With business demands and the amount of information increasing, it is tempting for managers to hunker down and spend most of their attention on tasks – dealing with customer/supplier issues, operational issues, answering email, endless meetings and the never ending to-do list.
By spending so much time on tasks, the leader tends to spend less time on the people side of their job. The people side includes explaining expectations, delegating, communicating face to face, providing coaching, training staff, giving performance feedback, and challenging, correcting and recognizing employees.
In the short term, focusing on tasks gets things done. Think of how much you get done on the day before leaving for vacation. In the medium to long term, the task-focused manager creates even more work for themselves because they allow the team to wither and become demotivated. This causes a drop in productivity and results begin to wane. It becomes a death spiral when the manager puts even more emphasis on tasks, hoping to turn things around.
Tips to Get a Better Balance Between Tasks and People
1. Monitor Where You Spend Your Time
For one week, take an inventory of your time usage. As you complete a task, deal with an issue or attend a meeting, ask yourself if someone else on your team could do that task if you were to delegate and coach them. Ask yourself if the task requires your personal attention or could be completed by someone else at a lower cost allowing you to focus on higher value tasks. Ask yourself if your time is being absorbed by activities caused because you did not spend enough time communicating expectations, training staff or addressing a problem sooner.
2. Grow the Capability and Capacity of Your Team
Take the tasks and opportunities you identified in step one and determine how to get your team to take ownership of that task. It may be a simple matter of asking an individual to take on the task, or it may require some clarification of expectations and coaching. View this time as an investment that will pay dividends when you no longer have to take valuable time to do it yourself.
3. Redirect Your Efforts
Without as many tasks competing for your attention, use your new found time to plan, set goals and develop people for the medium and long term. Be known as a developer of people and you will quickly rise to higher levels of leadership responsibility.
Spending more time on the people side of the leadership equation will raise business performance and get more accomplished with less stress and aggravation.