Tag Archives: time management

Open Door Policy Has Nothing To Do With The Door

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
A bit frustrated. My role dictates longer time span strategic projects, but I continue to get pulled into tactical issues on smaller pieces of that project, or tactical issue on other people’s projects. I find myself often saying “what does our process say the next step should be?” or pointing back to our documentation to find the facts. I have to stop, interrupting focus on my own project segments. How does one balance these interruptions without coming across as “that’s not my job” to address tactical daily activities?

Response:
Two things necessary. First, you have an interruption problem. Second, as a manager, you have a coaching problem.

1. Interruption problems. Do you remember when you were a student in school and had to take that final test on Friday morning? So, late Thursday night, you settled down to study for the test? You know, right after Thursday Night Football? Because you procrastinated to the last minute, you had to make sure you got in some quality cram time. And you did some things that you can adapt to today’s situation.

  • You asked your roommates to take the keg of beer down to the other end of the dorm so you would not be tempted.
  • You told your other roommate to take a hike.
  • You took your phone off the hook (remember when phones had hooks).
  • You hung a shoe on your doorknob, a signal to all that you were busy and not to be disturbed (usually a signal for other activities beside studying, but a signal nonetheless).
  • You went to the library because no one would ever think to find you there.

These same strategies can be adapted to make sure you capture large (enough) blocks of uninterrupted time.

  • Put a sign on your door that you are in a meeting, not to be disturbed.
  • Communicate with your team that they need to cover all phone calls and visitors for the next three hours.
  • Relocate, find a spot where no one will find you (temporary, of course).

You might think that might communicate your inaccessibility (it does), but remember that an open door policy has nothing to do with the door.

2. Which brings me to your second problem, coaching. In a managerial role, it comes with the territory, get over it. And, yes, you can manage it. Set aside specific blocks of time for “office hours,” and specific appointments for 1-1s for each of your team members. This dedicated time can be controlled by you to prevent interruptions when you are working on your projects.

It may seem painful to help a team member walk through documentation, but it won’t take long before the team member knows how to walk through the documentation without you. This is not a “not my job” attitude, this is mandatory for all managers to bring value to the problem solving and decision making of the team member. And you don’t bring that value by providing all the answers. You bring that value by asking effective questions.

Now, close your door and get back to work.

Does Delegation Save Time?

Emily was already in the conference room when I arrived.

“So, what’s the purpose for delegation?” I asked.

“That’s easy,” Emily replied. “To save me time. I have a lot of stuff going on.”

“And if you are able to effectively delegate, what does the team member get out of it?”

Emily looked puzzled. “Well, I guess.” She stopped. “I guess, maybe, that they learn something new.”

“Good, learning is good. What else?” I probed.

“Well, new. Something new would be more interesting. Maybe learn a new skill. Maybe a sense of accomplishment, pride?”

“Good. Now tell me, Emily, do any of those things have anything to do with time?”

“Well, no.”

“So, what do they have to do with?”

Emily was tracing the conversation. “Learning, interest, new skill, accomplishment, pride. Sounds like learning and development,” she finally concluded.

“So one purpose for delegation is to save you time. Delegation is your most powerful time management tool, and it is also your most powerful learning and development tool.”

What is the Purpose for Delegation?

“So, you have selected something to delegate?” I asked.

Marion nodded.  “Yup. I know you have been telling me that I had to get something off of my plate.”

“Why did you pick this project?”

“You said to pick something.  This project will take me about an hour.  I can delegate it, save myself an hour,” she explained.

“So, the reason you want to delegate this project is to save yourself an hour.  You have traded one hour for one hour.  That’s a one to one leverage of your time.  Not good enough,” I challenged.

Marion furrowed her brow.  “What do you mean, not good enough?  How can I trade an hour for more than an hour?”

“If your purpose for delegation is just to save some time, you will always trade one hour for one hour.  My challenge to you is to trade one hour and get ten hours of productivity.”

“One hour for ten, how do you do that?”

“While delegation can be a powerful time management tool, it is also your most powerful people development tool.  If your purpose is NOT to save time, but to develop people, what changes about the leverage you get, as a manager?  Can you spend one hour developing one of your team members and get ten hours of productivity back?”

How to Anticipate the Unpredictable

Brent wasn’t sure he heard me right. I know he was expecting some sympathy for all of his long hours.

“Your long hours are not because you are working hard,” I said. “Your long hours are because you didn’t budget your time.”

He tried the puppy dog look. “But I don’t know exactly how much work there is to do until it piles up on me,” he protested.

“That’s BS,” I responded. “If you would sit down and think about your week coming up, you would find that 95 percent of it is totally predictable.”

“But customers call with questions about their bids, or they want to add something to the project that we quoted for them.  I can’t just tell them that I will get to it next week, they will give the job to one of our competitors,” he defended.

“So, how often does this happen?” I pressed.

“Well, it happens all the time.”

“I thought you said it wasn’t predictable?”

The Just Reward for Hard Work

I had a hot tip to stop by and visit with Brent. As I entered his office, I noticed his eyes were sunk in. It was Friday, but he didn’t look like he was ready for the weekend.

“You look like crap,” I observed. “When did you get here this morning?”

Brent sat up, a bit startled. “Oh, man,” he said. “I rolled in around 5:00a. I just had to get some stuff done.”

“And when did you leave last night?”

“Well, I got out of here about 9:45p. I don’t know what it is. This has been going on for the past three weeks. On Monday, things don’t look so bad, but come Thursday and Friday, the work just seems to pile up. I have worked the last three Saturdays and last week, had to come in on Sunday. Missed the football game.”

“So, this is not some special project. Just your regular work,” I inquired.

“Yeah, in fact, if I had known about it ahead of time, I could delegate some of it out and it would already be done. But I don’t know about some of this stuff until it’s too late, or don’t realize how long it is really going to take. All of sudden, the pile is stacked up and everyone has gone home. The work’s gotta get done.”

“Brent, what if?” I started. “Brent, what if I don’t believe you.”

Working Leadership Course – Fort Lauderdale

Aug 6, 2013 kicks off our next Working Leadership Series in Fort Lauderdale Florida. This program contains twelve modules in six classroom sessions. The program instructor will be Tom Foster (that’s me).

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.

Schedule (All sessions – 8:30a-noon)
Session 1 – Tue, Aug 6, 2013 – Orientation, Role of the Manager, Time Management
Session 2 – Mon, Aug 12, 2013 – Working Styles, Communication
Session 3 – Mon, Aug 19, 2013 – Positive Reinforcement, Team Problem Solving
Session 4 – Tue, Aug 27, 2013 – Planning, Delegation
Session 5 – Wed, Sep 4, 2013 – Decision Making, Accountability
Session 6 – Mon, Sep 9, 2013 – Effective Meetings, Coaching

Location – All classes will be held at Banyan Air Services in Fort Lauderdale FL in the Sabal Palm Conference Room.
Banyan Air Services
5360 NW 20th Terrace
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

Tuition – $1600 per participant. Vistage member companies receive a $100 discount per participant. This includes all books and participant materials.

Curriculum

Session One
Orientation. During the initial Session, participants will create both a company and a personal framework, setting expectations and direction for this program. Participants, through directed discussion, create the connection between the program course material and their day-to-day management challenges.

Role of the Manager. Introduces the distinction between supervisor and managerial roles. Clarifies the specific goals necessary for effectiveness. This module creates the foundation on which rest of the course material builds. Incorporates source material from Requisite Organization – Elliott Jaques.

Time Management. Introduces the textbook Getting Things Done by David Allen. (Text included as part of the program).

Session Two
Working Styles.
Participants will complete a DISC survey (DISC is an online instrument published by TTI) and report on their own identified strengths and working style.

Communication. The largest challenge, for most managers, centers on issues of communication. This Session will introduce participants to a new level of conversational “reality.” Introduces the text, Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, as reference material. (Text included as part of this program.)

Session Three
Positive Reinforcement

This segment reviews the management research of Elliott Jaques and Abraham Maslow regarding “why people work.” Explores the role of positive reinforcement outlined in by Aubrey Daniels – Getting the Best Out of People.

Team Problem Solving.
Expands Fierce Conversations to the group setting. Designed to move a group into “real work,” using a team problem solving model. Demonstrates how to build a team through problem solving.

Session Four
Planning.
This segment introduces a results-oriented planning model, based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done, which participants can quickly use in any situation where planning would be of benefit.

Delegation. Participants are introduced to a specific model of effective delegation. Most managers hold certain mental blocks to delegation that prevents them from using this powerful developmental tool. This delegation model challenges these mental blocks so the entire team, manager included, can benefit from delegation.

Session Five
Decision Making
. This segment introduces three decision models that participants can use to make decisions in specific circumstances. All models can be used in a team setting or for an individual decision.

Accountability Conversation. Introduces a results-oriented method to hold individuals and teams accountable for desired results. This combines concepts of Time Span, QQT Goals and Management Relationships.

Session Six
Effective Meetings.
Moves from theory to the practical application of team dynamics. How to run a more effective meeting.

Coaching. This segment takes the communication models we have previously used and integrates them into a conversation specifically designed for coaching subordinates.

If you would like to pre-register for the program, use the Ask Tom link, tell me a little about yourself and we will add you to the pre-registration list.