  3. Reward success … whether it is recognition, small incentives or even monetary rewards.  The rewards need to be in line with the “wins” but at a minimum people need to get some recognition.
  4. You are likely building new habits, and we all know how hard that is … try starting a new exercise regime, quitting smoking etc.  There likely needs to be some prescribed changes that are measured, monitored and managed.  If you just ask (or tell)  “them” to just do it … good luck with that!
  5. There should be a ton of communication.
  6. There should be executive level support and encouragement.
  7. Try to get champions.  If you can get some members of the team having success, then they can help in the education, “selling” and implementation of the “new way”.
  8. Recognise that there will be setbacks … don’t give up!  Find new ways, try different approaches, rekindle the enthusiasm … do not allow the “naysayers” to win.
  9. As a leader, it is critical that you always support the initiative, and encourage any other leaders to do the same.  If people sense any support against the change the project will be doomed.
  10. Be available to give advice and to bring support and leadership.  Do not disappear and expect the “project” to get done.

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”  John F. Kennedy
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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July 22nd, 2014

The Many Hats of the CFO

Jim Rohn quote on leadershipI was at the FEI (Financial Executives International) conference in Niagara Falls a few weeks ago.  There was some great content over a couple of days, but one of the best sessions was the opening keynote from Maureen Sabia who is Chairman of the Board at Canadian Tire.  She has enjoyed many years serving on public company boards, and is very clear in what she expects from a CFO.  With her experience, knowledge and confidence I was not about to argue, and she was very compelling with her views.

To many people the CFO is “the bean counter”, and there is a stereotype expectation that he/she will be a little “straight”, not necessarily a people person, a little risk averse, a little nerdy and not very social.  Many accountants will play up that stereotype, but my experience with senior financial executives and especially those at the most senior levels is that they are not at all like those stereotypes.

Here is what Maureen Sabia had to say about CFOs.

  1.  The very basic expectation of a CFO is that they know the technical aspects of their job cold.  Good with numbers, good with understanding the nuances of the numbers and able to report efficiently and accurately.
  2. There is an expectation that the CFO will offer no surprises to those who rely on her to provide information.  The board and the other company executives should have absolute trust that she will not hold back.
  3. Board members and most importantly the audit committee should expect to meet with the CFO prior to any board meeting, and should expect to hear anything they need to know before going to the board meeting (see #2).
  4. The CFO should cultivate relationships beyond her domain … with other executives, board members, industry members and peers.
  5. Maureen talked about the 4 distinct roles that the CFO will have … The Strategist, The Catalyst, The Guardian and the Operator.
  6. The Strategist.  In this role the CFO applies his financial leadership in M&A situations, capital markets, financing and in aligning the financial strategies with the business strategies.  The CFO should have an excellent understanding of the business, so much so that a previous role with business management responsibilities is extremely valuable.
  7. The Catalyst.  The CFO will share in leadership responsibilities with the CEO, ensuring the disciplined execution of the corporate strategy (together with the rest of the executive team).  The CFO will bring a rigor to the processes of the company, change management skills and a good understanding of the risks inherent in the business strategy.
  8. The Guardian.  The CFO will protect the assets of the company, bringing the right balance of risk to the growth strategy.  She will not shy away from challenging the CEO, bringing a healthy tension to the executive suite ensuring that the CEO is not surrounded by “yes men”.  The CFO must have the trust of the executive and the board, which is achieved through openness, honesty and her strategic value to the organisation.
  9. The Operator.  The CFO will bring the right talent to her team, delegate and mentor to ensure she has the time to execute on all of the expected roles.  The CFO is just expected to be extremely competent at this part of the job … the numbers need to be reported accurately, completely and efficiently.
  10. Tenure is important … when a company has a great CFO they need to hold onto them, ensuring continuity and reducing the risks inherent in turnover.

I must say that having worked with my CFO for the last 18 years, in a private enterprise, I can understand exactly what Maureen is describing.  To be able to trust absolutely, to know that the advice comes with a deep understanding of the business and to know that the technical aspects of the CFO role are “a given” is very important to any CEO.

How does your CFO stack up?  If you are a CFO are there areas that you need to work on?

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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July 21st, 2014

The Art Of Avoiding Work, And What To Do About It!

Happiness is an attitude posterThere is a certain type of person that takes great delight in doing everything possible to avoid work.  I have seen them in action, or perhaps I should say I have seen their inaction, in many different situations and from what I can see they generally have one, or a combination of motivations:

1.  Laziness;

2.  A need to demonstrate their “superiority”, through their ability to “fool the boss”;

3.  Their need to belong or just peer pressure, following the lead of the “instigators”;

4.  The “thrill” of the game … because they are not really challenged by their work; and

5.  Sometimes it is the only “control” that they feel they have.

“It’s sad, really, how a negative workplace can impact our lives and the way we feel about ourselves. The situation is reaching pandemic heights – most people go to work at jobs they dislike, supervised by people who don’t care about them, and directed by senior leaders who are often clueless about where to take the company.”  Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld

If you are a business owner, or a leader within an organization the obviously this kind of “worker” (non-worker) is not good for business, but what can you do about it?

  • If it is not already an embedded culture within your organization then you need to move fast and “stop the rot”.

“If you want to learn about a culture listen to the stories.  If you want to change a culture change the stories”  Anonymous.

  • It is not always possible to make employees feel engaged, but it is possible to measure productivity.  If it is a possibility to tie pay to performance, rewards to performance and/or recognition to performance it might help.  An employee who is rewarded, whether financially or otherwise), by “what they do”, rather than by “time put in”, might find some motivation to actually do the job.

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” Simon Sinek

  • Engagement is a BIG word … but the essence of the problem is a divide between the person doing the work, and the management/ownership.  It is possible to get people engaged, but it takes a big effort, a real willingness to do that heavy lifting, an honesty about wanting to have engagement and it needs to be done for the right reasons … not just because it is good for productivity.

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” Doug Conant

  •  Sometimes you need to remove the toxic influencers … just like the story of the bad apples affecting the good, a toxic personality can have a devastating impact on those around them.  I heard a quote recently that

“Some people are like clouds, when they disappear it is a brighter day”. 

  • Communicate … a lot.  People need to know you value them.  People need to understand the big picture.  People want to feel a part of something.  People want to be recognized.

“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”  Tom Peters

This is a problem faced by many large, bureaucratic types of organizations and once that culture is embedded it is incredibly difficult to change.  For smaller companies this is a great reason to establish the culture that you want, right from the beginning.

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
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July 15th, 2014

Developing Your Business Strategy … 10 Tips

H Stanley Judd quote about planningStrategic planning is a critical component of any company’s success.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” Sun Tsu.

Developing plans does not need to be onerous, but it does require effort and a commitment to taking the time required to the process. At my company we schedule a quarterly management meeting off site which we use to create plans, to review how plans are going and to address tactical problems. I believe this is a good practice and a big part of any success that we have enjoyed.

There are many benefits to taking the management team offsite for these kinds of sessions.

1. In a fairly short amount of time you can develop a roadmap that your team can execute against.

2. You will take advantage of the collective brainpower of your management team.

3. By getting away from the office you can bring a fresh look at the business.

4. A planning session should focus on the potential, but also recognize the challenges.

5. Some companies prefer to bring in external facilitators; we have had more success handling it ourselves. What you do need is someone capable of leading the sessions.

6. The sessions should be structured, following a process that “teases” out the ideas, encourages participation and is not constrained by “group think”.

7. The sessions need lots of space to write … we use the large post it note sheets all over the walls.

8. One traditional approach, and a good way to get into planning is a SWOT … Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

9. All participants should feel safe, everyone should be treated equally and nobody should dominate the talking.

10. The end result of this exercise should be ACTION Plans … with measurable outcomes, assigned to people AND with deadlines.

“Strategy is thinking about a choice, and choosing to stick with your thinking” Jeroen de Flanders

It is unlikely that your first strategic planning session will result in a major change in your direction … but it might!

It will result in positive action, supported by the whole management team that will advance the company’s goals.

It will result in a more engaged management team.

It will show who the strategic thinkers are.

It will allow the “quiet voices” (who often have the best ideas) a forum to get their ideas out.

If you don’t already conduct strategic planning t then I would strongly advise any business owner, executive, entrepreneur to engage in such an exercise and see what it can do for you.

And the final word from Peter Drucker, Strategic management is not a box of tricks or a bundle of techniques. It is analytical thinking and commitment of resources to action. But quantification alone is not planning. Some of the most important issues in strategic management cannot be quantified at all.”

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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July 14th, 2014

Get Time Management Right And Everything Else Follows!

Franklin Time Management QuotesThere are a million and one books designed to help us be more successful, be fitter and be smarter.  It can be a little daunting just trying to figure out what is most important.

Is it better to exercise in the morning or the evening?  Should I do weigh training or cardio?

Should I learn a new technical skill, get better at writing or work on my presentation skills?

Do I network within my industry or with people from other industries?

As you progress through your career you will be faced with a multitude of choices and you will need to work through your options to determine what the right answer is for you.

TimerThe best choice I made fairly early in my career was to be organized … to really work at my time management, because if you can be efficient with your time then you have an ability to introduce change into our routine, and accommodate all of those other commitments that will help you on the road to success.

If you can manage your calendar efficiently then you will know what is possible and what will work best for you.  Incidentally I work out in the mornings, because family commitments tended be in the evenings and I could adjust my sleep schedule to accommodate my workout routine in the morning.  If I tried to fit it in last thing at night I was far less likely to do it!

If you can figure out priorities then you can focus on what is important.  By giving some of my personal family commitments a very high priority I was able to fit in those parent/teacher interviews and sports events while still giving sufficient priority to get my work commitments done.  It’s not easy, but good time management and priority management achieves the best results.

If you can be disciplined enough to keep a current “To Do” list then you (a) ensure that you do not inadvertently miss any important tasks; and (b) can focus on “doing the work” rather than figuring out what to do.  You work on your “To Do” list for a few minutes once or twice a day, and then you just need to follow the plan.  You execute the top priority items first meaning that you are at your most productive.

Covey's time management quadrantIf you are committed to great time management then you learn some clear lessons that will help you for life.  Here are a few of mine:

i.  Interruptions are a productivity killer … when you are focused on a task do everything you can to avoid interruptions.

ii.  Just because the phone rings or an email arrives it does not mean you need to react to them.

iii.  There are certain parts of the day that are better suited to certain tasks … for example as a salesperson I had good luck contacting clients early in the morning before they got into their day.

iv.  You should concentrate on the toughest tasks first, when you are freshest.

v.  Crossing tasks off your list is very satisfying.

vi.  Every time you change job your system will need to change.  As a manager you delegate tasks and tracking those is a different challenge than actually doing your own tasks.  As a business owner I wear a number of hats which means having a system to ensure I am not missing tasks for ANY of those roles.

vii.  My stress levels are increased when I let my time management discipline slip.

viii.  Technology has given us some great tools … but sometimes paper works best.

ix.  You can get great ideas from lots of sources, but you have to decide what works best for you.

x.  Time management is a never ending task, both in the execution of your system AND in the evolution of your system!

My contention is that if you practice great time management then you will find a way to get all the things done that will contribute to your success!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Centre!
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