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What do (should) you spend your time doing?

As managers, leaders and professionals, what do you spend the majority of time doing? How do you know if you are truly adding value in your role? How would you assess your effectiveness in contributing towards organizational success? Unfortunately, many of us respond to these questions as follows:

• Attending meetings
• Taking conference calls
• Fighting fires
• Fixing something that is broken
• Trying to figure out what the &#%# is going on! (i.e. running around gathering information so you can ‘deal’ with things)
• Surviving – in other words, all of the above ^
• And in terms of assessing effectiveness – “not sure”

You get my point – we spend an awful lot of time doing things that aren’t adding value in our jobs as leaders. It is a real slippery slope getting sucked into all of these time wasters and often you are in this black hole before you even realize it. So how do we get out of this vicious cycle? The key is to focus on doing things that do add value because you KNOW they add value! Part of being a great manager and leader is thinking and acting as managers and leaders in order to move the needle forward for ourselves, our teams and our organizations. As managers and leaders we should be spending our time focusing on:

1. Talking to our staff – coaching, communicating, supporting, giving direction, providing clarity. This is perhaps the single most important function of a manager and a leader. It opens the channels of communication, engages employees and helps to retain your best talent.

2. Collaborating and breaking down silos – with our managers, in our departments and with managers of other departments. We need to be discussing common organizational challenges and to how to overcome them. Great managers and leaders work across departments to identify common foes and challenges (whether internal or external) and figure out ways to “win.” If you are too focused on “us vs. them” internally and engage in too much finger pointing, you are already creating silos with very high walls that may never come down.

3. Working cross functionally to develop and leverage your talent base – similar to point #2, however this focuses more on taking advantage of your current staff and their skills. For example, I have seen companies whose main service offering was technical resources. Part of the training and development they did with their staff was to develop their project management skills (via PMP certification). However, the staff only focused on technical projects for external clients. The irony is that at the same time, there were many internal/company projects of a non-technical nature that were screaming for project management talent to assist. As managers, these types of discussions need to take place so that managers are working together to identify and leverage these types of resources. It is a win-win-win. (A win for each of the managers of the departments working together in developing and engaging talent and a win for the employees as they get to develop their skillsets further).

500px-PDCA_Cycle_svg

4. Managing Change via the PDCA model – (Planning/Doing/Checking/Acting) – as managers and leaders, our role is to ensure we are setting the proper strategic direction for our organizations/departments – planning. In order to ensure the strategic plan is executed effectively, proper measurements, KPI’s and performance indicators need to be identified and aligned with the strategic plan. This needs to be boiled down to the staff level where they are given clear goals, objectives and KPI’s for their individual performance, then they are given the autonomy to execute on these plans – doing. Via departmental meetings and coaching, we need to be analyzing the day to day effect of our staff’s performance against the plan and providing feedback – checking. When adjustments are required or there is variance to the plan, it is our role as managers to make sure strategy and the work execution groups plans are aligned and if not, take improvement action to bring things back on plan/target – act. This simple 4 step model, as part of a formal management system that manages change and supports the basic concepts of continuous improvement methodologies has proven to be highly successful in many organizations.

So as managers and leaders of talent, let’s try and turn this spiral of doom around. Let’s make sure we are focusing on the 4 key elements to add organization (and personal) value in our roles. Feel free to use this as a personal blueprint to help realize your leadership potential and managerial success. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Diagram by Karn G. Bulsuk (http://www.bulsuk.com)

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