The Key to Time Management is Life Management 2

We all face the daily dilemma of having too much to do and not enough time to do it. The problem isn’t that you have too much to do – the problem is you are trying to do too much. We all have 168 hours in the course of a week – no more – or no less. Time in not adaptable – people are. Time isn’t out of control – we are. The secret to good time management is good self-management. And the secret to good self-management are good habits. We are adults and we can develop new habits. (Stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more that you do it – the more it becomes you)

Worth Remembering …

“Besides the noble are of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists of eliminating the non-essentials. – Chinese Proverb.

I’ve put a list of categories together that are proven time wasters. Some of them may carry more weight with you then others. These 7 categories – Goal Setting, Establishing Priorities, Effective Planning, Scheduling for Results, Handling Interruptions, Successful Meetings, Paperwork, Procrastination and Managing Team Time – seem to be the ones that occupy a manager’s time more than others. Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss each one in more detail and post some time saver tips to help you can gain some valuable insight into how to manage your time and your teams time more effectively. (Remember – a good habit is a good result. We are adults and we can learn new habits)

This weeks categories: Goal Setting and Establishing Priorities.

Goal Setting: The way you spend your time defines who you are.  Managing your personal and professional life means deciding on what kind of life you want to lead and what kind of manager you want to be. Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve those goals is the key to being a good manager. You not only need to set goals for yourself but you also need to set goals for the people who work with you.

  • Determine your daily, weekly and monthly goals. What do you want to accomplish? Write them down on your To-Do List.
  • Read your list at least 3 times a day. Once in the morning before leaving the house – after lunch – and at the end of your day just before you nod off to sleep. You need to wake up in the morning with a sense of urgency. You should be going into work thinking about what you need to accomplish today –  Who is going to do it – And by what time you expect it to be done.
  • Don’t try to keep your goals in your head. Writing them down helps to de-clutter your brain. If you’ve written it down you won’t forget it. By writing it down you’ve made a personal contract with yourself. You’ve made a personal committment to accomplish that goal. I always felt a great sense of accomplishment when I got to stroke an item off my To-Do List after completing it.

Establishing Priorities: Think carefully about what priorities mean to you and about how you decide what is really important. Remember – you will never have enough time in the course of your day, week or month to accomplish everything on your To-Do List. But, you do have the time to decide what absolutely needs to be accomplished today. Try this simple but effective A-B-C System to help you decide when to do what on your list.  An “A” item is an urgent item and it needs your immediate attention because it must be accomplished today.  Anything that needs to be completed in 2 or 3 days out should be labelled a “B’ item. Anything else on your list should be labelled a “C” item. Never, never, ever work on a “B” item until all your “A” items have been accomplished for that day. If all the of your “A” items have been completed on your list – then and only then can you can start working on a “B’ item.  There are a number of systems you can use to help you prioritize what needs to be done and when – the key is being disciplined enough to stick to your system.

Learn to play the what-if game to help you decide which “A” item you are going to start working on first. Look at all the “A” items on your list and ask yourself – If I don’t do this one – what’s the worst thing that would happen?   Start on the one that is going to effect you the most. (Next week – Planning and Scheduling)

You Don’t Have to Like Them to Work With Them 1

Team work sucks! Let me repeat that – Team work sucks! Team work sucks because most often everyone on the team doesn’t pull their own weight. I’ll try not to be too cynical here – but you can’t expect to throw people together – call them a team – and have them perform without teaching them what it means to be part of a team – And what it takes to be a good team player.

Worth Remembering …

“Coming together is a beginning – Keeping together is progress – Working together is success” – Henry Ford

Making teams work is a challenging and difficult process. Nonetheless, you can increase the likelihood that your team will succeed in accomplishing individual and team goals by carefully managing the setting of team goals and priorities, how team members are selected, trained and compensated.

Team goals may vary depending on the role that teams play in your organization. Problem solving teams, self-managed teams, cross functional teams, work teams and virtual teams. Teams can be brought together, based on each team members area of expertise, to work on a specific project and once that project is completed the team is disbanded. (Project Managers work in this type of environment)

Some organizations will call it a team – but what they really want is for people to get along with each other. They aren’t really a team in the truest sense of the word. Everyone on the team needs to work independently from one another but they must coordinate their efforts with other team members to accomplish the overall team objective. I refer to this kind of team as a work team. I suspect this is the type of team in most organizations – so to keep this article in context – I will discuss work teams and how to manage them effectively.

Creating High Performance Work Teams 

The most popular team building model – forming, storming, norming and performing that is taught in most business schools was first introduced by Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman PhD. was Director of the Academic Learning Lab at The Ohio State University. His model depicts the four stages of growth that all high performing teams must go through. As you read through the description of each stage – think about how you would apply it in your department or organization when forming a team or introducing a new team member.

Worth Remembering …

“Teams are now the primary force of organizations. They are worth cultivating at their core. There core is the mind of each team member.” – Nancy Kline

Forming: Forming is the initial stage of team development. This is the getting-acquainted stage in which team members meet each other, form initial impressions, and try to get a sense of what it would be like to be part of the work team. Managers can help this process along by planning meet-and-greets or social events outside of the traditional workplace. Be sure to personally introduce any new team member to each member of the team. I would tack up a picture of the new team member on our information board to help break the ice.

Storming: Conflicts and disagreements are inevitable as team members start to work together. Different personalities and work styles will clash. (They don’t have to like each other but they DO need to get along with each other) That’s why soft-skills – a person’s ability to communicate and interact effectively with people – is critical to team success. Hire people who like being around people. (Loaners and hermits need not apply)

Norming: This is the third stage in creating high performance teams. This is when the dust starts to settle down and the “real” work begins. Be sure to post your policies and procedures. Team members need to know what is expected of them. They need to know what “Normal” behaviour is. (There is no common sense. The only thing common about common sense is it’s not very common amongst most people.) Team members aren’t born knowing how to be a good team member. Like any skill – it’s a learned behaviour.  It’s your responsibility to teach them how to be a good team player. As the team leader, supervisor or manager you need to “call” people out who are not maintaining those standards. Never allow team standards to slip.

Performing: This is the final stage of team development. This is where you get to walk around and monitor their performance. People do what you inspect – not what you expect. You must manage by walking around. Get out of your office – roll up your sleeves now and again. Lead by example. Be prepared to work one-on-one with someone who is struggling. Your role is to give each team member the tools and training they’ll need to be able to perform their role – and then to get out of their way and let them do it. (Resist the urge to Micro-Manage)

Worth Remembering …

“You can’t play the game without all the players on the court … The team must be assembled quickly and play as a unit almost from the start. Failure to recruit strong, cohesive team players means a losing season.” – Ann Winblad

Work teams create a synergy that results in a level of performance greater than any one person’s performance. (Together Everyone Achieves More) Norms shape team behaviour by imposing group standards. Managers need to monitor individual performance so that “Social Loafers” can’t go un-detected. And most importantly – managers can improve work team performance through selecting individuals based on their soft-skills and not just their technical ability.

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks 3

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it. The trick is, find out how to make him thirsty. Team leaders, supervisors and managers will be judged not by what they know, but by their ability to teach someone else. But trust me – teaching someone else what you know isn’t easy. If that was the case, superstar athletes would go on to have superstar coaching careers after their playing days were over. And we know, in most cases – that just doesn’t happen.

Answer this question: If you understood how I like to receive and process information and how I prefer to be taught, and if you applied what you knew about my learning preferences, would it make the teaching experience more enjoyable for you and for me? Would I be more receptive to what you were saying and therefore more likely to try? We both know the answer would probably be a resounding yes! Some Adults learn differently – therefore you need more than one teaching style.

Adults Can Learn New Things

Adults can learn new things – given the right set of circumstances in an environment that is conducive to learning. Think of ways that you could apply these five principles of adult learning to create a positive learning experience.

  1. Adults learn when they understand why something is important to know or to do. Make sure everyone understands the “why” in what you are trying to teach them. They may not agree, but they need to know your reasoning. And it can’t be just because you said so. You are working with adults here – not children. (Although, I don’t think saying “because I told you so” works with children anymore either. At least not in my world)
  2. Adults learn when they have the freedom to learn in their own way. Try and incorporate all of the senses in your approach to ensure learning has taken place. Remember that visual learners rely on pictures, auditory learners listen to what is being said, and kinesthetic learners need to  physically do something to fully understand what it is you are trying to teach them.
  3. Learning is experiential. Adults like to relate or link new knowledge to past experiences. Any activity that gets your learner involved makes that learning experiential. Group discussions, role-playing, building something – any activity at all will work. Activities are also a great way to keep people energized and engaged, especially activities that involve getting up and moving around.
  4. The time is right for them to learn. There is an old Buddhist saying: “When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear”. Adults like to learn in their own time. And what they learn must be relevant and applicable. Adults, for the most part, only want to know what they need to know and only when they need to know it. They aren’t looking to stockpile information on the chance that they might need it in the future. (Unless they are a huge fan of Trivial Pursuit.)
  5. The process is positive and encouraging. As a teacher you are trying to get people to step out of their comfort zone into the growth zone. Be very mindful of the fact that they are most likely trying something for the very first time. They are going to make mistakes.They need to know that you aren’t going to zap them when they do. They need to know that they can trust you, that you won’t belittle them in front of their peers. And they need to know that they can ask you a question – no matter how trivial you might think it is – and you’ll answer it without sarcasm. Teachers need to have patience in spades because some people learn quicker than others.

Be their biggest fan. Cheer them on with each small victory by praising their performance and giving them words of encouragement. If you truly want them to be successful, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t – then your praise and words of encouragement will sound sincere. Adults can tell when you’re being condescending and insincere. They don’t like to be patronized. 

Worth Remembering …  “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them

Yes I admit it. I was once a control freak. I was a Micro-Manager! “Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak – The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them” (The title of my soon to be published book) is the first of a two-part series designed to help managers gain some valuable insight into what it takes to be an effective 21st. Century Manager. You aren’t born knowing how to manage people. We all start out making certain assumptions based on our own perceptions. And we know our perceptions can be wrong. The truth is that if I knew then what I know now, there is no question I would have managed differently. I hope you will be able to learn from my sins. And trust me – in my 40+ year career as an award winning entrepreneur and general manager for one of Canada’s most successful and profitable companies I’ve committed my fair share.

Confession One: “There is no such thing as common sense”. Common sense is a learned behavior based on your own life experiences and shaped by the people you meet, the books you read and the things you see and do. If you haven’t been taught how to do a task properly then how are you ever supposed to know? People don’t learn it by osmoses. The only way to change a “Can’t” into a “Can” is to train the “T” away.

Confession Two: “You can’t motivate people” People can only motivate themselves based on their WIIFM’s (What’s in it for me) not yours. People need to be convinced that it’s worth the effort, then and only then, will people be motivated enough to help themselves. The secret to managing people is finding out what their WIIFM is. And once you know that – you can use that understanding to get them to do what you need done. (They get theirs – and you get yours. It’s a win-win situation)

Confession Three: “You ruin good people by promoting them.” We tend to promote our super stars based on their past performances. Not everyone has what it takes to be a good team leader, supervisor or manager. Promoting people into areas where their abilities and aptitudes are less suited for the job may render the individual ineffective. Success as a manager is based on your people skills not your technical ability. If you can’t teach someone what you know that you aren’t doing your job as a manager.

Confession Four: “You don’t have to know everything.” Albert Einstein said it best. “You don’t have to know everything – You just need to know where to go to look it up.” Admit when you don’t know something. Don’t manage by smoke and mirrors. Tell them you don’t know but assure them you’ll get back to them with the correct answer. (If they can’t trust what you say then they won’t trust you at all.) You don’t have to make up the answers as you go along.

Confessions Five: “You are not the most important person in the conversation” If you can’t deliver the message so it is received the way it was intended; then what ever you said means absolutely nothing. The essence of communication is the sharing of thoughts and ideas. If the receiver doesn’t “get it” then the sender is the one who really doesn’t “get it”. We tend to blame the other person for the breakdown in communication. Effective communication takes two.

(This is the first of a two-part series. I will post confessions six to ten next posting. To receive a free “Confessions Poster” showing all ten confessions send me an email to: bsmith@pldynamics.com – Be sure to write “Confessions Poster” in the subject line)