Time management in an organisation is probably better considered “engaging appropriately with your work, people and processes” which, for a manager, is putting the power to get things done where it makes the most sense – which is often directly into the hands of staff. This also means the time between the problems as they emerge (usually in QI and QIII) and decisions and actions to resolve them is radically reduced – people solve their own problems as they see them. In other words, this means making sure that the things that need to be done are being done by the right person – which may not be you at all! We are talking about delegation and problem solving.
We will be devoting a whole lesson on delegation later. This topic is more about the problems that take up yours and your staff time, and it includes other people’s problems that find their way onto your plate.
QIII are usually ‘tensions’ – things that are either distracting staff from their work or getting in the way of their work. A tension is simply the difference between what is and what could be – or what we’d prefer it to be. Rather than being negative, such ‘tensions’ represent opportunities to improve something – a process, system, or even a person! And they are also opportunities to prevent bad things happening so a manager needs to listen for these tensions and encourage people to raise them.
Many of the tensions staff bring up really do undermine their ability to perform their work, and require an organisation change to resolve. We have devoted an entire series of courses on ‘Managing Change’ and ‘Continuous Improvement’, so won’t dive too deeply here.
To help you manage your workload, prioritise all these tensions and projects to resolve them by setting up a reliable and collaborative process for capturing them so they don’t just pile up on your ‘To Do’ list. It could be as simple as adding a small section to your Team communication board or book, whiteboard or Intranet (i.e. Sharepoint) – you get the picture. Keep it simple, refer to it in your staff meetings and huddles. Engage staff in being part of the solution as a member of the team tasked with coming up with the improvement.
Then there are the many issues that fall into QIII that really would be handled by others if you weren’t there to handle it for them – but you are – and for the longest time, you have!! Do any of these sound familiar? A staff member comes to you because they have an issue with another staff member, or can’t find something, or need to change their roster for a party they have just been invited to. or, some other problem they are experiencing and want your to sort out for them… Are there any other such examples in your list of things?
These can be the monkeys in the monkey game. Let me explain. They bring their problems to you expecting you to solve them. As they leave you, you notice that you have one more thing to do! They have successful off-loaded the monkey from their back, onto yours. To manage your own load, you need to keep your eye on the monkey and make sure it remains on their back and does not sneak onto yours!
Good managers do this by taking these opportunities to develop and empower others. They are able to listen, encourage and coach others to resolve their own issues so they can deal with these when ever they crop up again without having to rely on you to be there all the time.
The key in each case is to listen for what the tension is. Is the tension a problem that only you can solve or is it something that, with support, they can resolve themselves? Ask them what they think they’d do if you were not around. Encourage them to develop their ideas and find a solution that they can then test with action.
The critical skill here is coaching. For more ideas on some powerful coaching questions, click on the article in resources: “These 7 Questions will change how you lead forever.”