Bob Pozen does a lot. He’s been a top executive at two mutual fund giants, Fidelity and MFS Investment Management. He’s also been an attorney, a government official, a law school professor, a business school professor, and a prolific author. And he has often been several of those things at once. Yet Pozen never comes across as overwhelmed, frazzled, or even all that busy. We know this because he’s a frequent contributor to HBR and hbr.org—with a reputation around our offices for writing faster than we can edit. Our experiences with him led us to wonder if he might have something interesting to say about personal productivity. So we asked him about it. The result was a series of blog posts for hbr.org (http://s.hbr.org/eDJ4g4), which Pozen has here distilled into six principles for a more productive work life.
Principle 1: Know Your Comparative Advantage
Many CEOs I’ve encountered say, “Here are the top five priorities for the company. Who would be the best at carrying out each one?” Then they propose themselves for all five areas. That might be the right answer, but it’s the wrong question, because it’s based on a self-centered concept of comparative advantage. It focuses on what an executive does best rather than on what the organization most needs from him or her.
The correct question is, “Which functions can only you as the CEO perform?” You may be the only executive who can meet with a top regulator or persuade a key client to stay. You may also be essential to recruiting senior staff. But a CEO has to hold back from taking on other responsibilities even if he or she excels at delivering on them. When CEO Rob Manning recruited me to join MFS as chairman, in 2004, we explicitly divided the high-priority functions. Although I had run the investment management group at Fidelity, Rob is a talented investment guy and a natural leader who wanted to take charge of that group at MFS. We agreed that I wouldn’t even show up on the investment floor.