How to Become a Better Leader in 15 Minutes a Week

Be strategic with your scarcest resource: your attention.

How to Become a Better Leader in 15 Minutes a Week

How to Become a Better Leader in 15 Minutes a Week

Be strategic with your scarcest resource: your attention.

This tip is so simple you might be tempted to skip it. But try it out for a few weeks, and see what you notice. This is one “tiny habit” that will help you excel as a leader.


Schedule 15 minutes a week (yes, blocked out on your calendar) to focus on what small steps you will take that week to better lead your organization. Choose Monday mornings if you like to set your priorities each week; choose the end of your Friday if you prefer to plan ahead for the next week.

Why Does This Work?

A study conducted by the Harvard Business School found that the simple habit of deliberate reflection on your experience will improve your effectiveness as a leader faster than having more experiences. In other words, regular, deliberate self-reflection results in both improved performance and increased self-efficacy.

How to Do This

I wrote a blog post way back in 2010 about the World's Simplest Leadership Model, which I've been using with my clients since 2006. This leadership model's 3 main concepts - clear direction, employee engagement, and effective execution - apply to today's tip.

  1. Clear Direction

When people know the outcomes they’re working toward, they more easily maintain focus toward delivering results. Ask yourself one or more of these questions:

  • How clear were you last week with directions, goals, or expectations?
  • What evidence tells you that people in your organization understand clearly?
  • Which individuals (or groups) do you believe need more clarity, and on what?
  • How will you confirm your hypothesis?

Then decide: what action will you take this week to bring a little more clarity?

  1. Engaged Employees

Employee engagement is linked to all kinds of great business outcomes. Gallup reports that highly engaged teams show over 20% greater productivity when compared to less-engaged teams, with teams in the 99th percentile having quadruple the success rate as those in the first percentile. High engagement also lowers turnover rates and improves employee satisfaction overall - two paramount goals for today’s leaders.

  • Mentally scan your organization and notice where the energy is higher, as well as where you sense lower energy, greater stress, or more strained relationships
  • Consider how best to influence the lower energy group or individuals -- what are they missing? Who should address this? Maybe it’s yours to act on, or perhaps one of your executive team.
  • If the action should come from another leader, how will you bring this to their attention and coach them toward success?
  • If it should come from you, what might you do to address this? Should you ask questions? Listen more fully? Name a challenge or concern you’re sensing? Remind someone of an accomplishment or success, or progress you’ve noticed?

Then decide: what action will you take or encourage this week that will slightly improve engagement?

  1. Effective Execution

Progress depends on people getting the right work done in the best way possible, and in a timely manner to achieve results. As the overall “conductor” of your organization, taking a few minutes a week to notice the bottleneck(s) in your business will help you direct attention to improving delivery.

  • Start with locating the bottleneck in your business -- what’s the one area that is most constraining progress? Maybe it’s getting financial data to execs in time to adjust spending appropriately. Or responding to customer concerns. Is it the speed of filling open positions? Or making key product decisions?
  • Consider the root causes of the barrier, and estimate how much is due to people, process, or technology issues. Check your assumptions with a few people who are closer to the issue than you are.
  • Guesstimate the benefit of removing that bottleneck, and the effort needed to do so (aka the cost to the organization)

Then decide: who should be addressing this bottleneck, and over what time frame. And identify one small step you will take to raise your concern, build buy-in, gather the team, or prompt action.

If you’re up for a larger challenge, try 15 minutes each day. Whether you decide to spend 15 minutes a week or a day, this tiny habit will yield grand benefits as your focus stays on these leadership accountabilities. And whether you choose to reflect on all three each day, or just the one that needs attention each week/day, your company will benefit.

Be Stingy With Your Scarcest Resource

Executive attention is the scarcest resource in your organization. You should invest it with intention, and spend your time on your “highest and best use.” To double down, coach your leadership team members to do the same.

Allotting 15 minutes a week to reflect on your leadership accountabilities will help you take action where you can make the best contribution. Simply put, this habit will make you a better leader!