Too Busy to Lead?

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Being too busy can cause inefficiencies in your overall leadership.

Many leaders want to do a better job at leading, but they get bogged down doing lots of tasks that take away their time from interacting with their teams.

Dr. Linda Duxbury, from the University of Ottawa, did some interesting research about how managers use their time, and the impact it had on how the employees rated them as leaders. She went into organizations, and she asked the employees to complete a survey rating the effectiveness of their manager. Then in the background, she asked the managers to complete a time diary of how they used their time.

There was an interesting correlation between how the managers used their time and their leadership effectiveness. The best managers found a way to free up enough of their time to do the right leadership activities, whereas the lower rated managers ended up spending all their time either in meetings or trying to manage using emails.

So how do you do the right thing and still get everything done? One group of supervisors asked me, “What percentage of our time should be spent on the floor with our teams versus in meetings and project work?” I suggested that 80% was probably the right number. So that means in a typical work week, only 8 hours would be spent off the floor in meetings and doing other paperwork and administrative tasks.

So here are a few tips to free up your time, so that you have time to lead.

First, block out your activities. Instead of being in constant reaction mode, be more deliberate in how you chunk your time throughout the day. Perhaps start out by checking in with your team to make sure they have what they need to be successful. And then once things are running, take some time away to be more proactive, deal with your emails and other administrative tasks. And then, get back with your team, checking in on how the production is running that day.

When it comes to answering emails, do it in batches as opposed to doing it in realtime flow. Share on X

Because even though you think you’re an efficient multi-tasker, the reality is, each time your brain changes tasks, it takes longer and longer to get things done.

Another tip is to get your team to answer more of their own questions. It’s tempting when your employees come to you and say, “What do you think I should do about this?” to simply dispense the answers. But many leaders would appreciate their teams solving their own problems and thinking for themselves more often. So that begins by empowering your team to answer their questions and solve those problems.

If you’re a manager, be careful of how much work you load up on your supervisors. All those seemingly important tasks could actually be hurting and taking away from the time they have to interact with their teams. It’s tempting across all different functions to simply download more and more tasks to managers and supervisors and then wonder why they don’t have time to interact with their people.

What’s one thing to do to ensure you never get too busy for your own leadership?

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