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CEOs, You’re Never Too Busy To Make Time For These 3 Things


Thirty-hour work weeks and three-day weekends are trending lately, supposedly boosting productivity and satisfaction.

I’m sure there’s some merit to the idea. But honestly, I can’t even think about that without getting a little anxious.

Personally, I don’t even have enough time to get through everything I need to in five days as a co-founder and co-CEO. That’s why I generally spend nine hours in the office each day, and then hop online later at night once my kids are asleep.

Leading a company doesn’t come with a lot of wiggle room for laid-back work weeks.

But no matter how busy it gets, there are some things CEOs should always make time for:

1. Holding one-on-one meetings.

In my mind, there’s nothing more important than holding one-on-ones.

Each senior leader who reports to me is managing a specific area of our business, and everything the company does flows through their teams. If they don’t feel like they have the answers, or if a problem is slowing them down, then nothing gets accomplished.

Generally, each weekly one-on-one meeting runs about 30 minutes. Some may go longer, but this is usually enough time if you’re holding them consistently.

I recommend never going into these meetings with any kind of personal agenda. Let your direct report set the intent. Everyone is different — some focus on tactics and some on strategy. But the most important thing is having that time with your direct reports to talk about their team, their projects, what they’re struggling with, and how you can help.

One-on-ones are also the best opportunities to give and receive feedback.

It can be difficult to get into the habit of sharing feedback, but having time every week tends to make it easier. Once you begin giving and soliciting feedback with someone, the conversation really opens up.

And that’s what you really want to make time for — honest communication that moves the team forward and keeps everyone on the same page.

2. Engaging with the press.

I recently spoke with a reporter who was writing an article on the influence of shape versus size in today’s clothing companies. We initially ran into a scheduling conflict, but I didn’t brush it off. Instead, I moved things around on my calendar to make sure I had the time to speak with her.

Reporters work on tight deadlines, and requests often happen last-minute.

It’s critical that you make time for any form of press when you can, for two very important reasons: For one, press is free. All your other marketing initiatives are generally expensive because you’re creating content and paying money to place it somewhere. The nice thing about speaking with the media is that it’s an excellent way to get your name out there without a large investment.

Second, if you’re a consumer brand like we are at ThirdLove, building your reputation is a huge part of your success. The more people see your brand, the better.

Doing interviews and answering questions about your company is crucial, because it provides you with another opportunity to reach potential customers.

What you’ll find is, the more press you get, the more press you get. It’s a positive cycle wherein the more people talk about you, the more you become an object worthy of writing or talking about.

It’s difficult to create that cycle on your own, so don’t discount the power of press when the opportunity comes your way.

3. Developing your people — the ones who matter most.

The success or failure of your business always comes back to your people.

Your culture, organization, and strategy all come down to the happiness and motivation of the people working in your office.

You have to remember that everyone, at every moment in time, is growing and developing. And part of the CEO’s responsibility is to help facilitate that development and provide people with opportunities to learn and mature.

For instance, our team is currently working on our company process for updates. Essentially, we plan to have a different team present at each monthly company update meeting, so each has a chance to showcase what their team is working on.

I’ve been spending so much time on it because I think it’s important for everyone in the company to have an understanding of what other people do — and how difficult and time-consuming their jobs can actually be. That exposure creates more empathy and respect throughout the company.

It’s also an opportunity for people to work on public speaking and presenting. They get an opportunity to show people what they do, but they also develop as individuals. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your company does, you have to put people first.

Your days will always be hectic and fast-paced, but it’s up to you as a leader to create time for the things that matter most.

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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