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Harvard study ‘What do CEO’s do all day?’ affirms that the ‘people bit’ matters a great deal.

Harvard Professors Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria have recently concluded a study that tracked how 27 CEOs spent their days.

The in-depth study found that a significant 25 percent of their total work time is spent on people and relationships, and that 61% of a CEO’s overall communication is face to face. Interestingly, only 3 percent of their work is spent on professional development.

And even CEOs have to put up with inefficient meetings it seems. Meetings make up a whopping 72 percent of their work, compared to 28 percent alone time. In fact, the study points out that ‘time’ is a CEO’s rarest resource.

The researchers concluded that “Face-to-face interaction is the best way for CEOs to exercise influence, learn what’s really going on, and delegate to move forward the multiple agendas that must be advanced. It also allows CEOs to best support and coach the people they work closely with”. 


“How a CEO spends face-to-face time is viewed as a signal of what or who is important; people watch this more carefully than most CEOs recognize.”

Thus the quality of behavioural interactions between people is mission critical to optimizing the quality of time spent in meetings, developing working relationships and to long-term business strategy and survival.

How a CEO’s behaviour impacts upon others, and how in turn their behaviour can impact them, will often make or break the quality of important inter-personal communications, meetings and working relationships.

Understanding behavioural strength and weakness is key for any leader, and by extension all those who work with them in a leadership cohort. The behavioural chemistry of a leadership team directly impacts success or failure down the chain.

Un-managed behavioural clashes, imbalances and biases can have significant flow on effects to strategies, plans and projects.

We have used tools like the Belbin Model at C Suite level to enhance understanding and the quality of working relationships at all levels. It also better enables people to make optimal use of one-another’s strengths, and of their face time at work.

The beauty of a tool like Belbin is also that it is elegantly simple and fast to use with time poor people. It can achieve great impact and truly lasting results for teams from a disproportionately small investment in their time.

When leaders have a pragmatic and evidence-based review of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of others, they are far better placed to make optimal use of time. And also to engage with and mentor the human resources around them.

This of course applies to all workplace teams as well, it’s just that the flow on effects of getting it wrong at the top can be more catastrophic long-term.


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