Many of the leaders I work with describe their workdays as a series of back-to-back meetings, calls, emails and impromptu gatherings in their offices. After work, they drive home and start the craziness again with their home routines before they sleep and repeat the whole pattern the next day. There is no margin at all in a schedule like this one.
Margin is the space between. For leaders that means the critical space in which thought, planning and strategizing can take place. Margin brings spaciousness in which vision can grow. With margin, leaders find room for planning and development.
Without margin, leaders are caught in a web of reactivity, stress, anxiety and the potential for disaster. There is no extra time to think, plan, or even breathe. Furthermore, there is absolutely no room for the unexpected, and we all know that leadership is filled with the unexpected. Leaders without margin are those who are seen as tactical and described in 360’s as “do-ers” but lacking in vision. A lack of margin time leaves leaders without the ability to do the main thing their jobs require – lead!
As a result, I advise the leaders I work with to look critically at their calendars if they hope to avoid the trap of the margin-less. Leaders who are successful in creating more margin in their days try to schedule meetings and phone calls with time in between for breaks. They build in extra time to travel to and from events in case there is unusual traffic or they experience a delay. After all, if they arrive early, they can use that time to return phone calls and emails or to read and think.
Leaders with margin also work hard to avoid over-scheduling their days. They block portions of days for visioning, strategizing, thinking and big picture planning. They analyze their calendars, looking for meetings they can drop out of, tasks they can delegate and time they can reclaim. They notice where they feel rushed, pressed for time or without the room to breathe or think. Those are the times when they need margin, and by evaluating how and what they schedule, they can create more of that needed space.
The most successful leaders know that where there is margin, there is room for vision, for strategy and for the unexpected. They take the initiative to create the time they need for these crucial activities rather than waiting and hoping that they simply “find” they time.
Where do you need more leadership margin? How will you create that much-needed extra time to do the things only you can do?