top of page

4 Ways Leaders Can Protect Their Time and Empower Their Teams

We know that controlling what we pay attention to is the key to living an intentional life. According to an informal poll of my clients, one of the biggest impediments to attention management is “O.P.P.” — other people’s problems. This is a particular problem for my clients in leadership who find it difficult to disconnect from their team, even for short periods. The primary reasons they give for this constant availability are that they “don’t want to be the bottleneck that holds up important work,” and they want to be available to make decisions and mentor their staff through problems.

So in this article, I want to take a deeper dive into learning to control your environment. When leaders’ time is constantly in demand from staff, they report they have too little time remaining to engage in what might be their most important role — “reflective thinking time.” This is time to look ahead, consider different paths, play out different scenarios, and generally be visionaries for the organization. And even worse, the constant distraction undermines their very capacity for being reflective, by eroding their attention span and crowding out “slow thinking” with “fast thinking.”

How can leaders create the time and space to think and get important work done, while still being mentors and enabling the team to keep their work moving forward?

I arm my clients with four strategies that help them find this balance.

Mentor in hindsight.

Mentoring is an important role of leadership and helps to groom employees to advance within the organization. However, they learn much less when advice is given on the front end than they do when they have the opportunity to experience their own successes and failures and discuss them with their boss later.

Try opening scheduled discussions with staff by saying, “What problems or challenges did you face this week, and how did you deal with them? … And how well did that work out for you?”

If you’re concerned about how team members can identify what kinds of issues they can solve on their own and what they should bring to you, consider the next strategy.

Create boundaries for decision-making.