I attended a facilitated workshop last week and at the start of the program each of the leaders was asked what would help them be a better leader.
Out of the 12 participants, all but one spoke about the need to improve their time management and find more time.
Unfortunately time is finite.
We have just 24 hours of it in a day.
So we need to do more with what we have.
Read any article or book on time management and there will be a raft of suggestions on how to better manage your day. Ideas such as attending fewer meetings, block out time in your diary to be left undisturbed, turn off your distractions such as emails, phones and social media.
One of the biggest time wasters I see is the amount of time leaders spend clearing up someone else’s mess, doing the work of others, solving problems for others, repeating and re-iterating instructions and directions. Many leaders call this putting out bushfires and it does take a lot of time.
But what if this time could be saved?
In order improve your time management you need to address the root cause.
I am going to suggest something that probably sounds counter intuitive to saving time.
Have more conversations.
You are probably thinking “surely talking with other people takes time, and in many cases wastes precious time”.
But try to open your mind a little as you consider this.
Currently 9 out of 10 conversations fail to deliver the intended message.
If you were to change your conversations so that 9 out of 10 of them delivered, how much time would that save you?
Here are some conversations that commonly fail
- Conversations about vision and values statements that fail to engage the hearts and minds of others
- Conversations about deliverables such as quality and quantity that are unclear or inconsistent
- Conversations about expectations on performance and conduct that are inconsistent across the team
- Conversations to scope out projects and processes that are too brief, underestimate, and assume too much
- Conversations that instruct / direct others that assume too much or not enough knowledge
- Conversations that trigger distrust and fear in others
- Conversations that judge / criticise others
- Conversations that shut down other people’s chance to provide input
- Conversations to solve systemic interdepartmental conflicts that dance around the root cause
- Conversations that are all about selling your idea rather than listening to other’s.
Are you familiar with any of these?
There are other conversations that fail equally as badly and again waste time in the long run.
These are the conversations that are not raised. The ones that remain silent &/or become fodder for gossip by others.
You would be familiar with the conversations that remain under the table in meetings. A leader asks “is there anything else” and everyone looks around the room eager someone to be courageous (or stupid) enough to say what really needs to be said, yet you all remain silent. Yes the meeting ends on time but what really was understood? How engaged and supportive are the attendees to the decisions made? How much extra time is now spent in small huddles discussing why the decision wasn’t a good one?
Poor conversation is a time waster.
Good conversation is a time management gem.
Here are my 6 time management tips that involved talking more
- Create an environment where your team and colleagues feel safe to ask you for help / further instructions / more autonomy / greater challenge. Use this as an opportunity to delegate work &/or develop others.
- Be crystal clear and consistent about your expectations of others regarding performance, conduct, quality and quantity.
- Talk less and ask more questions for which you don’t have answers. This will encourage others to solve the problems themselves. Use questions like “what would you do?”, “what haven’t you tried?”, “who do you need to speak to?”
- If people say/indicate they understand, don’t assume they do. Ask one more question like “can you go through what you understand from what we have just spoken about?”
- Try replacing conversation stopping & fear invoking “yes but’s” with “yes and….”. You will create more positive energy that generates new ideas and solutions
- Get people thinking deeper by replacing “why” questions with “how” / “what” questions. For example ask “What do you think happened here” instead of “why did this happen”.
Changing how you structure your conversations will significantly improve the understanding of your messages which in turn will reduce the time wasted in fixing / repeating / managing things.
It isn’t about spending more time speaking with others but getting the best out of the conversations you have.
Remember that words create worlds.