Failing to block out interruptions. If boss, they’ll honor his/her establishment of quiet periods when questions, problems, etc. are not wanted. At the same time, you’ll coach others (administrative assistants) to intercept disturbances before they get to you.
Paying too much attention to low-yield projects. It’s never wise to get involved in “small potatoes” projects. Know which ones are most vital to your area and the overall objectives of the organization. Here is where your priorities must lie.
Excess socializing. Being friendly is one thing, but those “chit-chat” sessions on the job need firm time control.
Reading newspapers or magazines on the job. While it’s important to scan important literature (perhaps first thing each day), it’s not making the best use of your time to dwell on such reading activities.
Probably at no point in your leadership schedule are time leaks more annoying (and downright wasteful) than in meetings. However, there is a lot you can do about it–whether you are the meeting leader or just an active participant. Here are some suggestions for the encouragement of brevity and productivity at a business meeting.
One business consultant requests that every time someone says something not directly related to the subject, others may feel free to lift a hand and point their index finger straight up! “This will indicate that we’d better get back to the point and watch the clock,” he says.
He also advocates discussing one topic at a time–and finishing that subject before going on. That’s another way to keep the affair from wandering away from the point–a prime cause of unproductive, tiresome meetings.
Along this same line, here are four rules that can keep any business session, especially one in which questions will be debated by a number of attendees, concise and to the point:
Present both sides of a question. Show your control by limiting comments in favor of one side, then turning to the opposite side. Each comment in favor of point A should be followed (whenever possible) by an opinion favoring point B.
Have a “schoolteacher attitude”–and stick to it. Limit the length of time a speaker may hold the floor. Make it clear they have five minutes, 10 minutes, etc.–whatever length of time seems appropriate to this meeting and this attendees. (If you display a stopwatch, it’s up to you just how firm you’ll beat cutting them off–but just the fact you have it will deter the longer-winded ones).
Three’s a crowd. Hold participants back from “over-expanding.” That is, limit the number of times one person may speak on any given subject to twice.
Make sure there’s sufficient support for a given idea or suggestion. If only one participant wants to do the thing in question (no other support), then the committee–or meeting group–should not spend more time on it. Be aware of when there is (and where there is not) sufficient backing. Finally, the challenges of executive leadership (the kind you want to demonstrate) demand you check and constantly recheck personal work habits. Why do the world’s top producers constantly outstrip others in this regard? Reason: They do not stand still at their work and constantly do things that get results.
According to one study, the most effective executives have the habits of:
Planning their work–not only for today but also for tomorrow’s goals. They work for a purpose–and this carries them through hardships and past roadblocks.
Working on things that count, avoiding distractions. They know that a goal once set is something to stick to.
Being able to say “no” to a project or idea that just doesn’t fit. You can’t please everybody, as the Old saying goes. There’s a time to stop being a “nice person” and start being firm.
Reading books and magazines which will help them grow. In their spare time, they study ideas, facts and inspiration.
Doing the troublesome or distasteful job first. It usually takes willpower, but this habit alone can move them ahead and improve their standing in the eyes of superiors.
Deciding things promptly. They seldom “ponder” a situation to excess. Particularly, they decide minor things quickly.
Working like a craftsperson. By working for quality, they get more done and receive more satisfaction than by rushing for quantity.
Getting others to help! They delegate; they train others to be extra hands, eyes and heads for them.
Filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run (with thanks to Kipling). Doing nothing is an annoying “no-no” to a top producer.
Taking on additional jobs. They like to expand their abilities and achievements, putting pressure on themselves because they know that growth comes with doing a “little more than seems comfortable.” They refuse to accept easy alibis or to feel sorry for themselves.
Working for more than money. Taking pride in a job well done, helping the organization (and the standard of living of others), is more important than mere salary.
Raymond Loen, management consultant, lists a number of time-consuming tasks a business leader might perform. In each case he asks, “Is this managing or just doing?” The problem with the non-management (“doing”) things, he explains, is they are not leadership caliber in the true sense and just use up precious time that could be better spent.
In the category of “just doing and not true managing,” he numbers the following:
Conducting the initial screening interview for a job applicant. This, says Loen, is a personnel function. Later, after initial recruiting and screening, your decision in the selection process would be appropriate. You would then be managing.
Contacting another department to get help for a problem that’s affecting someone under your supervision. Here, again, you’re not really managing. The purpose of your inquiry is to get results for your subordinate–not through him/her.
Filling out a form to authorize a pay raise for a subordinate. This also is not true managing, since it’s a clerical function. Delegate it to a secretary or other person.
Giving a plant tour to a “VIP” visitor. You might be greatly tempted to do this, especially if the VIP is known to you. However, it’s a public relations function. You’re just a “doer,” not a manager here because, again, you’re not working to get results through your people.
Drafting a layout drawing of your facilities. Maybe you have to do this because there’s nobody else to do it–but this is really the job of the systems or methods engineering departments. It’s time consuming and a job for specialists, not a unit manager.
In some of these cases, says consultant Loen, it’s a struggle not to do the thing in question; however, the criterion of whether or not it’s true management is the leveling factor. None of the tasks formerly mentioned fall into the three main categories of management:
Planning–includes forecasting and budgeting.
Directing–includes training, motivating and coordinating.
Controlling–includes measuring and evaluating.
There are good reasons why you might find yourself sliding into a “doing” function rather than a real managing function.
For example, you may have excelled as a “doer” in the past; your background and work experience have formed deep-seated roots. One thinks of the sales manager who is really more of a salesperson than an administrator. Sometimes it’s an effort to maintain a hands-off attitude.
Then again, you might be the only specialist or technical authority on some element of the job. Or maybe you feel you must maintain personal relationships with outside customers, vendors or suppliers. Whatever the case, the problem is the same: Your effectiveness as a manager will suffer if you persist in falling back into such procedures. Follow these tips for plugging those time leaks! Don’t slight the management responsibilities that are so important for you and your organization–both now and into the future.