Taking Time to Lead

by Tom McBride, Partners for Creative Solutions, Inc.

  A common problem for both new and experienced managers is the difficulty in transitioning from successful “doer” to effective leader.  While this challenge is prevalent in companies of all sizes, it can be particularly difficult in smaller organizations where managing is only part of the job.  This article is for managers who cannot seem to find enough time to lead and manage effectively. 

Obstacles to success may include a strong attachment to the work or a belief that the work will not get done without the manager’s help.  Whatever the cause, if the problem is allowed to persist the manager will surely fail.  Taking the following steps can help leaders, from “working” supervisors to CEOs, find the time to manage more effectively so they can better serve their organizations. 

1.      Identify leadership tasks you should perform, and estimate how much time they will take for you to be effective.  As an example, a working supervisor might estimate that training, coaching, promoting teamwork, setting goals, monitoring performance, and scheduling workers would require three hours per day.  After setting your goal, use the following steps to extract the additional time you need for leadership from your existing workday.

2.      Analyze how you currently spend your time.  How much time is spent leading versus doing?   What portion is truly value-added (time your customer would be willing to pay for)?  You need to thoroughly understand your current work habits in order to determine what you need to change.  I suggest using a watch that generates alarm signals at random intervals (vibrating is less disruptive) and recording what you are doing each time the alarm goes off. A couple weeks of data consisting of about 10 readings a day will help you better understand how your time is consumed.

3.      From your analysis, identify wasteful activities to eliminate.  Find ways to avoid unnecessary interruptions and distractions that consume precious time.  Steven Covey provides valuable advice about eliminating time-wasters and working on the right things in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

4.      Identify value-added activities that can be delegated to others.  Managers often hesitate to delegate because they feel their people are already overloaded. The better solution is to delegate but help subordinates prioritize better, eliminate time-wasters, and improve efficiency.

5.      Look for ways to improve your efficiency.  Use the 80-20 rule to focus on the tasks that absorb the larger amounts of your time.   Solutions could include using technology better or improving the organization and efficiency of your own work area.  The possibilities are endless, and being creative is the key to success.

Following the above process will help leaders strike a more effective balance between working and managing.