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One exec’s 4 extreme productivity tips

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

How does a top executive like Bob Pozen get it all done? Pozen has been a top dog at Fidelity and MFS Investment Man­age­ment, as well as an attorney, law school professor, business school professor and author.

Here are the 4 tips he shared with Harvard Business Review on how to be extremely productive:

1. Know where you are essential. When you say, “Here are the top five priorities for the company. Who would be best at carrying them out?” don’t follow it up by proposing that you do all of them.

The right question is, “What functions can only I, as CEO, perform?”

Look for the intersection between your company’s area of weakness and your area of strength.

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2. It’s about getting results, not logging hours. Too many of the ambitious equate late hours at the office with success. That’s a simplistic equation, in Pozen’s opinion.

When he had young children, he says, he had a firm commitment to be home for dinner with them every night by 7 p.m. It never impeded an ability to bring value to his company.

For example, in the 1980s, he was asked to head an intragovernmental task force. The meetings were supposed to be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. several nights each week.

He said, “Well, I’m sorry, I won’t be able to do it” because of his commitment to family dinner. So they scheduled the meeting for 5 to 7 p.m.

3. Read with the goal in mind. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of reading you need to do. The key is to be clear about why you’re reading something. Pozen says, for example, that if he’s reading the Financial Times after The Wall Street Journal, he’s looking for international issues not covered by the Journal.

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4. Let others own their space. Pozen is “messianic” about viewing every employee in a large company as the owner of a small business.

A boss can lay out the general priorities, while direct reports offer specific ways of achieving those priorities, along with proposed metrics.

He cautions that going this route means tolerating mistakes. Sometimes direct reports will steer straight into a dead end, for example.

Making the same mistake repeatedly, however, shouldn’t be tolerated. One of his favorite sayings: “Let’s make a new mistake.”

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