We often find ourselves coming around to the subject of operational noise in discussions we have with senior managers.
It’s the stuff that swims around in your head, the constant interruptions that prevent you taking a step back to think about the bigger picture. It’s the little problems that are put in front of you even though you shouldn’t need to be involved and the insistence of your staff to tell you every little thing that’s going on.
Here’s a question we’d like you to consider for a moment:
Could it be that you’re actually making things more difficult for yourself?
No judgement! Hear us out and have a think about whether you’ve ever tripped up on some of these common managerial pitfalls…
Is it one rule for them and one rule for you?
Leadership behaviours create the culture of an organisation. So if you’re seeing behaviours you don’t like, or would prefer to change, it’s vital you first take note of what you, yourself are doing.
Do you frequently turn up to meetings late and without preparing? And once you’re there do you constantly fiddle with your phone? Do you work long hours and send emails at unsociable times? This may sound slightly parent-like, but you need to role model the kind of behaviours you want to see from your employees.
Don’t just change what you expect from your staff. Change what they see you do.
Could you delegate more effectively?
You understand the importance of delegation – after all you can’t do everything, right? And sometimes (most of the time!) it’s best to let specialists do their thing.
But if you’re not clear about your expectations, you don’t set clear deadlines or you don’t have trust in the people you’re delegating to, you’ll find you’re still wasting brain space on the task at hand.
If you ever find projects boomeranging back to you multiple times, or you can’t resist chasing for updates outside of the normal reporting schedule, ask yourself a few questions:
- Have you made it clear exactly what you want done?
- Have you chosen the right person for the task?
- Have you agreed a schedule for updates and handed over responsibility for making this happen?
Yes? Then there should be no reason you can’t take a step back from the project and concentrate on your own workload.
Do you need to learn to say ‘No’?
You’d be amazed at the number of senior managers we work with who just can’t say no. It makes sense when you think about it. You’ve got to where you are because you’ve been a driving force for the business. You’ve succeeded by saying ‘Yes’ to all opportunities that have come your way.
It’s hard then, isn’t it, to suddenly start saying no to things, but as your workload grows to unmanageable levels something has to give. And in the end, stretching yourself too thin will benefit nobody.
Put the right structures in place and the right staff to support you, delegate effectively and maybe it’ll be easier to start saying, “No” even if it’s qualified with a, “it’s not me who should be doing that but let’s find somebody else who can.”
Could you reduce the number of emails you’re copied on?
While email is perhaps one of the most transformative things in business over the past 30 years, it’s also a massive stressor. Seeing that unread figure rising exponentially and knowing you’ll have to sift through reams of mails to find what you need can be time-consuming, frustrating and may even cause you to miss the important stuff amongst the ‘noise’.
You might justify it as ‘keeping your finger on the pulse of your business’. But if you put in place the right measures and reporting processes, you’ll find that you can manage by exception, make sure everything is going smoothly at a high level and then get involved in the detail only where necessary.
Do you need ALL those decisions run past you?
When the business was smaller it made sense that all decisions went through you – and it probably felt good too! Now that you’re growing, however, you have a team that can make those decisions. And as much for their development as your sanity, it’s important you begin to allow them to take on this responsibility.
But putting your trust in others and relinquishing that level of control can feel scary. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your role and work out where you should be focusing your time if it will no longer be spent on making all those decisions?
Are you too quick to offer solutions to others?
Doesn’t it feel great when you have all the answers? As the oracle in the business, people come to you with their problems and you’re quickly able to come up with off-the-cuff solutions and, quite frankly, it’s great to feel needed.
But what about when you’re on holiday? Or your business grows? Or you actually want to step away from the day to day running? Habits are hard to break. If your people see you as an easy way to get things done they’ll continue to come to you instead of finding their own resources. And that’s not just time consuming for you, it’s terrible for their career development too. Until you can learn to delegate effectively and give people proper responsibility for things, they’ll be unable to step up and give you the support you really need from them.
Yes, in the short term there may be a small amount of pain involved as staff adjust to standing on their own two feet more. But ultimately, you’ll be rewarded with a more independent and engaged team and more time to concentrate on getting things right at the strategic level.
Do you keep your strategy a secret?
Your business strategy and plan should not be a boring document that never leaves the boardroom. It should be alive, shared widely and empowering to everyone in the organisation.
Create relevant goals, help employees see the bigger picture and understand how their little part of the jigsaw fits into the whole. You should find you’re rewarded with better engagement and buy-in from everyone.
But don’t be tempted to just send out a copy of your strategy and leave it at that. The benefits only come from creating two-way conversation and a culture of shared ownership.
Could you, in fact, be compromising your own productivity?
It can often be hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that is causing you to feel you’re drowning in the details. This article is not intended to provide the answer to all these conundrums…more to give you food for thought and opportunity for a little self-reflection.
It’s not unusual for managers to develop perfectly acceptable behaviours over a period when their organisation is smaller, that then become undesirable as the business grows. And as we’ve said before, habits are hard to knock on the head once they’re established. Recognition, however, is often the first step.
Take a minute to consider whether any of these questions particularly resonated with you and whether it could be that a few small changes could offer you a quick win.