by Andrea Charman

Develop your personal effectiveness

Personal effectiveness is a much-talked-about concept. It is, of course, critical to effective leadership, but what does it mean? Historically, most people have interpreted it as the ability to manage time in such a way as to effectively and appropriately deliver on pre-agreed goals and performance objectives.

This may well have been adequate in an industrial economy, but in a knowledge-and-attention economy, such as ours in the 21st century, this misses the point. The fact is that you will never have enough time. In a 24/7 economy, personal effectiveness needs to embrace such concepts as energy sources, energy management, prioritising tasks, speed of decision making, overall mental agility, the ability to size people up appropriately and indeed much more.

The critical question is this: how do you respond and/or deliver in the most appropriate manner as you seek to achieve the performance outcomes or the value creation that you target?


As with effective leadership, personal effectiveness begins with self knowledge, and here you might start with value systems. All of us operate every day from our value system, although we may not be aware of this. How we behave and respond to things is about our values (these may change, but they are there).

Key point

These tendencies are not related to what’s required from the business point of view, but stem from your own internal mechanisms – your values.

If you know what your value systems are and what your prime motivator is out of the three classics (authority, achievement and affiliation, see Motivation – McLelland), then you are more likely to be personally effective. This means that you will probably be able to identify those tasks at which you are most likely to be fast and effective (because they are in line with your values) and the ones where you are likely to procrastinate or prioritise.

Values and energy rhythms

Bearing these points in mind, we come to energy. Do you actually know what your natural energy rhythms are? When do you have high points? When are your low points? We all have different cycles.

Once you understand your personal highs and lows, then you will recognise that those challenging tasks that you might instinctively resist are best tackled during high energy periods. Your business agenda priorities ought to be tackled at these high-energy times, we suggest, rather than at low energy points. Once you manage your energy cycles, you avoid depletion and exhaustion in favour of optimum personal effectiveness. See the topic on Personal Energy.

Values and people

Emotionally intelligent people will know their triggers, including how they waste their time and who irritates them. If someone irritates you, and this person is critical to the business, you will need to exercise an appropriate value with regard to this: for example, ‘everyone has a place’.

Another aspect of personal effectiveness is the ability and willingness to give other people the space to express what they need to express and feel that they have had a genuine forum for what they want to say. How well do you listen to people and how well do you hear messages that are unspoken? Highly effective people will operate as much from intuition as from logical, linear rational thought.

Agility in decision making

Agility in decision making is also a component of personal effectiveness. Emotional intelligence also comes into play here too, as the more adaptable you are and the more emotionally intelligent, the better your decisions will be – you will be able to self manage and take a proper look.

The first question to ask is this: does the decision needs to be made right now or not?

To put this into a practical context, leaders with high levels of personal effectiveness will, when faced with the need to make a decision

  • Sit back and either reflect or quickly consult with other key and/or trusted stakeholders
  • Visualise the outcomes of making different choices before taking the plunge/coming to a conclusion and getting on with it.

In other words, they won’t ‘just do it’ or, if they seem to do so, they will in reality have quickly done a mental scan as to the implications, so they will be acting consciously, not just reacting. See the topic on Decision Making.


Job/role effectiveness tree

Draw a tree with six branches radiating out, each of which is to represent a key aspect of your role and responsibility. Once you’ve labelled the branches accordingly, you should then consider each in turn and draw smaller branches or twigs for each of the key task areas of those core aspects of your job.

Decide what percentage of your time is spent in each of the core areas and label your tree accordingly. Next, using plus and minus symbols, assess the degree of importance (to the business or organisation and in terms of your role) of the task areas. (You might have three pluses in one place, or two minuses and so on.)

Now assess your level of effectiveness in each of these areas, using E+++, E- and so on.

Go on to consider whether you see any patterns emerging: does this tell you anything about your organisation, your boss or your team? Significantly, what does this tell you about yourself and what you need to do in order to increase your levels of effectiveness?

It’s not just a matter of deciding to work on the minus numbers, but also about noting what you are good at. What skills do you find challenging, and are there any personal attitudes or baggage that are holding you back?