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Leading or Managing:  Where are Managers Really Spending Their Time?

Posted by Deb Cullerton on 1/31/20 12:02 PM

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In our leadership development programs, we provoke leaders to answer where are they spending their time every day.  Is it in managing the work or leading the people?  They hate the answer . . . but the answer is rarely different.  Most managers (no matter the industry) are wrapped in operational work for the majority of their time and struggle to find time for people and strategy.  Even when, with the best of intentions, they schedule time for a direct report, it will often be cancelled or rescheduled when the daily fires become too intense.

If you are a leader or manager who is struggling to do the work that leaders do - inspire and develop the people on your team to enable them to achieve the goals of the organization - then this blog is for you.  The most common barriers I hear are:

  1. I'm a working manager carrying a workload besides leading people.
  2. My boss just doesn't respect my time spent with staff.  He/she overrides my schedule regularly.
  3. I have too many people.  It would take too much time.
  4. It's a reactive role with fires always pulling me back into operations.
  5. I have great people, so they don’t need any development.

Each of these requires a separate conversation (some of which we’ll be discussing in the 20 Day Leadership Challenge), but the underlying theme is “no time to lead”. 

Leadership Challenge

Here are four considerations to help you carve out time for strategy and people development:

Commitment:  Make the commitment to your team and ask for help in following through.  Let them own some of the responsibility and plan for barriers before they happen.

Efficiency:  Create your process and stick to it.  Don't reinvent the wheel every month on things that should be as regular as approving purchase orders.  Spend time coaching your people driven by an agreed upon plan and set of goals.

Accountability:  Intentions are very different than actual time spent in these areas.  Hold yourself accountable by blocking time and treating it as if you were meeting with your best customers.  The best leaders just do this better.

Focus on it daily:  If you increase the frequency, while keeping the duration short, you will create a habit of leading instead of managing. 

Someone asked me last month how to determine when you " just need to jump in and do the work vs leading."  She said, "Don't people need to see that you can and will do that?" 

I believe they do need to know you can and will, but I also believe why and when you do it matters.  If you're doing it as a tool of leadership - inspiration, collaboration, esprit de corps - then it is useful.  If you do it as a tool of workload management - one more set of hands, micro-management, because you're the best doer on the team - then it will continue to spiral in the wrong direction for you.

Let's keep working on this together!  I'm kicking off a month of 3-minute videos touching on a different tip and challenge for people leaders every day starting on Monday, so click the button below and jump in with both feet.  Spend five minutes per day working on yourself as a leader.

Leadership Challenge

Topics: Leadership Matters

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