As we put together our annual Most Powerful Women ranking, we took a moment to ask these powerful executives: how do they get it done? Twenty-two women on Fortune‘s list shared the productivity tips that allow them to oversee billions with time to spare.
Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, and CEO, Lockheed Martin
My biggest productivity tip for leaders is to have bias for action in all you do. You must reject the idea that things “just happen.” This helps create a mindset to take on challenges, constantly learn and improve, and make decisions in a way that shapes the future.
Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, and CEO, IBM
I have two: First, only you control your time—and you set your day’s priorities. Second, as you prioritize your work, always do the hardest things first.
Gail Boudreaux, President and CEO, Anthem
For me, the most important thing to ensure productivity and success within my organization is communication across all levels, all of the time. I believe a leader who can communicate their vision and goals consistently and clearly is more likely to result in employees feeling a true sense of purpose and passion for success. And build the right culture.
Judith McKenna, President and CEO, Walmart International
Don’t procrastinate! I love the Mark Twain quote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Ann Marie Campbell, EVP, U.S. Stores, Home Depot
Find and harness your superpower. As women, we often think we have to be perfect in our roles before taking on a new opportunity or challenge, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Every person brings forth their own unique strengths—we must all dig deep to find that superpower and then own the unique value we bring to the table.
Amy Hood, EVP and CFO, Microsoft
Sleep, so you can be as helpful, creative, and engaged as possible with your team on the hard stuff.
Leanne Caret, President and CEO, Defense, Space & Security, and EVP, Boeing
Surround yourself with a brilliant team and listen to them. And a nice helping of Diet Coke.
Geisha Williams, President and CEO, PG&E
Never underestimate the importance of taking care of yourself—get a good night’s rest, take breaks, eat healthily. You’re readier for what the day brings your way.
Beth Ford, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes
Be on time. I believe the first signal of whether or not you respect people is showing up on time for whatever is on the agenda.
Lisa Davis, CEO Siemens Energy, Siemens AG
I think it is about technologies and keeping a clear objective. Firstly, adapting to, and adopting, technologies that foster expeditious collaboration is a great way to drive productivity. Whether it is to use collaboration platforms for team work versus scheduling meetings or entire business units using virtual reality to help colleagues diagnose technical problems from across the globe, to reducing a complex supply chain with additive manufacturing, technology allows us to increase our productivity.
Secondly, always staying focused on the task at hand. In our complex world it is easy to get consumed in details and lose track of what you are trying to accomplish. Always keeping a clear objective and ensuring you and the team stay focused ensures success. And always asking the question, ‘What specifically are we trying to accomplish or what problem are we working to solve?’ is key to success.
Julie Sweet, CEO North America, Accenture, No. 32
Unplug to unlock—I am at my most productive when I make sure to disconnect in the evenings and on weekends. It helps me recharge and see the new ideas that make an impact.
Jennifer Taubert, EVP, Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson
Hire amazing people. When you have a fabulous team, everything is much easier.
Lynne Doughtie, Chairman and CEO, KPMG U.S.
Every day, focus on the things that only you can do—and do those first. If you allow yourself to get bogged down with your never-ending “to-do” list, you’ll miss opportunities to make the greatest impact.
Bridget van Kralingen, SVP Blockchain, Industry Platforms, Accounts, and Partnerships, IBM
I believe in binding anxiety, not creating it. Learning, creativity, and progress come when you use anxiety for good and establish a tension of the task. I’ve witnessed a great deal of productivity lost when paralysis sets in due to fear and judgment. When we create an environment where we can harness urgency, enthusiasm, and collaboration in a positive way, great things can happen.
Kelly Grier, U.S. Chairman and Americas Managing Partner, EY
There’s no question that the best productivity tool is a great team that you leverage extensively. I also block out at least an hour every day to “think” and focus on the important and escape the urgent.
Michele Buck, President and CEO, Hershey
Your most valuable asset is your time. Every moment of every day counts. Be ruthless about prioritization so that you make the absolute most out of your time. Take control of your calendar—it’s freeing to say no to meetings or engagements where you aren’t uniquely adding value or bringing back insights to drive commercial growth. If you are willing to say no, it gives you opportunities to spend your time on what’s really important. Ask yourself, “where is it that only I can make the difference?” That’s where you should be.
Carolyn Tastad, Group President, North America, Procter & Gamble
I think the biggest productivity driver is clarity on what matters most and focus on only that. Put the other stuff aside. Strategy is very important and once you have a strategy, execute those choices rigorously. Don’t stray. Don’t get distracted. Don’t let the choices creep.
And then there are the little tips. I try to focus my day on big stuff. I leave email to the end of the day so that I’ll be time-pressured to get through it as efficiently as possible. I leave the little follow-up stuff to the evening for the same reason. And I have an amazing assistant who keeps my life organized and helps me say no when I need to.
Mary Dillon, CEO, Ulta Beauty
Collaboration is easily my best productivity tool. I always look for the ability to collaborate in all my teams and colleagues. It is so important to surround yourself with leaders who are functional experts who can bring specific expertise to the broader team. Business is complex and all functions are interdependent. I am convinced that we run a better, more productive business when we are collaborating across all functions.
Helena Foulkes, CEO, Hudson’s Bay Company
I’m a walking “to do” list. Every Friday I think through critical work that needs to get done in the following weeks to have the impact I want to have. And every day I prioritize things I must get done along with other items, personal and professional, which need follow up.
Anne Finucane, Vice Chairman; Chairman, BofA Merrill Lynch Intl., Bank of America
Don’t listen to the distractions, focus on the long game. Put a great, motivated team around you.
Kathryn Marinello, President and CEO, Hertz Global Holdings
As a Lean Six Sigma master black belt, my goal is to shape a process-driven culture at Hertz. Achieving continuous, stable and predictable process results is critically important to business success. And technology is the secret weapon. Process automation drives faster communication of strategies, increased time spent on strategic priorities and greater project completion rates.
Barbara Humpton, U.S. CEO, Siemens
Ones to watch
Delegate! I’ve learned that nothing makes people happier than to be trusted with important work.
Contributors: Kristen Bellstrom, Grace Donnelly, Matt Heimer, Emma Hinchliffe, Aric Jenkins, Beth Kowitt, Monica Rodriguez, Lisa Marie Segarra, Lucinda Shen, Jonathan Vanian, Phil Wahba, Jen Wieczner.