I briefly stepped away from my desk after finishing a few morning e-mails. While walking back I created a mental list of things I wanted to spend time on during the day. I returned to my office and my chair wasn’t there and in its place were two sets of brown eyes and one set of blue eyes all staring up at me. The spokesperson for the three looked at me and said with a smile,

No work today grandpa, you have to play with us. You can’t look at your computer because we took your chair.”

Then they all laughed. Who could resist the three of them, I certainly couldn’t and so the plans for the day were scrapped. I played. Why? Because it was important to them, and they are important to me. All they wanted was face time with me, my undivided attention. On that day they had it.

The challenge facing every leader each day is having many people want face time with you, both at work and at home. Trust me, there aren’t enough hours in the day to satisfy everyone. I believe you need to prioritize who gets face time with you. I believe your “Tier 1” priority should have four groups of people. If you have time left over, go to “Tier 2.”

  1.  Direct reports – Are priority # 1 because your success is based on the success of your team. Pour into them and it’ll pay dividends down the road for you. The report on your desk, the research you want to do, the new initiative you want to implement or whatever else is occupying your mind needs to be set aside when they want to talk. They won’t ask to see you if it isn’t important. Step away from your desk and sit at a table if you can so you won’t be distracted. Look them in the eye when you talk so they know they have your undivided attention. Direct reports also need a regularly scheduled intentional meeting, at least once a month. Don’t cancel when your calendar gets busy. This is for them to update you and for you to learn how they are doing. They will tell you things in a scheduled meeting they might not otherwise be willing to share.
  2.  Your leader – Just as your direct reports need regular time with you, you need face time with your leader. It’s an important time. Don’t miss those opportunities. For many years I believed the best thing I could do for my leader was to operate independently, not tie up their time and keep them informed. I learned the hard way this isn’t always a good strategy. One leader I worked for listened to what other senior leaders told them, assuming what they heard was correct and sometimes it related to me or my team. The longer the negative thoughts were in their head, the harder it was for me to help them see the other side or what they heard was not accurate. Sometimes it was a political game. I would have benefited with more consistent face time with them.
  3. Peers – You can’t get anything accomplished without the help of your peers. You need each other. Yet peers are often in competition with each other for resources and attention which leads to strained and guarded relationships. Fix it with face time. On a quarterly basis, go out for a meal, a cup of coffee or drinks with each of your key peers. Get to know their family, their hopes and dreams. It’s easier to talk candidly and even ask for help if you know someone well. If you operate remotely today, do it electronically and then when you see each at an organizational meeting or event, get some face time with them afterwards.
  4. Family – Too many times my team, peers and organization got the best part of me for the day. My wife and children had leftovers. I’d love to go back and fix that, but I can’t. I’ll just encourage you to make certain you step away from work with enough energy to have the needed face time with your family. They need you too and you’ll be more balanced as a person when you invest in them.

Pour into others with face time, you’ll never regret it.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

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