What The Most Successful CEOs Know About Time Management

PratColumbia University Professor Andrea Prat

Photo: Columbia GSB

The most successful CEOs have killer time management skills.A real understanding of how to prioritise and delegate is what separates CEOs of global companies from the rest, according to new research by Columbia University’s Andrea Prat.

The economics professor, as part of the Executive Time Use Project, has been tracking the behaviour of a range of Indian CEOs through their personal assistants, and found that most fall into one of two catagories:

  • ‘Style 1’ CEOs plan more activities in advance, spend more time at the firm and in meetings, meet more with insiders than outsiders, and have more multiparty meetings.
  • ‘Style 2’ CEOs are more reactive, have more meetings with people outside the firm, and spend more time on bilateral meetings. 

Companies with ‘style 1’ CEOs were almost 50 per cent more productive. 

Style 1 CEOs tend to run large, multinational companies and style 2 CEOs domestic, family owned ones.

One explanation is governance, that CEOs of larger firms have more market and investor pressure to appear organised and manage better as opposed to family firms.

The researchers tested this by looking at whether CEOs still go to work during monsoons or cricket matches. It turns out that CEOs at family firms, even large ones, are more likely to skip work during these events.  

For small business owners hoping to be larger, one key is to act as if investors and the market are always watching.

Whether the productivity increase comes because ‘Style 1’ behaviours are fundamentally better, because workers emulate them and become more organised, or simply because bigger firms are more mature, the effect is too large to be ignored.

See Dr. Prat’s presentation here

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