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For Shawn Stewart, the COO of O2 Fitness Clubs, time isn’t a commodity, it’s a precious gift. “Most people make the mistake of thinking it’s a commodity because everyone has an equal amount of it,” he explained. “Successful people get much more out of their time than others. I make no distinction between someone stealing money out of my pocket and someone robbing me of my time. I protect and value my time the same, if not more, than money.”
To protect his time, Stewart executes a multi-tiered time management process inspired by Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” that he has stayed disciplined with and perfected over the last 15 years.
Every year, Stewart dedicates three days to planning his personal and professional goals and objectives. Each month, he sets aside two hours to plan the upcoming month based on his yearly goals and objectives. Each Monday, he spends 30 minutes planning the week ahead. And then every morning, he takes 10 to 15 minutes to plan his day and strategies for success.
“Because I recognize that my talents and smarts are less than most, I have to make up for it with getting more out of my time than others,” said Stewart.
In addition to managing his own personal and professional goals, Stewart makes it a priority to teach time management to O2 Fitness’ leaders. “Every leader in our organization goes through an extensive time management training with ongoing follow ups,” he said. “Managers regularly post their weekly and monthly game plans and strategies for success. Every leader has the responsibility of growing and developing future leaders, and it all starts with teaching time management.”
Along with teaching time management comes establishing a culture that is respectful of time. Stewart clarified that although he has an “open door” policy, that isn’t the same as having an “open interruption” policy. “Anyone can come and talk to me about anything, but they can’t just interrupt what I’m doing, outside of emergencies,” he explained. “Having regular meetings with your leadership team, both as a group and one on one, helps give them a forum to openly discuss their thoughts, ideas and problems.”
However, in order for this strategy to work, employees must be empowered to be problem-solvers, so interruptions are minimized. “Create a culture where you don’t automatically answer everyone’s questions or solve their problems,” said Stewart. “Instead, spend extra time to teach them problem-solving skills, critical thinking or anything you feel you can teach to help the individual solve their own issue. For leaders in our organization, they have all been taught these skills, so they come prepared when they need assistance in addressing an issue.”
Another important aspect to time management is learning how to say “no” — and empowering your club-level operators to do so as well. “Put your leaders in a position where they have the power to say no to things, including task-oriented and non-results based activities, busy work and duplicate activities,” said Stewart.
For Stewart, common time-suckers include interruptions, most meetings and lack of organization. But at the end of the day, he said having a strong and clear foundation for your organization that includes a vision, mission, core values and the core competencies of your business will prioritize most of the big-picture items for you.