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Illinois Employers: Are You Ready For Legalized Recreational Cannabis Affecting Your Workplace?

If not, now is the time! Illinois just became the 11th state to permit recreational cannabis. Governor Pritzker signed this legislation, as promised, on June 25, 2019.  Beginning January 1, 2020, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (“Act”), will allow adults (21+) in Illinois to possess and consume cannabis. While there is a lot “rolled” into the 600 plus page law (pun intended), there are significant employment pitfalls for employers with regard to enforcing drug free workplaces.  We are here to assist you in avoiding these pitfalls and give you some practice tips in preparation of the new law taking affect.

The good news is, the Act expressly permits employers to adopt and enforce “reasonable” and nondiscriminatory zero tolerance and drug free workplace policies, including policies on drug testing, smoking, consumption, storage, and use of cannabis in the workplace or while on-call – which is obviously good for employers.

However, on the flipside, the Act’s language indicates that employers are not allowed to take an adverse action against an applicant or employee for their marijuana usage outside the workplace. This is bad for employers since it makes it much more difficult for employers to identify and address use of marijuana by employees due to issues with marijuana testing not being like alcohol testing which calculates more accurately impairment at the time of testing.  In particular, the Act amends the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (“Right to Privacy Act”), which prohibits employers from restricting employees from using legal products outside of work.  Specifically, the Right to Privacy Act is amended to provide that “lawful products” means products that are legal under state law, indicating that recreational and medical marijuana are legal products that must be treated like alcohol and tobacco. Thus, employers may not discriminate against an employee or applicant who lawfully uses cannabis (recreationally or medically) off-premises during nonworking and non-on-call hours.  Again, a difficult task given a test for marijuana alone will not be enough since testing does not include current impairment.

Much like with the Illinois medical marijuana law, this Act changes the emphasis from whether an employee “used” marijuana while employed, to whether the employee was “impaired” or “under the influence” of marijuana while at work or working. As a result, drug testing without any other evidence of the employee actually being impaired at work or while working will open the door to legal challenges.  Specifically, refusing to hire, disciplining, terminating, refusing to return an employee to work or taking an adverse action against an employee or applicant who fails a pre-employment, random, or post-leave return to duty drug test for marijuana will arguably create a claim for the employee against an employer for a violation of Illinois law.

For example, an employee who undergoes a urine drug test (which shows use of marijuana within 30-45 days) following a workplace accident may argue that “recreational cannabis was lawfully used outside of work, and the accident/injury was unrelated to the employee’s legal use of cannabis outside of work.”  Without more than the drug test result, the employer would be in a vulnerable position to argue against or defend such a claim.  However, if the employer completed a post-accident report, which included a reasonable suspicion checklist, in which a trained supervisor observed and recorded symptoms/behaviors of drug use, the employer would be in a much better position to take an adverse action against the employee and dispute any such claim by an employee based on the observations and positive drug test.

With the changes to the Right to Privacy Act, it is important for employers to understand the potential exposure and damages. Under this Act, aggrieved employees can recover actual damages, costs, attorneys’ fees and fines. As such, employers should make sure their practices and procedures are practical in light of these changes, until and unless the legislature or a court provides further clarity.   

Interestingly, the Act neither diminishes nor enhances the protections afforded to registered patients under the medical cannabis and opioid pilot programs.  The catch here is that while cannabis use is not protected under federal law, the underlying medical condition for which the employee is using cannabis is likely an ADA and IHRA-covered disability!  Much like under the Illinois medical marijuana law, the Act appears to require employers to take an additional step before disciplining or terminating an employee based on a “good faith belief” that the employee was impaired or under the influence of cannabis while at work or performing their job.  After the employer has made a “good faith belief” determination and drug tested the employee – but before disciplining or terminating an employee – the employer must provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity to contest that determination.  Once the employee is provided a reasonable opportunity to explain, an employer may then make a final determination regarding its good faith belief that the employee was impaired or under the influence of cannabis while on the job or while working, and what, if any, adverse employment action it will take against the employee without violating the Act.  Requiring an employee to go through drug testing is still currently the best practice as a positive drug test will provide additional support for a supervisor’s reasonable suspicion determination.

Here Are Some Practice Tips to Protect ‎Your Workforce and Diminish Risk:

  1. Educate yourself and evaluate all Company policies and practices that touch on providing and ensuring a safe workplace, including job descriptions (especially those safety-sensitive positions).  Speak to legal counsel on an intimate basis. Assess workplace cannabis-tolerance and implement policies that can be enforced consistently amongst similarly situated employees.  Policies that should be reviewed (and that could be affected) include those addressing health and safety (including accident reporting, smoking, and distracted driving), equal employment opportunity policies, workplace search/privacy policies and drug testing policies.  You should also review with legal counsel, your drug testing vendor as well as your Medical Review Officer, the drug testing methodology being used to make sure that such is producing results that are useful, accurate and well vetted (e.g., using a test that determines cannabis use within the last 30 days is not as helpful as one that may test usage within 6-12 hours).
  2. Ensure managers and supervisors are well trained and capable of enforcing policies.  Remember – exceptions and favoritism lead to discrimination claims.  Conducting training, especially training on reasonable suspicion detection, will be necessary to avoid legal challenges to a supervisor’s reasonable suspicion determination.  Creating and/or updating forms for accident reporting (including witness statements), reasonable suspicion checklists, and established protocols for addressing suspected impairment in the workplace, is now more critical than ever.
  3. Clearly communicate management’s position and policies to employees, especially where there is a shift in current policy or practice.  Educate employees on the effect of lawful and unlawful drug use and the employer’s policies regarding marijuana.  Remember, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and, thus, you may have a zero tolerance policy within your Company. We now just have to balance that right with Illinois’ newest law.
  4. If your Company does not have a process already, institute a reasonable accommodation process and policy for employees who are medicinal users of cannabis.  While a Company is not required to keep an employee who must use marijuana while on the job or report to work under the influence, you still have obligations of going thru the ADA process with the employee to determine if you can or cannot reasonably accommodate their disability so that they may perform the essential functions of their job while not being impaired.
  5. Engage competent legal counsel to assist you in this process and in addressing difficult situations before they lead to costly and time-consuming litigation.

Also important to note: more changes are coming to Illinois for employers on January 1, 2020!  On August 9, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 75 – the Workplace Transparency Act – into law.  Effective January 1, 2020, major new changes will forever alter how Illinois employers manage harassment and discrimination issues as well as other workplace controversies.  This new law requires mandatory sexual harassment training for employees; reporting and disclosure requirements; restrictions on employment agreements and several other mandates related to sexual harassment in the workplace.  Be on the look out for an upcoming blog on these details so you are prepared for the new Illinois world of dealing with sexual harassment prevention.

About the Author

Heather A. Bailey, Esq., a partner with SmithAmundsen LLC, focuses her practice on labor and employment law issues for employers for the past 18 years.  Heather may be contacted directly at: Direct Dial: 312.894.3266, Email: hbailey@salawus.com.

Want to Get the Most Out of Your Team? Financial Wellness Could Be the Answer

Building and maintaining an effective team is one of the greatest challenges that growing businesses face. It’s a constant struggle to hire the right people, keep the team engaged and productive, and keep top performers from jumping ship. Given that 80% of full-time employees are living paycheck to paycheck, taking an interest in your employees’ financial wellbeing can be an effective way to stand out as an employer.

Most people acknowledge the importance of employee benefits to winning the war for talent. But they frequently overlook the potential that financial wellness has to attract, engage, and retain great employees. Let’s explore why investing in financial wellness can help growing businesses succeed and how to create an effective financial wellness strategy, including:

  • The importance of financial wellness
  • How to effectively leverage 401(k) plans
  • Which benefits you should consider in addition to 401(k) plans

Importance of Financial Wellness

Financial wellness benefits can have a significant impact on employee productivity. Seventy-percent of employees currently experience financial stress while at work, which should be no surprise given the fact that most American’s don’t have $500 to cover an emergency expense. What comes as more of a surprise, though is the fact that employees spend an average of 28 hours a month worrying about their finances at work. That’s almost an entire week’s worth of productivity every month! Addressing these concerns and allowing employees to focus on their work should be a top priority for any employer.

You aren’t just losing hundreds of hours of productivity each year from your employees’ financial stress either: you’re also risking losing your most valuable employees to turnover. Employees who are worried about their finances, and especially those who feel their current employer is not dedicated to their financial stability, are much more likely to start looking around for a higher paying employer. This can be an especially potent threat to growing businesses who frequently cannot compete with major companies when it comes to base salaries.

Luckily, financial wellness is an extremely cost-effective way to improve your employee’s financial stress and actual financial wellbeing. Instead of sinking tens of thousands of dollars into increased salaries, you can invest in financial planners, 401k plans with optional matching, loan assistance, financial education, and more.

Financial wellness is not just about avoiding the negative effects of employees’ financial concerns, either. Your benefits package is a powerful tool to attract, engage, and retain the talent you need to thrive as a business. Many employees would accept a lower salary in exchange for better benefits, and that includes wellness benefits. Once again, this is great news for growing companies who can’t always compete on salaries. Stellar benefits show employees that you care about them and will go above and beyond for them, and they will return the favor.

It’s also a good idea to consider not only whether or not to offer financial wellness benefits, but also what financial wellness approach will work best for your business. For financial wellness benefits to work, they have to meet employees’ financial and psychological needs. Which means that employees have to actually use the benefits. It also means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to financial wellness: your strategy should depend on the specific needs and demographics of your employees.

401K: Taking a Deeper Look at the Cornerstone of Financial Wellness

If you had to implement just one financial wellness benefit, a 401k plan would be a clear choice. According to the 2018 Jobvite Recruiter Nation Survey, 401(K) plans ranked just after medical and dental benefits in their ability to attract top talent. That should make them a top priority for any employer looking to beef up their benefits package and assuage their employees’ financial concerns.

And the importance of 401k plans makes sense. Almost two-thirds of employees do not have any retirement savings and those who do have saved an average of just $40,000. No wonder retirement readiness is a top concern for employees. But just like any other benefit, 401k plans are only as effective as employees make them. How can you make sure that your investment in a 401k plan pays off?

The first thing you can do is implement automatic enrollment to make sure that all of your employees adopt your new or existing 401k plan: this removes a major barrier to saving. You can even automatically deduct contributions from your employees’ paychecks to spur their savings, allowing them to opt-out if they wish. And if you have the budget for it, 401k-matching is a time tested strategy that is sure to both encourage your employees to save and win you major points as an employer.

However, your 401k plan should be just the first step in your financial wellness strategy. By themselves, 401ks struggle address employees’ immediate day-to-day financial concerns which are often the cause of stress and decreased productivity. Many employees are so burdened by debt or day-to-day expenses that they cannot bring themselves to think about saving for retirement even if their company offers good 401k benefits. And they are likely to raid their retirement accounts to pay for emergency expenses without planning and assistance to give them greater financial stability.

Looking Beyond 401k Plans

So what are the other financial benefits that can make you stand out against competitors?

One of the biggest financial concerns for today’s employees, especially for younger employees who are especially prone to switching companies, is student debt. America’s graduates owe a total of over $1.5 trillion in student loans and most Millennials would trade vacation time for student loan repayment assistance. Now, there are plenty of pros and cons to repayment assistance, but you would do well to consider offering these benefits, particularly if you have young employees. Only 11% of employers provide any kind of help or guidance on student loan repayment even though about half of workers want help with the repayment process. But when employers do offer loan assistance, they hire faster and increase average employee tenure by more than a third.

So how can you help your employees with loan repayment? The easiest method is to help them set up dedicated accounts with automatic contributions to make repayment easier for employees to manage. This approach incurs few direct costs to you as an employer, so it should be a viable option for just about any growing company. If you have a bigger budget, you can also match employee contributions to these accounts. Alternatively, you can work with lenders to refinance private student loans at better rates. Finally, you can provide educational materials regarding loan repayment and access to financial advisors so help make management easier for your team members without directly assisting repayment.

A robust financial wellness strategy should also include financial planning and retirement advice. Providing employees with one-on-one financial counseling can help them build their short-term savings as well as plan for retirement, holistically supporting their financial well-being. They can stop worrying about their finances at their desks and put their trust in the experts who you connect them with. Best of all, this can be significantly more affordable than matching contributions and other direct benefits. Financial education is often the most cost-effective financial wellness benefit and growing businesses can use it to improve employees’ financial wellbeing with minimal investment.

Key Takeaways

Today’s employees are having more difficulty saving for retirement, let alone emergency expenses, than in the past. It is probably no coincidence that they are also changing jobs at an unprecedented rate. Financial wellness benefits can be extremely effective at retaining the talent you need and making your employees as engaged and productive as possible. Just remember:

  • Your financial wellness strategy should match your employees’ actual needs to minimize costs and maximize effectiveness through utilization
  • 401(k) plans are still the cornerstone of an effective financial wellness package and you can make the most of them through automatic enrollment and contributions, as well as employer matching
  • Loan repayment assistance is a rare but highly effective financial wellness benefit that can especially increase hiring, engagement, and retention of top Millennial talent
  • Financial counseling and education provides holistic financial support to remove employee stress and improve wellbeing

As with all benefits, it can be difficult for growing businesses to provide competitive financial wellness benefits without incurring excessive costs. The right partners can help you develop a strategy that minimizes those costs while maximizing the impact on employees wellbeing.

You can learn more about how to make the most of your benefits at the lowest possible cost by streaming our webinar “How to Reduce Healthcare Costs at Your Growing Business”. On the webinar, Sean Condon of Windgate Wealth, the author of this guest post, shared his knowledge of 401(k) strategies during the panel-style discussion featuring several leading experts in the healthcare space. Learn more about the webinar and stream it on-demand here.

About the Author

Sean Condon of Windgate Wealth specializes in helping entrepreneurs build a culture of financial wellness by offering their employees unprecedented access to a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ as well as low-cost 401(k) plans. Part of an employee-owned team, Sean takes an owner’s approach and does his best to understand the many elements of his clients’ own entrepreneurial journeys. Sean has more than ten years of experience as a financial planner & wealth advisor.

Why You Need To Drop These Outdated Recruiting Practices

Why You Need To Drop These Outdated Recruiting Practices

The U.S. job market has drastically changed in the last decade. We’ve gone from a 10% unemployment rate in October of 2009 to a 3.6% unemployment rate in April of 2019. With more jobs than people to fill them, businesses are struggling to hire. In fact, 36% of small businesses couldn’t fill their open positions as of June of 2018.

Now that it’s a candidate’s job market, it’s time for recruiters and HR departments to change the way they approach hiring. If your business isn’t creating a positive, streamlined, and modern experience for candidates, you will miss out on quality hires.

In order to attract the best candidates, you need to reinvent your hiring strategy and ditch outdated recruiting practices. That’s why we created a list of the top 5 recruiting strategies that need to go—and what you should replace them with.

1.Cold Emailing
Cold emailing is one of the most outdated recruiting practices you can use. Emails have a low average open rate of 20% and a response rate of a mere 6%. In today’s job market, when professionals regularly receive unsolicited communications, they are even less likely to open your emails.

Instead of sending cold emails, ask your business’s employees to refer and connect you with prospective candidates. Candidates are more likely to respond after a personal introduction.

2. Focusing On GPA
When businesses evaluate younger members of the workforce, they often look at their GPAs. In 2013, 67% of companies reported that they screen candidates this way. However, GPAs don’t measure professional experience and aren’t accurate indicators of professional success.

Instead of focusing on candidate GPAs, review critical candidate skills, such as written, oral, organizational, and any other role-specific skills your open job calls for.

3. Geographically Restricted Candidate Searches
In today’s cosmopolitan business environment, geographically restricted searches are one of the most egregious outdated recruiting practices. A majority of recruiters (67%) say their biggest challenge is a lack of skilled, high-quality candidates. Searching for candidates only located within your geographic area drastically limits your search—especially if you’re looking for higher-level employees.

Unless your business is on a tight budget, you should be searching for candidates across the country. Video calls and Skype have made it easier to reach these long-distance candidates.

4. One-Way Conversations
Eighty-three percent of professionals say a negative interview experience can change their minds about a role or company they once liked. Interviews can feel like trials to employees—so be sure to avoid suffocating atmospheres, rude or pertinent questions, or intimidating two-on-one setups.

Instead of providing an unnerving experience, give your interviewees a chance to respond, engage in conversation, and ask questions. Smiles don’t hurt, either.

5. Scripted Conversations
The majority (90%) of millennials, who are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, say brand authenticity is important. They feel the same about the companies they work for, too. Scripts can make an interviewer seem inauthentic and a company seem robotic—the opposite of what millennials want to experience at work.

Instead of using a script, try to make candidate conversations as real as possible. Go off script, be yourself, and have fun getting to know another professional.

Overview
Many outdated recruiting practices are designated as such because of today’s new workplace standards of authenticity and positivity. In general, your business should be systematically humanizing the recruiting process to catch up with modern candidate wants and needs.

Ditching outdated recruiting practices, from cold emailing to scripts, will improve your candidate experience, widen your candidate pool, and help you fill your empty roles with high-quality talent.

If you’re looking for more advice on effective recruiting practices and strategies, don’t miss this upcoming webinar – How to Win the War For Talent: Actionable Strategies to Attract and Retain Top Talent at Your Business.

About the Author
Tim Schumm is the founder/CEO of Lucas James Talent Partners. Lucas James Talent Partners provides small and medium-sized businesses with a high-quality, cost-effective, and flexible talent acquisition solution through RPO (recruitment process outsourcing). Please visit https://lucasjamestalent.com/ to learn more.

High-Impact Executive Compensation Strategies for Fast-Growing Businesses

High-Impact Executive Compensation Strategies for Fast-Growing Businesses

This article was written by guest author Brandon Auster, Principal Consultant at BEA HR.

Acquiring and retaining top executive talent can be one of the biggest challenges faced by early stage and growing businesses. Maintaining a high-impact suite of executive compensation programs is a key strategy for meeting this challenge.  These programs must be viewed as an investment in growth and value creation that requires diligent focus in order to be maximized over time. 

Executive turnover is a disruptive and costly setback, with a financial impact of 100% or more of a departing executive’s salary.  Meanwhile, engaged leaders are far more productive and effective at rallying their teams to drive growth. Getting the right mix and design of rewards elements enables companies to attract, engage and retain top talent, while maximizing their compensation ROI and driving growth. 

Let’s explore some of the highest-impact compensation strategies that high-growth companies can employ in the effort to cultivate top talent, including:

  • Aligning compensation with company culture and strategy
  • Leveraging bonuses at every stage of growth
  • Rewarding real results
  • Leveraging uniqueness

Alignment with Culture and Strategy

Compensation is one of the most powerful and visible ways a company demonstrates what it values. 

Well-aligned compensation programs give companies an advantage in the talent market and are a catalyst for teamwork, goal achievement and thriving cultures. 

On the flip side, when full alignment is lacking, even the most well-intentioned and technically elegant pay programs can lead to disappointing results, discord among team members or tension between executives and ownership. 

Looking at the alignment of each individual rewards element is required, as is a holistic look across all elements of the rewards portfolio including base pay, bonuses, equity, perks and benefits.  This will ensure each element individually supports and drives the desired company results and culture, while together, the overall rewards program is greater than the sum of its parts.

Additionally, as a company grows and evolves, it must continually reassess its compensation programs to stay in alignment with new circumstances and objectives.

Bonuses for Every Stage of Growth

Bonuses can be a powerful element of an effective overall compensation program. It is a common misconception that cash bonuses are only useful for established cash-rich companies, while early-stage companies should focus solely on equity compensation.  However, the reality is that currently, almost three quarters of pre-IPO startups with less than $50M in revenue include bonuses in their executive compensation program.

Augmenting equity with cash bonuses can increase focus and urgency, while helping employees stay energized during the series of sprints required to generate long-term growth and equity payoffs.

Given their sometimes unpredictable and volatile pace of growth, smaller companies may face challenges when designing bonus plans.  This makes stress testing compensation plans against the entire range of possible business scenarios especially important.  It is required to fine tune plans to ensure that fiscal realities are well balanced with desires to pay for performance and retain key talent.  

Not only do bonuses encourage executives to contribute to the company’s short-term goals that will ultimately lead to its long-term growth, but they are essential in helping growing companies compete for high-quality executive talent with larger, more established organizations.

Reward Real Results

Annual bonuses are an extremely useful tool in the compensation arsenal. However, creatively supplementing a traditional bonus plan with a results-based program, such as one of those listed below can improve the impact and ROI of a company’s variable compensation investment even further.

  • Milestone Plan – payouts are tied to hitting a fiscal or other key objective.  This serves to: focus the team on specific goals, incentivize attainment of important results, provide execs with added pre-liquidity cash and celebrate short-term successes.  Costs can be fixed upfront at an amount that is commensurate with the value created by hitting the milestone.
  • Ad Hoc Awards – discretionary payouts are tied to positive performance.  While this approach is quickly gaining popularity below the executive level, it can also be used to recognize and encourage upside results for executives. Costs can be managed by pairing with a bonus plan that uses modest targets and/or maximums payouts.
  • Medium-Term Plan – a two to three-year medium-term performance period is created and payouts are tied to a key success metric such as revenue growth or value generation. These plans can provide liquidity if a longer exit period is anticipated and generate longer-term focus with more tangible risk/reward than either short-term bonuses or long-term equity.  

When clearly and proactively communicated, these plans contribute to a culture of transparency and goal-oriented thinking that is crucial to rapid and sustainable growth.  They lead executives to feel that their efforts are rewarded fairly while ownership has confidence that payouts are tied to results that also generate value for them.  This win-win situation creates a great foundation for long-term partnership and success.

Leverage Uniqueness

While smaller companies don’t have all the resources of major industry players, they possess many unique advantages in the war for talent.  Understanding these and using them for maximum impact goes a long way in attracting, motivating and retaining top talent.

Start with ensuring that people know how much the company is investing in them.  This is most effectively done through concise, graphical, high-impact total rewards and equity statements. Total rewards statements depict the value of base, bonus, equity, benefits and perks. Equity statements demonstrate current equity value and holdings along with the potential value derived from future vesting and growth in the company’s valuation. 

Closely held companies can exercise far greater flexibility in issuing equity awards than public competitors for talent.  They can use equity awards to reward strong individual or team performance, recognize milestone achievements or demonstrate commitment to key talent.  It’s also important to carefully develop a vesting and refresh equity grant structure that ensures everyone continues to earn equity for ongoing contributions while avoiding vesting droughts that entice them to look elsewhere.

Strong leaders seek out companies and roles where they will have significant impact, experience professional growth and contribute to an important mission.  Each small company has its own compelling story to tell current and prospective team members that other suitors for their services cannot match.  For example, will company executives: have greater access to the CEO, board, or other thought leaders; be part of shaping the future of an industry; work with uniquely passionate team members; build a team from the ground up?

Every company is unique.  The most successful ones understand and use their special blend of culture, opportunities, programs, perks and purpose to create a competitive advantage whenever possible. 

Key Takeaways

Highly capable and motivated executives are required for any company to generate sustained growth and succeed in bringing its vision to life.  Implementing smart and creative rewards programs are a difference maker in the ongoing effort to acquire, engage and retain top executive-level talent.  

The high-impact compensation strategies outlined above are a great start for any organization looking to optimize its approach to executive compensation:

  • Let business strategy and company culture guide compensation priorities
  • Leverage bonuses to engage employees at every stage of growth
  • Focus on bonuses that reward real results to fuel company growth and long-term success
  • Leverage the unique assets at your disposal to attract and retain the best talent

If you want to take your compensation strategy even farther, don’t miss our upcoming webinar on high-impact executive compensation strategies. We’ll delve more deeply into the strategies in this article and provide more strategies to optimize the effectiveness of your compensation plan, including the most effective approaches to equity grants. Register today.

How Great CEO’s Don’t Spend Their Time

The way that a CEO spends her time makes a huge difference in what gets done in a company. Few CEO’s get the chance to see into how other CEO’s are spending their time, they don’t have the chance to compare their decisions to those of others. So when I saw that Michael Porter published an extensive study called  The Leader’s Calendar  in the Harvard Business Review, I dug in.

1. They don’t get much “me” time.

The average CEO in Porter’s study slept just under 7 hours a night and worked out about 45 minutes a day on average. The most disciplined of them had about 3 hours a day of family time, but they were diligent about protecting it!

Running a business whether you are a small business owner, or a corporate CEO is all consuming. For your well-being, health and longevity you need to be diligent about treating your body well, getting good sleep and spending time on activities that nourish you.

2. They don’t hide in their office, work from home, or depend on email to get things done.

The best CEOs spend the majority of their time (61% in Porter’s study) face-to-face with their team, their clients and their partners. In order to do that they need to be very disciplined about the time they spend on email! Leaders naturally get copied on a lot of stuff that they don’t need to answer or take action on. Separating out what needs their attention (a small fraction) from that which can be ignored, archived or deleted is a major skill that CEOs need to develop.

Porter reminds us that nothing substitutes for face-to-face interaction.

3. They don’t let their agenda get set by others.

One of my best bosses used to tell me, “If you go to a meeting with Bill Gates, who’s meeting is it? It doesn’t matter who set the meeting, if Gates is in it, it’s his meeting!” He told me this story to remind me that, as a leader, we set the agenda. In Porter’s study, just shy of 50% of the CEOs time was devoted to driving forward the goals or objectives they had set for the quarter or year. They know what they want to accomplish and make sure that everyone else does too.

Porter calls out as a best practice CEOs who look back every quarter at where their time went the previous quarter so that they can eliminate those things that took them away from advancing their agenda.

4. They don’t ignore the fires.

About a third of the CEOs time was spent “dealing with unfolding developments”. There’s always something that comes up, employees that quit, customers who are disgruntled, competitors who introduce something new… Those things need to be dealt with in a timely way — but without getting distracted from their goals and agenda.

5. They don’t get distracted by the routine or ceremonial duties of the office.

A little over a half a day a week got eaten up by routine duties, or events where the CEOs presence added gravitas but didn’t advance any agenda. The best CEOs worked to minimize the time spent on these activities, substituting someone else, or eliminating the need for it altogether.

6. They don’t forget their team.

One of the most important levers for these top CEOs were their direct reports and their direct reports. The best CEOs know that nurturing and developing their team is a prime responsibility for them and allocate their time accordingly (about one-third of their time was devoted here). By staying in contact with this group they were able to develop an “early warning system” to see problems before they grew too large. It also helped to burst the bubble that sometimes surrounds the leader where all the information they get is highly filtered. Finally, it keeps them tuned in to the talent pipeline so that they can nurture the next generation of leaders.

7. They don’t skip meetings.

Meetings are highly leveraged activities for CEOs. They can see a lot of people face-to-face, they can advance their agenda, they can hear information straight from the front lines. When you are the CEO, going to meetings is your job.

I don’t think there are any of us who love meetings, but getting good at running an effective, time-efficient meeting is a core skill for a CEO.

8. They don’t skimp on alone time.

Once a CEO has been with their team and has soaked up information, they need time to think. Most CEOs do that best alone. The best CEOs spent about 25% of their time alone, yet it was often in small segments of less than an hour. Blocking off time for thinking was critical to the success of the highest performing CEOs.

Key takeaways
There is one resource that we all have in equal measure, time.  If you are going to be a great leader you need to be proactive in determining how best to use that time. Working through your team by seeing them in meetings and one-to-one, gathering your own information and spending some quiet time to think it all through will make you more able to advance your agenda and succeed as a leader. If you don’t you may experience business owner burnout.

About the Author
Brad Farris is Principal Advisor at Anchor Advisors, Ltd. Anchor Advisors helps small business owners to make the transition from the center of all things in their business to a leader with experts who report to them. To find out more visit anchoradvisors.com