Time Management Tips from Canada's Busiest Woman

This top CEO combines her corporate responsibilities with plentiful public service. How she manages it all

Written by Murad Hemmadi

Photo: John Londoño

A CEO’s work is never done. The demands of running a business are endless, and most corporate leaders find it hard to make time for their families and friends, much less roles and responsibilities in service of their fellow citizens. Somehow, Monique Leroux does it all.

The CEO, chair and president of Montreal financial giant The Desjardins Group is an enthusiastic contributor to public causes large and small. Leroux’s obligations include co-chairing the 2014 annual fundraising campaign for United Way of Greater Montreal, as well as seats on Finance Minister Joe Oliver’s Economic Advisory Council, Catalyst Canada’s Advisory Board, and the Order of Canada Advisory Council. She’s also a member of the the Trilateral Commission and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and a fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors. And those are only the most prominent of her numerous current extracurricular commitments.

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But Leroux’s numerous obligations and undertakings don’t distract from her primary responsibility in the least. Under her watch, Desjardins has been named the world’s second strongest bank by Bloomberg markets and has won a string of best employer awards. So how does Leroux manage it all?

In the March issue of Canadian Business, Leroux spoke to Murad Hemmadi about how she handles her various responsibilities and why a CEO’s role is bigger than the boardroom. Here’s what Canada’s busiest woman had to say about managing a chockablock schedule:

Pick your passions

Leroux is clearly civic-minded, but that doesn’t mean she accepts every role and responsibility that comes her way. Instead, Leroux opts into commitments suited to her skills, experience and interests. “I do it if I feel there is a contribution I can bring,” she says.

One such passion project is her role with Catalyst Canada, a nonprofit focused on expanding opportunities for women in business. “I decided to get involved with Catalyst because I believe in balancing the roles of men and women in society,” Leroux explains.

There’s no point in taking on purely symbolic roles, according to Leroux. “I will not accept things where I just have to put my name,” she says.

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You don’t have to do it on your own

Desjardins is a corporate giant, so there’s a limited amount Leroux can accomplish on her own. Still, she makes a conscious effort to delegate. “My role is not to do everything,” she says.

Leroux admits that relying on other people doesn’t necessarily come naturally. “When you start your career, you do a lot of things on your own,” she notes. “But as you grow in an organization and take additional roles and responsibilities, you have more and more people working with you. You realize very quickly that you will be only as good as your capacity to make your team better.”

It’s also a good way to find out what your employees are capable of, and which skills they may have that you don’t. “When I’m busy in something, it gives the opportunity to other people to take the lead,” Leroux says.

MORE DELEGATION: How to Clone Yourself »

Look around corners

Earlier in her career, Leroux spent several years working at Ernst & Young. When she moved into the banking sector, initially at RBC, she was forced to unlearn some of her working habits. “As a consultant you do things a little bit last-minute and you have to do it all yourself,” she remembers. “But you cannot do that with a large organization.”

These days, Leroux ensures she knows what’s on her schedule well in advance. “Every day I review the agenda and the calendar,” she says. “And every week I’m taking the time to look forward three months or six months, to plan a little bit ahead.”

It’s important not to deviate from that plan. “Even though sometimes it can be a little bit tricky, you need to be disciplined,” she says.

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Make time for important people

You’re no use to your company if you’re always exhausted, Leroux points out. So time off is just as important as the hours you spend on the job. “You need to have some energy,” she suggests. “Without some energy and the capacity to sleep and get refreshed on the weekends, it is impossible.”

A key part of that rejuvenation process involves spending time with loved ones. “After all, they are the ones who are going to still be there when you’re job is done,” Leroux says.


What tricks and tactics do you use to save time? Let us know using the comments section below.

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