How a CEO Became a Master At Protecting Her Time
Our most recent guest, Germaine Smith-Baugh, is President and CEO of the Urban League of Broward County. The organization is a community-based nonprofit that focuses on direct service work in the areas of education, entrepreneurship, jobs, justice, housing, and healthcare.
Germaine is a social worker and approaches her work with the mindset that when people are given opportunities they can advance. She’s passionate about community work and social impact work and has the primary goal of helping families move toward economic equality.
Germaine, like any other executive, is busy. She understands that in her role she needs to keep her time safely guarded in order to lead her organization—and she’s incredibly disciplined about it.
Executives at a nonprofit are likely the only ones able to do “the million-dollar ask.” It’s critical to carve out the time to strategize—and the time to actually ask.
Germaine has become an expert at protecting her time. She drew inspiration from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. What stuck with her was the idea of valuing your time and creating discipline around that. The book stressed the importance of time-blocking and keeping white space on your calendar, and it also noted the importance of “do not disturb” time truly being undisturbed.
But how does a CEO keep those “do not disturb” spaces undisturbed? It seems like an impossible feat. Germaine’s secret lies in creating discipline around herself. She sets boundaries and is comfortable saying no when her time cannot be infringed on. “I can time block all day, but now I need to create the discipline around me. Assistants and other vice presidents who have access to see my calendar… once I created the discipline… anything in red on my calendar, they know that they cannot take that time without asking my permission.”
She also finds that having a brain dump, pen to paper, helps her find peace and clarity with her thoughts, ideas, responsibilities, and obligations. And she takes ten to fifteen minutes at the end of each day to reflect on and evaluate the last twenty-four hours.
To protect her time even further, Germaine hired a WBN remote professional. “What has impressed me the most is the speed at which [WBN] moved at giving me options. That blew me away from the get-go,” she said.
In the nonprofit human service industry, face-to-face interactions are highly valued. So she added a final interview to ensure that not only were they choosing her, but the assistant was clear about her choice with them.
“[The assistant] would be in such critical and integral things to the growth of our business,” she said. “The work that we do is about people’s lives, and I needed to know that she got that… this isn’t just about supporting a CEO.”
Germaine estimates that the entire hiring process took only seven days. She has now been working with her assistant Annie for six months and could not be happier.
“Annie has enabled us to think, which is not to be taken lightly,” she said. Annie handles calendars and travel for Germaine and a vice president, coordinates board meetings, follows up with employees, board members, and clients, and so much more.
Germaine said, “She calendared five very instrumental meetings in one day. Pre-Annie, that would have taken me weeks to do because I’d be doing it all myself… totally inefficient, not the best use of my time.”
The only constant in business is change, and if you’re not taking the time to think about how things are changing and how you’re going to react, then your organization isn’t going to thrive.
Germaine said, “We have an understanding that there are certain things that can and should be alleviated so that the individuals that can make that million-dollar ask have the time to strategize to make that ask, and the time to actually make that ask.”