It’s good to think about how we spend our valuable time at work, but when was the last time you thought about where you spend your time? The answer to this is not just ‘in the office’ or ‘in the car’; it’s about the kind of positions we take up in relation to others.
I recently spent ten years looking at how effective leaders act as great hosts – people who receive and entertain guests. Hosts are very good at moving from one position to another, alternating close contact with their guests and more detached and reflective standpoints. We can all use these lessons to spread our attention and build relationships quickly and effectively.
In the spotlight
Being in the spotlight is very much the public-facing part of the leader’s role. It is where the action is – in full view of everyone – and everything about you gives off messages. Being comfortable taking the spotlight is a key part of many people’s jobs these days.
‘Spotlight’ moments are the times when everyone’s eyes are on you: the team briefing; the pitch meeting; the presentation to potential customers. Whilst these are of course key times, there is much more to building successful engagement than simply being a confident presenter.
With the guests
A good host knows the value of spending time with their guests. This is also time spent in public, although the focus will be different. Rather than being in the spotlight, with all eyes on you, you can take time to go around and “work the room.”
This is a much less formal process, and often involves spending time with people individually or in very small groups. It’s time for catching up and connecting with others. This is time for discovering and remembering people’s strengths, interests, concerns and so on. Lots of key information can be discovered and stored away for future use.
In the gallery
The gallery is a place high above the action; the room can be surveyed from a position above the interaction below where the party is happening. From a spot such as this, it’s possible to take an overview, to see what’s happening without being distracted by the hubbub.
Time in the gallery is time observing from above. In our normal work life, this might include:
- Stepping back from everyday business and distraction
- Taking a pause to look at the big picture
- Looking from above at wider issues, progress and challenges ahead
In the kitchen
As a host, we will invariably sometimes retreat to the kitchen. This is a more private place which the guests are normally steered away from, and will be the place in which we work in private.
This can be the most challenging place to find time to visit. Effective leaders and managers know the value of private time – to reflect and review, to discuss things with trusted colleagues and confidents, to take time to learn with a coach. Even a focused and scheduled hour per week in the kitchen can make a huge difference.
- How are you splitting your time between these four positions?
- Where are you most comfortable? What helps you to do that?
- Where could you usefully spend a bit more time? Plan it now?
- Are there any of these you’ve been avoiding? Take a small step today to bring it into your weekly plans.