Part One of a Four Part Series
By: Bruce Tulgan
Your team knows how to do their jobs, so you pretty much leave them alone unless something comes up. Unfortunately, something always does. A crisis forces you to act quickly so you can get back to your “real work.” But solving the problem consumes most of your day. By the time you finally get back to your office, you are way behind schedule.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Most managers are so busy with their own “real work” that they think of their management work mostly as an extra burden. They avoid daily managing the way a lot of people avoid daily exercise. They manage only when they absolutely have to. As a result, they and their employees get out of shape, and unexpected problems crop up on a regular basis. When problems get out of control, these managers can no longer avoid their responsibility and they spring into action. By that point, however, they have a very difficult task on their hands: they are trying to run ten miles when they are completely out of shape.
Manage By Special Occasion..
Most of these “special occasions” are big problems that need solving, but there are other special occasions too: assigning a new project to an employee, communicating a change from on high to the team, or recognizing a huge success. In the absence of some special occasion, though, most managers simply don’t manage.
Vs. Managing Every Day..
The only alternative to management by special occasion is getting in the habit of managing every day.
Effective managing is a lot like being in good physical shape: the hard part is getting in the habit of doing it every day no matter what obstacles come up. So stop letting yourself off the hook. Stay in touch with your true priorities. Make yourself do it every day, as if your health depended on it.
But, how do you “get in shape” as a manager?
Start by setting aside one hour every day as your sacrosanct time for managing. During that hour, do not fight fires. Use that hour for managing up front, before anything goes right, wrong, or average. Spell out expectations to your team in concrete terms, provide guidance to set them on the path for success, and take care of any small problems that may have come up now so that they don’t turn into big problems later. That one hour every day is just for staying in shape.
- What if you don’t have much experience? You have to start somewhere.
- What if you don’t enjoy managing people in a hands-on manner? Do it anyway.
- What if you don’t think that you are skilled at managing? Practice, practice, practice until you become good at it.
- What if it makes you uncomfortable? Live with the discomfort; the more you manager people, the more comfortable you will become.
Taking those first steps toward effective managing takes discipline and guts. New behaviors, no matter how good they are, often don’t feel comfortable until they become habits. It is likely that you will feel the loss of your old comfortable habits, of your former role in the workplace, and of your current relationships to your employees. The transition period will be difficult and painful. But if you do it right, it is good pain. Like exercise pain, it makes you stronger. After you’ve built more effective management habits, you’ll still have to deal with unexpected problems, but they won’t be the kinds of problems that could have been avoided. And you’ll still have to face plenty of difficult challenges when managing your employees – the occasional ten-mile run. But you’ll be in such good shape that you’ll be able to handle it effectively with confidence and skill.
Yes, it will be difficult, but it works: guts, discipline, and one hour a day.
About the Author
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website www.rainmakerthinking.com.