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Hi Mark and Mike, love your podcast, and I am learning a lot from you guys. Definitely appreciate your work into this.

My question is not neccessary something that can be immediately answered but could be the focus of some future podcasts because I think it is a lot bigger issue than what you guys are covering.

How can all these tools be applied when you are in a middle management role and have a lot of other responsibilties and tasks on your plate and truely do not have the time to focus on all these management techniques. I am interested in trying to bring more of these into my day to day job (especially more coaching and O3s) but my manager has other expectations of me and this is not really outlined as my primary role. Do you have any suggestions to try to change this so that I could take on more management without stepping on toes or looking like I'm pushing my way in?

I am a team leader of 5 direct reports in a fairly small engineering firm. So, all the manager expectations apply to me but I end up with a lot of work myself as project manager, product development, or lead technical engineer in projects. These are priority in my company typically and makes applying and sticking to any of these management practices very tough.

How can these techniques and ideas be presented or proven to upper management so that I would actually be able to perform more of them and keept them at a higher priority?

Any ideas or podcasts around this would be greatly appreciated as I'm sure there are others in my same situation where even if you believe this stuff, it doesn't yet mean you can do because you still have a boss to answer to yourself!

Thanks,
Mike

Mark's picture

Mike-

Glad you're getting a lot out of our work. Thanks for the kind words.

Yours is a great question. You're right, it will likely be a future podcast. It's one of the classic perennials of management development: how can I find time to change when I don't have time to do what I'm already doing? It's a challenge for many managers who are stuck in less effective ways of approaching their work.

And yet, it can be pretty effectively answered here, because it's not complex or difficult to explain.

There's no magic: schedule one on ones, and do them. Period.

You ask: "How can all these tools be applied when you are in a middle management role and have a lot of other responsibilities and tasks on your plate and truly do not have the time to focus on all these management techniques. am interested in trying to bring more of these into my day to day job (especially more coaching and O3s) but my manager has other expectations of me and this is not really outlined as my primary role."

I would suggest that the reason you don't have the time is precisely because you're not taking advantage of all these management techniques. [Please accept my standard disclaimer that it is impossible for me to truly know what your situation is, but after coaching tens of thousands of managers, I am going to rely on my experiences of how managers describe their work and time issues.]

You're already managing, you're just not terribly efficient about it. That's okay - most managers aren't efficient. But in order to get to a greater efficiency, you're going to have stop doing some things you're doing now, and do some new things.

I could go into a long answer about the subtleties of this, but here it is simply: three weeks from now, your calendar is probably mostly empty. Put 5 half hour one on ones on it that week, and every week thereafter for one month. There's the time for your one on ones. Coaching fits into one on ones, and is not a big time drain, if you follow the Manager Tools model.

In that first month, I guarantee that you will get back MORE than 30 minutes for each one on one you have.

There are plenty of managers who have made this change. I know managers who had 20 direct reports who implemented coaching, feedback, one on ones, and a myriad other "manager tools", in organizations with cultures even more resistant to change as yours is, and with bosses even tougher than yours.

"How can these techniques and ideas be presented or proven to upper management so that I would actually be able to perform more of them and keep them at a higher priority?"

I would also suggest that "present[ing]" these ideas is wasteful. JUST DO THEM. Their value will sell them just fine.

Regarding your boss: if he specifically prohibits O3s (not looks down on, not pooh-poohs), then my recommendation is find another job. Seriously.

I know I'm always in danger of "academic creep" when I answer these questions, but my sense is that what looks hard now - scheduling one on ones - will look simple once you start doing them.

You will look back and say, as so many thousands before you have, "why did I wait so long?"

Keep us posted about your results!

Mark

npatrick's picture

I was in a similar situation as you - I had a lot of responsibilities, and never the "time" to delegate.

Here's what I found that worked for me.

1) Get control over your time - As a "knowledge worker" you will always have 100 hours of things due, and 40 hours (or more) a week. I picked up Getting Things Done, and it's been a lifesaver. I feel like I'm doing maybe 20-25% of what Allen suggests, but it is still 100%+ better than before.

2) Do the O3 - That's where I got a much better handle on where my team was at. My new favorite question is "On a scale of 1-10, how busy are you?" You may be surprised at the answers.

3) Set Expectations - "Boss, it'll take a little more time to do X, I'm training Bob to do it. The good news is that it will help free me up for more important things"

4) Start delegating - I have (finally) started to delegate some things I have held onto for years. It took time to teach, time to review, etc, but it has been worth it.

5) Rinse & Repeat.

Good luck!
Neal

Anonymous's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]There's no magic: schedule one on ones, and do them. Period.

In that first month, I guarantee that you will get back MORE than 30 minutes for each one on one you have.
[/quote]

This will be my first move then. I've been following more of the methods from your podcasts and the coaching and feedback sessions have been particularly helpful, but my attention has been on specific people and projects I'm involved on, instead of weekly scheduled O3s. I have seen evidence over the last couple of months where my coaching and any one on one meeting has helped, its still been reactionary though instead of a regular task.

[quote="mahorstman"]I would also suggest that "present[ing]" these ideas is wasteful. JUST DO THEM. Their value will sell them just fine.

Regarding your boss: if he specifically prohibits O3s (not looks down on, not pooh-poohs), then my recommendation is find another job. Seriously.

Mark[/quote]

Great advice, the tasks I am familiar with I do JUST DO THEM, but most of these management techniques are somewhat new to me, so trying to have my manager buyin or agree with them I felt was neccessary. I'm going to try to avoid that crazy reasoning. I know if I do just DO THEM then they will become more natural, just like my regular knowledge worker type of tasks. (Yes, I'm reading The Effective Executive, thanks to your recommendation!!)

My boss is more of an old school manager and thinks our small company can be run by the seat of its pants a little more than I would like. He just feels that some management tasks are not necessary when there is work to be done, that is the only problem there. I think the proof will speak for itself. Thanks for the ideas, I will make it happen myself as best I can and keep you informed!!

Anonymous's picture

[quote="npatrick"]I was in a similar situation as you - I had a lot of responsibilities, and never the "time" to delegate.

Here's what I found that worked for me.

1) Get control over your time - As a "knowledge worker" you will always have 100 hours of things due, and 40 hours (or more) a week. I picked up Getting Things Done, and it's been a lifesaver. I feel like I'm doing maybe 20-25% of what Allen suggests, but it is still 100%+ better than before.

2) Do the O3 - That's where I got a much better handle on where my team was at. My new favorite question is "On a scale of 1-10, how busy are you?" You may be surprised at the answers.

3) Set Expectations - "Boss, it'll take a little more time to do X, I'm training Bob to do it. The good news is that it will help free me up for more important things"

4) Start delegating - I have (finally) started to delegate some things I have held onto for years. It took time to teach, time to review, etc, but it has been worth it.

5) Rinse & Repeat.

Good luck!
Neal[/quote]

Thanks Neal, its great to hear yet another person emphasizing the O3s. I have read getting things done, and yes its has helped immensely. It can still been hard to control your own situation in a small company especially when you are one of the few longer term employees, you seem to be the only person who knows what is needed at the time so you are forced into a lot of reactionary and interrupt style of work. Our upper management sets our priorities for work and current problems that are happening and this does can change on a weekly basis.

Anyway, still room for improvement on #1 for sure, and otherwise I will try to focus more on #2 and #4. I don't quite agree with #3 in my situation as that is where I get pushback. If I just do it and prove that it was effective, then I will have something to back me up.

Thanks for the suggestions as well!

Anonymous's picture

Sorry Guys, those posts are both my replies, I forget to set a username...

Mike K

Mark's picture

Mike-

Great responses to Neal and I.

The core of my message is: one thing at a time, quietly. O3s first. Let the better results and team feel speak for themselves. It's your time - don't ask your boss. Take a month of doing them before you assess or discuss. By then, you'll have a story to tell.

If the boss finds out from one of your team, or earlier than you want him to, call them status briefings or updates.

I envy you the excitement you'll be feeling as you do them and get results. O3s are to managing what interviews are to hiring - you cannot do it well without them.

Keep us posted - it's a privilege and a treat to serve you.

Mark

Mark's picture

Neal-

Thank you for helping a fellow mt member. Would you do me the courtesy of telling me which book you'd like from our list, so I can send you a copy in appreciation?

Mark

MikeK's picture

Thanks again guys, I just decided to get this done tonight and I've just sent out my email to my direct reports to organize our first official weekly O3 meetings. I am excited to see what comes of it in the coming weeks!

Anonymous's picture

Mike, let us know how they go. I am going to be startings O3s with my group next month. I would start sooner but several issues would keep me from performing them for a week or two at the end of the month and I do not want to start them and have a break after the first meeting or two.
Good luck and I look forward to hearing how things go and I will update the board on how things go when I start O3s up.

MikeK's picture

Will do. I got them all on the schedule now today (starting them next week) and to my surprise, half my team members actually thanked me for setting these up individually! They said it was an excellent idea. WOW!!! I couldn't believe it!! Apparently, they have some things to share, looking forward to finding out!!

Thanks for the kick in the pants you guys to JUST DO IT!!!

I'll try to update you guys, and Bill, I was saying the same thing the last few weeks and nothing has changed workload wise, but decided to byte the bullet anyway, I hope you will try as well.

Mark's picture

Bill-

The only thing worse than not doing one on ones is starting them and then stopping. It sends a message that your team is important unless there's "important" work to do. That contradicts the fundamental truth that they all do a LOT more work than you do.

Don't let NEXT month's crunch ruin a good idea. Stick with it even WHEN it's painful. Your team will reward you.

Mark

Bill's picture

Mark-

That is why I am waiting to start them up until next month since I will be able to schedule them on an on going basis. There are non-workload scheduling issues that are taking place that would significantly impact the first few weeks if I started now that I really want to avoid so that they can start off on the right foot.

Thanks for all of the information you have shared with us to this point through the podcasts.

-Bill

Mark's picture

Bill-

Hey, sorry my post came out the way it did. I should have said, "smart move to wait..." Unfortunately, I read it now and it sounds like I'm lecturing you on a point you already clearly got.

Sorry if I wasn't clear/sounded pontifical-licious.

Best,

Mark

Bill's picture

Mark,
Your response did not come across that way at all. In my post I was also responding to what Mike had stated as well.

-Bill

Mark's picture

As some of our members would say,

Grazie.

H

sbaishya's picture

Hi Mike,

I just posted about this on the books forum, and I don't mean to keep on about it, but I can't recommend enough William Oncken Jr's "Managing Management Time". It's very focused on making sure you aren't doing your reports' work and have time to do your own management work.

MikeK's picture

Thanks for the book suggestion. I hope I can get to it after the couple on my Q already.

I've done and read a lot about time management, that is not really my problem. The problem is that in a small company you have to wear more than one hat. I am not just a manager/team leader and so I have a lot of the same tasks and responsibilities that my team members have. This is not my choice and will not change in a small company as we have no room for managers to just be managers. That is the problem. Juggling that is what is difficult. I honestly cannot take the time for everything a typical manager "should" be doing. I have to be very picky and choosy with my time I can allocate towards management. This must ALWAYS be less than 8 hours per week. I have other tasks and responsibilities that are required of me weekly that is not management work. I hope that better explains the situation.

On a site note: I started my O3s today and they went very well, barely touched the surface of anything really but I now know there is lots of things to follow up on and continue meeting with my team members about. Will keep you posted...

Thanks
Mike

Mark's picture

Mike-

Sorry it took me so long to post a reply.

First, even though I'm sure you didn't mean it, I hope you don't mind indulging my penchant for vocabulary specificity. When you say that "time management is not really my problem," you're 100% correct. There is no such thing as time management. When I speak about management behavior, I like to say that "time has been running along just fine for billions of years, despite all our efforts at managing it." It would be priority management that you mean, I think.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to argue with you, as adamant as your post sounds. When I read the "honestly," "can't", and "should", "must", "ALWAYS", and "required", I hesitate to offer suggestions.

I've never found things that much different in big versus small companies - the tasks that time gets spent on is different some times, but the net result is too much work and not enough time. This just means tough choices... choices many many managers hesitate to make.

That said, I've rarely met the manager who didn't improve results (because I believe that's what you're paid for, not activities) by changing their priorities and spending more time with their team. Usually, that takes the form of one on ones (WELL DONE for starting) and delegating.

For now, WELL DONE YOU for starting one on ones. I've made a note to check back with you in a couple months to see what has transpired.

You're off to a great start. Keep us posted!

It's a privilege to serve you.

Mark

Mark's picture

Stephen -

I've ordered Oncken's book so that I can give you my thoughts. Once it gets here (it's out of print so comes from a third party on Amazon), I will let you know.

I am quite familiar with Oncken's famous "monkey management" theory, which I find quite powerful. There's a video that is dated but is classically good about a manager taking on "upward delegation". In fact, it's THAT video that caused me to develop my line, "a manager's favorite letter in the alphabet is 'C'."

It's a privilege to serve you.

Mark

MikeK's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]
Under the circumstances, it's hard to argue with you, as adamant as your post sounds. When I read the "honestly," "can't", and "should", "must", "ALWAYS", and "required", I hesitate to offer suggestions. [/quote]

Mark, yes I can see your point of sounding typical with my word choices. I'll explain my situation better so maybe you can comment on that!!

I am literally only allowed to spend so many hours on leadership and management and the rest on other worker duties. So, that is why I can say that I can't spend more time on some of these topics. I really do need to choose wisely the hours I have for leadership in a week. My 8 hours per week spent on leadership and management are currently easily used up but I feel very productive in those hours. 3 hours for O3s with my team members, weekly 1hr with my manager and other team leader, usually at least 1 for staff meetings or prep for other management meetings. And the other few hours is typically training or coaching others. If any of that sounds wasted, I'd love to hear why??

Now on the other hand, I believe I did used to waste some of that time dealing with problems as they came up, not meeting with team when I needed to. Since then, I've had O3s for 2 weeks in a row now with my team and am already seeing a difference. Not in performance or anything yet, but in the communication of the team and my knowledge of their work, their problems and what they need help with.

I've identified several new areas of interest with each team member and have started coaching a couple of them on specific things. I've had several people give feedback already saying how happy they are being able to meet now OoO. Now, I also have a couple of more difficult members things aren't going so smoothly with but we are uncovering some things that were hiding under the rug. So, those will take some weeks to resolve I'm sure.

I'll post if I have some specific questions or comments as things develop.

Thanks for all the great help and I truely hope that my company will develop and see the benefits of my efforts to allow me to put more time into developing my team. I know it will be more productive than keeping me as a regular worker. Upper management doesn't believe this yet, I'm afraid. A lot of this is new, so it will definitely take time.

Thanks,
Mike