The Five Habits of Effective Executives

To be an effective executive you need to form strong habits. By being in control of your time, focusing on results and building on your strengths you can be sure that you’re laying firm foundations for effectiveness in your role. Discover how you can develop the five habits that will make you a dependable, efficient and effective executive.

By Duncan Brodie

The role of the executive is highly demanding. When you are further down the hierarchy it can seem like life as an executive is all about lunches and chatting. Yet, in truth, the best executives are highly effective. If you aspire to be an executive, what habits do you need to start developing now?

Habit 1: Know Where Your Time Goes
The first habit of the most effective executives is that they know with absolute clarity where their time goes. The first stage in knowing this is to start recording where your time goes. A useful way of doing this is to split your day into 15- or 30-minute blocks and record what you are doing over a two- or three-week period.

The next stage is to start managing your time so that you are directing your efforts to those things that matter. The final stage is to start to look at consolidating activities such as emails or phone calls so that you gain momentum and use blocks of time efficiently.

Habit 2: Focus on Results Rather than Work
In the earlier stage of our careers we tend to have lots of tasks to be completed and so we become focused on volume of outputs. As we move up the ladder, we move from being highly task-focused to more managing and leading. When effective executives make this move they recognise that it is the results that matter, not volume. You are probably familiar with the principle that 20 percent of your activity produces 80 percent of your results.

Find that 20 percent that produces 80 percent of your results.

Habit 3: Build on Strengths
Have you ever been handed a document that highlights eight things you have done exceptionally well and two you need to improve on? If so, chances are you turned all of your attention to the 20 percent that needs improvement. The effective executive will continue to look for ways to improve the 20 percent but the majority of the focus will be on building on the 80 percent.

Keep asking yourself, “How can I be even better in the areas I excel in?”

Habit 4: Focus on a Few Major Areas
All of us like to have our fingers in lots of pies. It makes us feel important, that we are contributing and keeping breadth in our knowledge and experience. Yet, in truth, those who are the most effective executives focus on a few major areas – those areas that give them the biggest return for their efforts, and contribute most to organisational performance and to developing others.

What are those few major areas for you?

Habit 5: Make Effective Decisions
Effective executives know that they have to take decisions. They are highly effective at getting to the root of the problem, assessing implications, exploring options, keeping a focus on the bigger picture and taking action. In other words they are masters at establishing processes that lead to effective decisions.

Being an executive is a tough job and one in which being effective is an absolute must. So where do you need to develop?

Duncan Brodie helps managers, leaders and organisations to fulfil their potential. You can sign up for his free monthly newsletter at

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