Being effective as a manager is one of the top challenges faced by leaders around the world. Being effective as a manager means managing time and priorities, thinking strategically and taking the right decisions, solving multitude of small and big problems. Being able to drive results with your teams. Catching up, executing and getting up to speed with the projects on hand.
Leaders are often burdened with managing and juggling an ever increasing number of projects & priorities with decreasing resources. They are often pulled in all directions and all times leading to high stress, lack of focus and fragmented attention span resulting in less than optimum effectiveness.
As soon as I start working on my mostchallenging task, one of my team members knocks in with "Do you have a minute?" On goes the discussion for 15 minutes and off goes my most challenging task. It doesn't help that I had been resisting the task in my head anyways. - Business Head Of An IT Company In India
It's very easy to get side tracked, especially if you feel all the things crossing your desk are equally important.
Here are a list of things you can do as a leader to get control back:
- Set clear goals. Setting clear goals for yourself, for each team member and for the team as a whole begins to bring clarity to what is important. That further brings clarity to the process of setting priorities not only for you but for everyone on the team. This will set the foundation for some rigorous scheduling.
- Schedule a time for everything. All the open projects and tasks should have designated review times. The frequency of the review can be as per criticality. Schedule time for “Do you have a minute” meetings. Set them up for twice a day or whatever frequency works. Let your team know that any unscheduled discussion will happen during that time. So when people walk up for unscheduled discussions, ask them can it wait for the designated review time, if not, can it wait till the next “Do you have a minute” hour. Only if it can’t then spend time talking to them. You’ll see in a short time, your team will understand what’s critical and what’s not. They’ll disturb you less.
- Delegate. Learn the art of delegating. Delegating increases your productivity. Delegation requires you to trust and it also requires you to overcome your fears of “what will happen if…” It is a vicious circle – no trust leads to no delegation and no delegation maintains the low trust. Break the circle. Start by delegating the easiest tasks and slowly build up.
- Most critical tasks. At any point in time you should be working on tasks that are most critical and cannot be done by anyone else. Tasks where you bring the maximum value.
- Define boundaries. Be clear on what falls under the purview of your job and what doesn’t? Being able to define boundaries and then saying “No” to anything that is beyond will also allow you to focus on what’s important rather than getting side tracked.
- Develop solution mindset of your team members. Whenever team members come to you with a problem, ask them to also recommend workable solutions. Don’t accept only “problem statements.” One manager I know, has “2 probable solutions” rule. He demands his team come to him with problems only when they also have “2 probable solutions.” This will get the team to think of solutions before approaching you. You can then counsel them with what would work best. This will reduce your time commitment and develop team’s confidence and capability.
- Action speak. Make sure your team members walk out of every discussion with clear actions and deadlines. Many leaders spend a lot of time discussing results that they expect and forget to spend few critical minutes in reiterating actions and deadlines. Clarity about the next action steps and a firm deadline leads to swift execution and increased productivity.
Remember - As you climb higher and take on more responsibilities your time and focus will be more and more precious. Developing the right habits will help you be on top of things and be more effective.