Managing in a Busy World

Managers are struggling to find the time to have needed conversations with colleagues and direct reports. People want to be better leaders, but they don’t have the open space in their schedules.

When managers don’t take time to connect with direct reports other than issuing orders, the result is work that proceeds slowly and often needs to be redone. ‘I just didn’t have time,’ managers will say.  But sometimes it happens that ‘there’s never enough time to do it right the first time, but always enough time to do it again.’ So what these managers end up having to do is stop, back up, and have those conversations anyway.

What we need to do is to spend a little time up front discussing the direct report’s skills and their development level on the task you’re asking them to do. If they are a beginner, prepare to provide a lot of direction. If they are more experienced, it can be a combination of direction and support. And if they are very well versed in the task, a delegating style is completely appropriate.

For time-starved managers looking to focus on both people and results, a good approach is to have short, regular meetings that are well organized and focused.

Always start your conversations within the context of what the goals are. Next, identify the direct report’s capability and commitment to the task. Identify where the person is in terms of development level. Have they ever done the task before? What is your confidence level with them succeeding at the task? This where you begin to surface their feelings around confidence and competence.

Finallyl, be on guard. People want to project that they are confident and competent and can get things done. People want to be perceived as talented and highly skilled. It’s rare that someone will say, ’I don’t know how to do that,” or ‘I’m going to need extra time to learn how to do that.’ As leaders, we need to make it safe for people to tell us when they don’t know how to do something.

Summing-up: Remind that surfacing concerns and skill levels ahead of time can save a lot of trouble and heartache down the road. If you don’t take the time now, you’ll be taking the time later, and under more difficult emotional circumstances. Make the best use of that time. It’s going to take some effort, but in the long run time saved is something we could all use.

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