Jorge Gonzalez has a great track record as the CEO of City National Bank in Miami. Even when the business is going very well, he encourages his leaders to get out of their comfort zone and keep asking, “How can we do even better?” His organization is not as large as the huge national banks. He feels this size differential can actually be an advantage in terms of increased nimbleness, creativity and responsiveness to customers.
Jorge taught us a wonderful three-part exercise that we are using with leaders at all levels in any organization. In part one, ask each leader, “If you were given two bonus hours per week, to do whatever you believe what would be in the best long-term interest of the company, how would you spend this time?”
When we observe leaders answering this question, their eyes light up! They immediately begin to get creative. We have seen two major themes emerge from their reflections.
• Creating the organization of the future: When leaders discuss the challenges and opportunities their organization will face in the future, they focus on long-term strategy—not only for the company but also for their part of the business. Taking a two-hour break from “what is” gives them the opening to consider “what could be.”
• Developing the leaders of the future: When leaders share what they are most proud of, they almost invariably mention the mentoring and development of high-potential team members. Many note that spending more time developing people would both be beneficial to the company and add meaning to their lives.
Here is the problem: Although leaders almost always say they would prefer to spend more time creating the organization of the future and developing the leaders of the future, they already feel over-committed. Where will this two hours come from?
In part two of this exercise, Jorge deals with the reality of overcommitment by asking each leader, “If you were forced to eliminate two hours of your existing workload, what would you stop doing?”
Creativity kicks in again. Leaders start coming up with opportunities to both eliminate unneeded work and to delegate more responsibility to their team members. A common concern then begins to be expressed: “This sounds great to me, but what will my manager think?”
This question leads to part three of the exercise. Leaders are asked to sit down with their managers and share their ideas concerning what to add and what to eliminate. While some modifications may take place based upon manager input, managers, more often than not, tend to agree with their direct reports—and appreciate their creativity.
As a chief executive, start with yourself. Challenge yourself to add two great hours and eliminate two less meaningful hours from your work life every week. Lead by example. Describe what you learned in this exercise to your team members. Then ask them to complete parts one and two of the exercise on their own and, finally, to complete part three with you.
We love this exercise. It empowers leaders to take responsibility for their workweek, it inspires creativity, and, on a much more personal level, it makes each week more enjoyable and meaningful.
Thank you, Jorge!