Today I wanted to talk about something that plagues all of us and is something that you have to get a grip of as a manager because the effects are multiplied. Meaning when a manager is not effective at managing their daily workload or time their team reflects that in their work and the amount that’s able to get done.

Would you prefer to read rather than watch? Not to worry! You can read the blog post below.

But first, to really help you stand out in your new role I highly recommend downloading The Ultimate Guide to Being an Effective Team Leader.  A free downloadable interactive guide to help you show up and stand out and take the right action steps.

Okay so first things first, before I get into the tweaks you can make to your day to make you more effective in your day I want to discuss a shift in thinking that’s often at the root of this problem that you’re experiencing, especially as a new manager. 

If you’ve been with me for sometime you’ve heard me say before that in working with managers across various industries the number 1 mistake that I see them make as they transition into the role is not making that shift from individual contributor to manager. 

Not making that shift causes a variety of problems and one of them is this: poor time management habits or an inability to manage their day with the responsibilities they’ve been given. 

Now this happens because as an individual contributor on the team you are in charge and you’re paid for bringing forth your expertise to solve department problems and your expertise is the way that you add value to the team. 

So that mindset makes it so that you are conditioned to think first with your expertise and you take that thinking with you into management, instead of determining what’s urgent, what’s important and how you can empower people. Which makes you the team firefighter rather than the team leader. 

With this in mind the first antidote to dealing with this issue is role clarity. 

Having a firm understanding of what your true role is helps you to better understand the best ways for you to be truly valuable and therefore be effective, because oftentimes it’s the things that we say no to that make the difference. But if you don’t have clarity on your role or the major objectives you will always get sucked in by the wrong priorities and issues.

So just for clarification remember, your value as a leader is never as a firefighter. 

Firefighter managers don’t move forward because they’re the multiplier. For example, if you’re too busy with your head down fighting issues, who’s doing the things that need to get done so these fires don’t continue to appear? Nobody.

This is why I’m saying the first steps start with you gaining role clarity and making that shift into your actual role as team leader. 

Now I want to discuss more practical things you can do to make sure that you’re not being overtaken by your day. 

Empower, Train and Develop Your Team

Fires happen when you have a team that is either not following process, not equipped, not trained or do not feel empowered to make decisions and deal with things on the ground. 

So rather than spending time putting out fires, determine the areas where more training or development is required. And for empowerment’s sake, I touched on this briefly last week but you gotta increase your question to statement ratio. 

What I mean by this is instead of making statements of how things should be done when people approach you, be the person that asks the questions that allows your team space to critically think through solutions that they can run on to solve. 

Pay Attention to Patterns and Isolate The Problem

Oftentimes when managers are steeped in the day to day firefighting they are too in it to realize that it’s the same issue popping up over and over again because it rises to the top as a symptom. 

So for example over a four week period you might hear 4 different issues that you categorize as a problem that needs to be solved but what’s really bubbling forth is the same problem in 4 different forms. 

When things hit your desk the first time ask yourself if it’s truly a problem or merely a symptom. If it is a problem to be dealt with, come up with the system or process to handle it. But if it’s a symptom, take the time to isolate the problem rather than wasting your time and your team’s time on the same thing popping up in different forms.

Commit to Blocking Out Time to Focus

In my Plan My Work Week video I walked you guys through how I used to plan my week. I showed you blocks of time that I had in my calendar devoted to focus on the high ROI efforts that moved the department forward. 

I also shared with you that these blocks of time were standing arrangements in my calendar. I did not reschedule this time with myself unless it was something that was truly urgent. I turned off notifications and that included my phone. It is too easy in this day and age to be distracted and so it’s better to remove distractions from our reach rather than to try to operate with it.

Know The Difference Between Urgent and Important

Not everything that hits your desk is something that needs to be tackled right now nor is it always important. 

In the video 4 Quadrants of Time Management, I discuss how you can determine what is truly urgent and what is important. I highly recommend checking it out next.

Schedule Town Hall Mini Sessions

Town Halls when done right in an organization are there with the purpose of providing a platform for team members to ask questions and for information to travel throughout the org about changes and strategies. 

But on the department level it can also be used to discuss things before they become urgent or a fire. So once a month or whatever you can have a schedule where you have a mini town hall that is scheduled with the purpose of debriefing or bringing up challenges so that you can deal with things in a proactive manner rather than randomly throughout the day. 

Looking for more actionable guidance for your new role?