Introducing Steve Barry. In his first in>pd blog Steve discusses the lost hour that managers could save if they just made some simple changes to their management style.

 

‘I’m too busy to save any time’

Imagine yourself in a room, surrounded by strangers who will, over the next few days, become your colleagues and confidents. The programme you have signed up for is set to present you with the management theory that will, in some small way, revolutionise what you do and how you do it.

The unpacking of said wisdom has to start somewhere and when the facilitator opens the programme with a challenge, that fleeting moment to ‘buy-in’ is twinned with the ‘yes, but you don’t know but…’

The statement that causes such a stir is when the group is told that each one of them has the potential to save at least one hour a day of additional productivity within them and that their capacity is limited rather than over utilised.

The response has somehow been mysteriously but universally transferred to every delegate who has ever participated in such a programme. Whilst the less expressive amongst the delegates show little in the way of facial gestures, the more gregarious are easier to read.

Regardless of personality type, the same thought flashes across everyones’ eyes. ‘Does the facilitator in front of me know what the real world is like?’. To make this modern, work life Holy Grail a little more enticing, the group are told that by saving one hour a day, this equates to a personal return of more than seven weeks per years’ worth of resource being returned to the organisation.

Furthermore if a typical team of seven were to do this, then they would be effectively saving forty-nine weeks of resource or the equivalent of recruiting one full time member of staff for free! In a world where resources are squeezed at every point, this notion transitions from the impossible to the implausible but tantalisingly attractive. Is it possible?

 

For some, curiosity at this early stage, is peeked but of course it has to be proven, otherwise it’s just another line of management theory.

For anyone who has ‘manager’ in their job title or a team of people who report into them, the quest to save time begins with the examination of how the time is currently being spent. Only a little amount of digging is required before unearthing that the activities of the manager involves doing tasks they shouldn’t. If the goal of a leader is to get the best out of the people around them, why then do so many managers limit what they can do and how they do it? How does the button marked ‘control freak’ or ‘i’m in charge and I’m responsible’ become disengaged?

The malaise of this dynamic is quick to diagnose. ‘The manager is frustrated that people around them don’t step up and take responsibility, and the people reporting into said manager are frustrated that the job they were hoping to do, can’t be done because of the ‘blockage’ that is the manager.’ Whilst each party can take the moral high ground of ‘if only they would…’ it is the manager, or team leader, who holds the key to breaking this deadlock and recovering the time.

 

So what needs to be different?

When you examine the balance of responsibility, you will find that where you read the word manager, it often needs to be replaced by the word Parent. Parents in the workplace show up in two guises. Benevolent or Dominant. The caring parent often says things like ‘don’t worry, I’ll sort it. Leave it on my desk and I’ll look at it later.” That kind of benevolence is not only smothering but limits and disconnects the team member for ever stepping up and taking responsibility for their own actions.

 

Why should they? The benevolent parent does it for them!

The flip side of parent is the dominant parent. Their approach is much more direct and forceful and shows up with a ‘Do it this way’ and ‘I want it like this…’ Whilst the style is stronger and much more command and control, the effect is still as disengaging. The trick in shifting the responsibility monkey off the manager’s back is done using this three step model:

  1. REMEMBER: As leader, your role is to get the best out of the people around you.
  2. STOP USING THE SENTENCE: “What you should do.”
  3. START USING THE SENTENCE: “What should you do?”

This simple approach not only pushes back responsibility but it is a fantastic engagement tool. Aimed at getting people to step up and own what they do. It is also the key to getting your hour back. Consider this. How many times a day do you get people presenting you with issues that they could have really figured out for themselves? (if you’d let them). Or how much time do you spend rectifying other peoples’ mistakes? What is the root cause of the problem? It’s probably your workplace parenting.

So as we conclude this article, stop. Look around at the people you work with. Ask yourself, do these people drive to work? Do they have mortgages, pay rent for their homes? Do they have families of their own? If the answer to these questions is yes, then these very same people are up for the challenge to not only step up, give you your time back, but also own and enjoy what they do, to their best ability.

 

If you are able to play a part in all of that, then congratulations, you’re doing a great job and look out for the time you’re saving. That hour a day is coming, don’t waste it.

Steve Barry

Associate tutor of in>Professional Development