Escaping the Management Whirlwind

Managing Smart, Not Hard (versus managing mean, stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc.) has been a common theme for the past decade. When slow downs rear their feisty heads, the Smart part often goes to the back of the line. 

When times are good, it’s easier. Both good and not so good people go; in the end, managers must manage faster, and harder. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that most companies are willing to sacrifice the quality of what they do/sell in an effort to do things faster.

As a manager, you try to do your job at an accelerated pace. What do you do when you already feel that you are on overload? Believe it or not, there is an answer . . .

To accelerate your speed in doing your work, slow down.

No matter how many you manage (it could just be you), if you send the message that everything has to be done quicker, faster . . . carelessness and sloppiness are the guaranteed results. When the workplace is accelerated and time is short, items get overlooked; regular staff meetings are short circuited or eliminated; and frustration levels rise. Staff finds it difficult to get your attention or relay problems; in some cases, problems get buried that in the end, increase your costs and marketplace risk.

To pull the fuse and slow down, you have to take the time to assess what is a realistic timeframe to complete a task(s), what are the resources you have to draw on, what you want to accomplish, and what you want the outcome to look like. The clearer you are, the more effective you, and your team will be.

More than an Apple a Day
If you manage others, don’t assume that they will do what needs to be done. If you are feeling overloaded, so is your staff. When overload exists, disaster is on the horizon. Stress increases, more mistakes happen, productivity dives and your employees seriously consider seeking a paycheck from another source.

Your apple a day includes regular staff meetings. Not in lecture format—use a more interactive approach where you seek their input. Rest assured, most employees often carry an internal dialogue that goes something like this—“If he would only ask us what ideas we might have instead of telling us, we could solve the problem….” In other words, seek their input and give a credit where and when it’s due.

Help employees to determine and set priorities and follow up. If you learn to inspect what you expect of them, you are ahead of the game.

Make it one of your priorities to streamline how you and your staff work. Start this process with your staff—believe me, they know where the fat is. Start with a brainstorming session on ways to save time on what they do as well as in other areas of your workplace (which may mean trashing one of your pet procedures). Don’t be surprised when areas of duplication and overlap surface. Be willing to shift, sometimes often.

Eliminating Bottlenecks
Autonomy and empowerment come into play. Encourage your staff to make decisions. If you have someone who withholds information or insists on approving every step of a process along the way (which could be you)—you may have a saboteur in your midst. Suggest that they ask themselves when in a dilemma, “What’s the worst thing that could happen and if my manager wasn’t here, what should I do?” If their decision is wrong, be clear when you explain why. At the same time, support them in their ability, even sharing a time or two when you too made a wrong decision.

Technology—Learn to Love It and Use It
Your employees, and most likely you, may feel that technology has added to the work burden. Truth be told, it has. Hours are spent daily on emails and the like. Time spent in the past interacting and observing staff. Now the manager’s bum is glued to the chair in front of the monitor.

Learn to delegate your time. You don’t have to be available 24/7 to the electronic gremlins. Use voice mail, email, faxes and teleconferencing well. Keep your emails short and don’t copy everyone in your address book. 

Most people feel that voice mail is used as a wall—not just a screen, but also a brick wall. 
Do yourself a favor and clear messages regularly and don’t say on your greeting message, “I’ll return your call as soon as I can”—does that mean next year? Have you ever thought about how much time you waste by having to listen to multiple messages from the same person because you didn’t return the call in the first place? There are times I believe that the voice mail receiver truly doesn’t exist or never checks for messages.

Granted, we are all busier. The ways we communicate and process our businesses are much faster than they were just a decade ago. Faster isn’t always better. Prioritize what’s important and include your staff in the process. You’ll end up managing better. The quality part will follow.