I wrote about the five levels of agency decision-making last week, and I want to take it a bit further by thinking about the practicalities.

So often, leaders talk about not being able to spend any quality time at the top 3 levels they have to operate at — owner, director, CEO — because of the day to day demands of the business. They feel they spend all day being reactive and tactical in the lower two levels of thinking, rather than getting a chance to be proactive and strategic.

The key is in recognising the mental costs of context switching. Don't try to fit strategic stuff in amongst your daily tactical work. It wastes time, fries your brain and you end up feeling exhausted with everything seeming foggier than it did before. You need to carve out bigger blocks of protected leadership time, free from other distractions. Whole days.

Leaders who have agencies above 60ish people have probably managed to carve out this time, if they're still in business and have retained their sanity. But leaders whose agencies are between 15–60ish people struggle with it, because they're still so vital to the day to day and there's not yet enough of an experienced leadership team to take over.

So the thinking in these upper levels tends to languish, forgotten. It doesn't shout as loudly as everything else. But if it doesn't get done, it seeds crises everywhere else in the business.

So make yourself take clear blocks of time in these upper levels, and everything gradually becomes easier, clearer.

Give yourself a day a week at the top.

Once a year use this day to think as the owner. Take yourself off on a nice retreat somewhere luxurious and think like a true business shareholder.

Once a month use this day to think as a board director. Take yourself away from the day to day and look at strategy, risks, performance. Think broadly and further into the distance.

And on all the rest of these weekly days, be the CEO. Walk around your business (even if that's metaphorical at the moment) and think about culture, direction, how you can support and facilitate that. Communicate and communicate some more internally, about what's going on and what you want. Be an ambassador for the business externally.

Block it out in your diary now. Commit to it.

Give yourself a day at the top, once a week.

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On 1st October we launch the new eLearning version of our popular Healthy Agency Finances workshop. It gives non-financial agency leaders the keys to understanding money in agency businesses, getting to grips with how it flows in and out, some key metrics to use, and how to communicate about finances with the rest of the business.

Before it launches officially the course is open to friends of Convivio to be early adopters and take it for a spin with a 25% discount. Take a look and sign up at our courses website, and use the code 'PRELAUNCH' at the checkout to get the offer.


The second episode of our podcast for agency leaders went live. Listen and subscribe in your favourite podcast player using that link, or by searching for 'Convivio Agency Leaders'. It's a chance to hear other agency leaders talking frankly about how they approach leadership.