Busted! Top 3 Things That Are Stealing Managers’ Time

Does this sound familiar…

You arrive at the office knowing what you need to get done. But at the end of the day, somehow you haven’t accomplished nearly enough. Now you have to work late or come in early tomorrow.

How does that happen?

It feels like your time is not your own.  It is slipping through your fingers.  The truth is that other people are stealing your time! It happens in three primary ways.

Time Stealer #1 –  Interruptions

You are putting out fires all the time. People are constantly coming to you instead of figuring out solutions for themselves.

Just this week, I was on a call with a client. She stepped away from our call “just for a minute” and was actually gone for almost 10 minutes of our coaching call. When she finally made it back, she said “I never should have left my office, I was stopped three times in the hallway.”

In my years of coaching leaders, this is one of the top challenges I hear from clients. They usually say, “I need to manage my time better” or “I need to be more strategic, but I can’t seem to free up time.” When I ask them to describe how they spend their time, I hear about people that come to them for help instead of coming to them with solutions.

Basically, many leaders think that in order to be a good leader, they need to listen to problems people bring to them and then give solutions. Actually, when leaders give solutions, they are diminishing the potential growth and confidence of their employees. By giving answers, leaders train people to keep coming back for more answers.

Once we identify this as a time stealer, clients shift their understanding of how to be a good leader. Instead of giving answers to their team, they use a coach approach.

“What have you tried so far? What else could you try?”  Then have them go try it and come back to you with results.

Time Stealer #2 –  Low Performers

Another common challenge I see is that leaders spend too much time and energy on managing low performers instead of focusing on supporting their top performers. Low performance issues can be anything from negative attitudes, to not meeting deadlines.

The common time stealer is that as a leader, you may take time to give feedback on behavior and then a week later, you find you are back in the same conversation with the same person. Does that sound familiar?

Instead of wasting your time on managing someone else’s behavior, try this. Give feedback to the low performer – by specifically letting him or her know what you want to see more of and less of in terms of behavior. Then shift accountability to that person to monitor themselves and report back to you in a week about the changes they have made, including any feedback they can share from others.

Time Stealer #3 – Meetings

Meeting, meetings, meetings . . . many clients tell me they can’t get any work done because they are always in a meeting.

How much of your week is spent in meetings? Have you calculated how much it is costing your organization to bring people together?

Meetings are definitely necessary if you want to engage in meaningful conversation to get people aligned with your strategic priorities, but be careful to make the best use of time so you get a return on investment.

Here is a quick checklist of things to assess before stepping into the next meeting:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting? What do you need to accomplish?
    • To share information?
    • To make a decision?
    • To build skills and knowledge?
    • To build relationships?
  • Who needs to attend?
  • How much time is needed?
  • Is a meeting necessary?

Ready to take back your time?

There is no single answer to these challenges, but it is worthwhile to consider how you might better monitor where your time goes by looking at these common stealers.

One final tip for checking in on how your time may be slipping through your fingers . . . schedule a weekly appointment for yourself and ask:

  • In the past week, what was the best use of my time?
    • Did I grow my skills in handing back trouble shooting to my team members?
    • Did I hold low performers accountable?
    • Were the meetings I facilitated or attended a good use of my time?

If you would like to get some help reclaiming your time and accomplishing your goals, I’d love to chat with you. Schedule a free consultation here.

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We vow to listen and learn in order to be agents of change both through the work we do and how we live.

We stand in solidarity with the BIPOC communities in Milwaukee and across the country.