Truth is there isn't time to do it all and manage well
The sad news is every day will play out the same way, despite all the good intentions. If you've had enough and want things to be different then here are a couple of solutions that I found help.
First thing to check is how you think of 'management'. It might be our idea of 'managing' that's getting in the way. There are a couple of stereotypes of what a manager is 'supposed' to be like. Do any of these ring a bell?
I do it to them: being a manager means you have to have your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road at all times. You can't look away for a second; you can't let go otherwise there'll be a disaster.
They do it to me: being a manager is all about relationships - you're managing people not things. I need daily face-time with my reports. I want to know how they are feeling, their thoughts and ideas. I want to sound them out and get creative. A lot.
I do my own thing: being a manager is about being a grown-up and treating others the same. There's no need for nannying people. If they have a problem, then it's up to them to speak up. They need to take the initiative - I'm not spoon- feeding people. I've got my own stuff to get on with.
Perhaps they describe you or maybe your boss? Interestingly they all have the same solution. It is elegant, simple and radical. It's not easy, but you can't have everything.
First (and most importantly) stop what you are doing
Stop making more of whatever it is that you are currently doing.
Stop because you need to make space for the next step...
Step two is to make time to think
Even though it can be annoying. Even though it might be more comfortable to fill our heads up with more stuff, more meetings, more diversions we actually need some space and time to think.
If you find it hard to get time to yourself schedule a meeting just for you. Maybe keep the title in your calendar neutral. If everyone starts to put 'time to think' in their diaries, organisations might get nervous. Just take yourself away so you can think. Grab a coffee. Take a walk.
Next it's time to talk about rights
Your rights as a manager need to be clear to you. Your responsibilities are probably already defined. We're talking about your rights now.
Perhaps it sounds like a strange question "What are my rights as a manager?"
Here are three rights. See if any of these resonate with you:
You have the right to prioritise
How you do that makes a big difference. In later articles we'll pick up on how we respond to situations and how that affects our decision making but for now we'll just focus on one aspect: the bigger picture. A lot of the time when we are in 'doing-mode' it's easy to lose track of what all this effort is for. So here's something to try:
Try this: Imagine yourself a year from today. Your future self is looking back at you. What advice would your future-self give you? What priorities do they suggest you focus on to succeed?
You have the right to delegate
There is only so much you can do by yourself. Whether you have a team or not list the things that cannot proceed without your involvement:
Try this: Find the most time consuming one and start thinking how you can get other people involved in doing this task. If you have a team start training people to take on some or all the responsibility. It will take time. Take it in stages. Build on successes. Recognise that for some tasks, you might only be able to delegate some of the work. The more you involve others the greater your ultimate freedom will be.
If you are a team of one and have no-one to delegate to then prioritisation and assertiveness will be your best friends.
You have the right to lead
Leaders set the tone and direction for everyone else. Leadership might sound out of place for managers but there is a point of view that we are all leaders now, and the time of the manager has passed. That's because managers often work in matrix teams with mixed reporting lines. Leadership here means making the goals clear, and helping the team be ready to achieve them. It's actually a support role, rather than a 'doing' role.
Try this: Ask yourself if you are clear about your team or department goals. Check them with your boss. Once you are sure then sound out your team. Be prepare for surprises. From their perspective, the priorities might appear very different. Use the results to learn more about how you have communicated in the past, and how you need to communicate now to get everyone's work aligned.
Give time to get time
All of this takes more time not less. However a funny thing happens when you put thinking first. The up-front investment releases time later. It allows you to prioritise where your energy goes. It enables you to focus on what is important and build a team or network of people who can help you make a difference.
Thinking for ourselves as a manager is perhaps the most important right of all. Everything else depends on it. Whether we manage others or manage ourselves. The right to think and the time to do it are essential ingredients to being a great manager.
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