What is Executive Ineffectiveness Costing You?


As a leader, your ineffectiveness costs more than those of your colleagues.

 “…less-than-optimal leadership practices cost the typical organization an amount equal to as much as 7% of their total annual sales”

The Ken Blanchard Companies

What is executive ineffectiveness costing your company?

Executives must perform at the highest stakes in the company. With so many pressures and priorities, they continually fall into the same suboptimal routines. This is known as decision inertia—the tendency to repeat choices independent of the outcome, which can result in pervasive suboptimal choices. Sitting through unnecessary meetings, lacking time for strategic thinking, and making decisions with limited or dirty data are some of the most common counterproductive routines that hundreds of executives report to us.

Why it matters

If every organization and its employees feel the effects of decision inertia, why call out the executive specifically? Frankly, because it costs more.

Executive leadership’s behaviors and priorities ripple through the rest of the organization. Ineffectiveness in leadership can cause

  • Higher staff turnover
  • Failure to meet goals
  • Reduction in customer satisfaction
  • Decreased productivity 

As an executive, it is unrealistic to manage your effectiveness on your own. You would not lead your organization through a digital transformation or prepare for a board meeting without consulting your leadership team or subject matter experts. Improving your effectiveness does not fall solely on you, but it does start with you.

How your time dictates effectiveness

You are an executive for a reason—you got to this point in your career via well-earned trust and leadership. But like all leaders, your effectiveness is dependent on the same limited resource: time.

As an executive, where you place your time is where the needs of the company lie. This can be a great thing if you are intentional with your time, but sometimes your time gets sucked into projects or meetings that do not align with your top priorities. Not only are you wasting time focusing on the wrong areas, but you are also sending the wrong message to your team about what is most important

Start by reviewing your calendar. How much of your time is dictated by others, not by you? Do you have too many meetings or too frequent of meetings? Do you have dedicated blocks for deep work? Time tracking your activities for a week or even being simply more cognizant of how you spend your time can reveal your suboptimal choices. In becoming more aware, you develop mental resistance to the suboptimal status-quo.

How to know if your executive office is part of the problem

One way Prime detects ineffectiveness in the executive office is noticing a lack of consensus on what’s important. For example, an executive assistant who spends significant time playing calendar Tetris all for the sake of making a less-than-necessary meeting happen might not realize that you need to reduce the frequency of internal meetings you attend. A Chief of Staff might be under the impression that a new partnership opportunity with a competitor should be their number one focus, not realizing that you view it as a low priority on their list.

These delegations, changes, and reactions in your executive office are interpreted by the team around you as preferences and goals to keep top of mind. For your executive office to level up, you must communicate what your top priorities are, so the executive office ensures all efforts align to those priorities.

How to improve your office’s effectiveness

You now have a marked-up calendar highlighting areas that may be taking you away from what you do best. And hopefully you have communicated to your executive office about your priorities and preferences. What now? 

Just like ineffectiveness ripples through your organization, improvements will only be noticed as they make their way through teams and levels of management.

It is not enough for you to improve your skills in time management and prioritization. Your leadership team must also receive training to become more effective. While you may want to train the entire organization or implement new protocols for getting on your calendar, sometimes small adjustments can yield quick results:

  • Use asynchronous communication tools to eliminate time spent in meetings and reduce the pressure for perfect solutions on the spot. Employees perform better when they have time to collect their thoughts and gather data before sharing their point of view.
  • Implement office hours to isolate ad-hoc meeting requests and non-urgent decisions and break employee decision inertia. Not only will you create more focused time in your day, but you will also encourage employees to reconsider before requesting your input.
  • Require deliverables and data before a meeting. This ensures that the employee is prepared and allows you to have more informed meetings and decision making. Your executive office can even provide feedback or make decisions on your behalf, so you can eliminate meetings and focus on your priorities.

Prime Chief of Staff has honed an effectiveness analytics tool that reveals for our clients the precise areas they can level up. After completing our proprietary diagnostic, our clients partner with us to make the changes they have identified as most important. Whether it is adding talent or making improvements to the processes and technologies you use, Prime can help.

To begin diagnosing your team’s effectiveness, schedule a call with Prime’s advisors.

Making the Business Case for Leadership Development: The 7% Differential
Inertia and Decision Making

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