Are you overwhelmed with requests, can’t get the job done, do you think there’s never enough time? Perhaps there are too many interruptions and distractions in your office days.
Some leaders tend to want to focus all responsibility on themselves, but in doing so they erode the time spent on higher-value activities. As told by Maura Thomas, time management consultant (author of essays on the subject and columnist of Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and other publications), many business executives struggle to “disconnect” from their team and end up working non-stop or nearly so.
And what’s worse is that low value-added activities often cannibalize more strategic ones.
For this reason, the consultant suggests four techniques of correct time management and the “willingness” to relate to collaborators.
1. Leave them free to learn (and make mistakes)
A company grows if its members grow with it, so mentoring is one of the most important tasks for those who lead a team. However, the real teaching lies not so much in the lessons given a priori, as in the comparison of experiences.
People learn more when they are left free to act, succeed and fail. “What problems did you face this week, and how did you manage them?”: This could start a productive meeting with the staff.
2. Set up
Sometimes it’s difficult for team members to understand what the range of action is within which to move. To what extent are employees free to make decisions? Can they act on their own initiative or not? Better to ask for help, step aside?
By clearly explaining the boundaries of their responsibilities you will help staff members to work better, relieved of uncertainty and the fear of making mistakes. And you in turn will be relieved of the tasks you have delegated.
3. Keep the door open, but not always
Offering the work team availability and listening supports the philosophy of the “open door”, which renounces the barriers (including psychological) between the boss’s room and the entourage. Often, however, one is mistaken in interpreting this approach as the obligation to constantly leave the famous “door” wide open, be it concrete or metaphorical. An example could be the telephone availability without the time limits that you grant to your collaborators.
It would be better, however, to schedule time windows or weekly occasions in which to discuss projects and problems: so you will not be continually interrupted in your work, while collaborators will learn to take on greater responsibility.
It is also useful to take the initiative, periodically, asking the team how the work is progressing. If the company is large, it might be a good idea to relate to people who act as an intermediary between you and the base.
4. Disappear every now and then…
It is not a provocation: being unavailable for short periods can translate into an opportunity for growth for your employees. Maybe you have experienced it (and this is the example given by Maura Thomas): you are out of the office for a trip or for a meeting, you do not check your e-mail for several hours and, when you open the inbox, you find yourself a series of messages from the same sender. One of your collaborators who first asks you how to solve a problem, perhaps by insisting, but who then ends up getting by on his own. In his last email, he says that it doesn’t matter anymore, that he has found a solution.
The example explains the dynamics of strengthening responsibilities and the inventive effort to which collaborators are subjected when they do not get immediate feedback. On the contrary, if the boss takes on every little problem and becomes the contact person for any request, it is easy for his team to become “lazy” and not very independent.
Learning to delegate and break free from the obsession with control is not easy for some leaders. But a correct time management strategy is beneficial for everyone: you will be more productive and focused on added value, while your collaborators can become more responsible and mature professionally.