On or In The Business

Successful managers and business owners spend most of their time working ‘on’ their business/service and little time ‘in’ it.

If you had a periscope, how would you be? See the things in front of you or the waves upon the sea?

If you had a business, what is it you’d do? Everything because you can and have, or the stuff that’s just for you?

If you had to travel, what is it you’d take? Lots of luck and positive thought, or a map for safety’s sake? 

Successful managers and business owners spend most of their time working ‘on’ their business/service and little time ‘in’ it. They know that their role is to steer and guide the business/service and ensure its infrastructure is sound and can support its activities. They know their staffs’ role is to do the doing – working in the business. What do you spend most of your time doing – working in or on the business? Take 5 minutes to complete the exercise. If the answer to a question is definitely yes, tick the box ?. If the answer is definitely no, mark it with a cross X. When you’ve finished the exercise, determine where you spend your time. If you find you spend most of your time working in the business, note the six steps you’ll take in the next three months, to redress the balance.

In the Business

  • I do some of my staffs’ work when they’re busy
  • I don’t like to delegate as everyone’s busy and stressed
  • I find the days just fly and I don’t know what I’ve done
  • I really enjoy doing the hands-on stuff
  • I want to keep my hand in
  • It is easier and simpler to do stuff yourself
  • I’m too busy to train and coach others
  • I don’t enjoy doing the paperwork, so I leave it for as long as possible
  • I don’t have the time to sit and plan – I just go with the flow
  • I believe people are much more important than paperwork
  • Planning and plans are a waste of time – things change all the time
  • I have rough plans in my head – there’s no need to document them
  • I withhold information to protect my staff from difficult organisational realities
  • It isn’t the right time for me to step completely away from my old role
  • I identify with the workers, not management.

On the Business

  • I develop annual action/business plans and use them to guide my activities
  • I take time out every week to think and review the service/business
  • I have systems for everything
  • I delegate appropriately and achieve through others
  • I have regular meeting times with my direct reports
  • I always involve staff in business planning
  • I regularly make myself unavailable, to spend time on important work
  • I have a clear vision and goals for the service/business
  • I prioritise tasks and focus on the important
  • I have robust risk management policies, practices and plans in place
  • I act on things, when they come to my attention
  • I know my role requires me to see the big picture and make things happen
  • I recognise ‘early alert’ situations and see them as symptoms of problems
  • I let my staff get on with their jobs
  • I always do ‘the boring bits’ of my job, because I know I need to.


I think I spend most of my time working:

  • on the business
  • in the business

The practices I want to change over the next three months are:





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