The Enemies of Time Management
As an ever-vigilant coach, it behooves you to recognize time management's most relentless enemies. They are always at the ready, patiently waiting to torpedo your best-laid plans. But then, if everything always went according to plan and all tasks and projects were completed on time and on the money, there would be no need for coaches and coaching skills. Accomplished coaches know how to beat the enemies of time management at their own game.
Procrastination has long been a thorn in the backside of humankind. Generals in war have put off key battles for less propitious times and met with disaster because of it. Individuals have allowed health concerns to fester into major medical problems until, in some unfortunate instances, it was too late. Unsuccessful businesspersons are notorious for not taking the bull by the horns and, as a result, falling by the wayside into the dustbin of entrepreneurial failure. Indeed, there are many procrastinators in our midst. And, no surprise here, the workplace is chock full of them.
The most common enemies of time management in the workplace are procrastination, poor planning, unnecessary interruptions, overwork, and good old-fashioned incompetence. Coaching and mentoring methodologies are designed to triumph over these longstanding adversaries. While every workplace is confronted with time management snafus on occasion, properly coached ones have considerably fewer to contend with.
Because it is such an entrenched shard of human nature, procrastination is always an issue on the job frontier. As both a coach and leader of men and women, you cannot afford to procrastinate. Procrastination from on high is guaranteed to develop into a careening snowball that will roll over every single body — one by one by one.
Let's assume then that you are not a procrastinator. A successful coach cannot be one. How can you ensure that members of your team won't fall victim to the procrastinating virus?
As a team leader, you assign roles and assorted tasks to individuals who are your personal responsibility. You work with persons who are hired, in most instances, to do very explicit things. In other words, your staff has defined responsibilities — i.e., they are expected to accomplish certain things by certain times. This is how business works. By definition then, procrastination on the job is a shirking of one's responsibilities. This is the case you must make — in no uncertain terms — to those who work alongside your patient and guiding hand.
In the workplace, postponing one's prescribed duties for another day is a recipe for disaster — it could even lead to the dreaded firing line. As a coach, you've got to see to it that procrastinating is not part and parcel of your daily work life. You've got to keep close tabs on the work at hand and those who are responsible for doing it. This is the only sure method to overpower this very stubborn enemy of time management.
The reality is that if you know what work has to be done each and every day, you'll always know if it is, in fact, getting done. By consistently evaluating the progress of employee tasks and the overall status of projects-in-motion, you'll know — at any given moment — if procrastination on the job is a problem. Then you'll be empowered with the facts you need to turn the culpable procrastinators into producers (or, regrettably, to turn them loose if they are not amenable to the conversion). The bottom line is that you cannot ever permit procrastinators to erect intractable problems, which they will most certainly do if they are allowed to work at their own paces and in their own ways.
On the face of it, it's one of the most apparent enemies of time management. It's known as poor planning. Yet, it is anything but obvious in countless work environments — until it's too late.
As a coach, you are obviously expected to plan — to plan today for tomorrow and tomorrow for the tomorrow after that. You set goals and establish important benchmarks for the future. As already emphasized in this chapter, this amounts to keeping a watchful eye on the moment at hand — because you can only build a successful future by what you are accomplishing today.
But because it often goes undetected until it's a fait accompli, poor planning at the starting gate is a monumental problem in workplaces everywhere. If you and members of your staff are working with long-term goals, all kinds of deadlines, and anticipated future results, it's in all of your best interests to be on the right path from the get-go. In other words, your initial coaching road map should be as free of potholes as is humanly possible — i.e., with employees in appropriately assigned job roles and armed with practical output expectations for today, tomorrow, next week, and next month.
You can ill afford to discover poor planning well into project development. What you then have on your watch is a mountain of wasted time. Poor planning forces you to alter course. It leaves you with fewer work hours to achieve your ultimate goals and reduces the likelihood of achieving them on deadline.
It may sound incredibly self-evident to suggest that you'd be wise to make sure that your plans are as watertight and well thought out as possible before you implement them. But the reality is that poor planning from up above happens all the time — and it frequently puts both managers and employees in tenuous positions vis-à-vis their jobs and livelihoods. Nevertheless, recovery from mistakes — including poor planning — is always possible.
Coaching and mentoring formulas assist in speedy recoveries from all kinds of workplace missteps. But time constraints always loom on the work frontlines — and sometimes like heartless leviathans just waiting to gobble up human capital. Plan right — right from the start — and you'll be all right.
In the time management scheme of things, there's nothing quite like those inevitable but mostly unnecessary interruptions. In the workplace, they cannot be altogether avoided — that's the reality — but they certainly can be kept to a minimum. By establishing certain rules while simultaneously promoting a harmonious work environment, unnecessary interruptions can be tamed in number and, when they do occur, misspent time kept to a bare minimum.
Examples of unnecessary workplace interruptions include personal telephone conversations, frequent trips to coffee machines and the bathroom (when nature isn't calling), and extended conversations with coworkers on matters unrelated to job concerns. These kinds of interruptions appear rather trivial and unimportant in the big picture, but they can rapidly add up to full hourglasses of squandered time.
In practice, tackling unnecessary workplace interruptions frequently asks you to walk a very fine line. That is, you cannot afford to make a name for yourself as the manager who doesn't let his employees visit the lavatory for more than two minutes at a time, or who monitors every word passed between coworkers. This brand of petty managing will surely augur a colossal morale problem, beyond a time management one. In order for coaching and mentoring management to fully take flight, respect has got to be its two wings.
What a coach must do in this decidedly gray area is establish straightforward, but not vindictive, guidelines concerning workplace conduct. The rules shouldn't include timing visits to the bathroom with a stopwatch or counting on an abacus employee trips to the coffee machine. However, they should always insist on a total commitment to the work at hand. So, if Gary drinks a lot of coffee, but does his job — no problem. If Bethany gets an occasional personal phone call, but meets all of her work targets — then okay.
The real problems arise when employees do the very things that Gary and Bethany do, but who don't fulfill their job responsibilities. Herein lies a bona fide coaching task: To treat individual staff members as distinctive persons with singular personalities and work habits. So much of this book's discussion revolves around dealing with individuals on a one-on-one basis in what has long been viewed as the coldest, cruelest, and most impersonal places on the planet — the corporate work environs.
There is an enemy of time management that is idiosyncratic by nature and that often perplexes managers and employees alike. After all, how can too much work be a foe of proper time management? Through the years, many managers in many different industries have fallen prey to the “work them till they drop” credo. In other words, they've asked for more than their employees could realistically deliver.
It's one thing being a marine drill sergeant in front of wet-behind-the-ears recruits. They, after all, are entering a profession that is going to expect a lot out of them, including putting themselves in harm's way on real live battlefronts. But the run-of-the-mill workplace is not quite the same, despite what some tomes would have you believe. There are no bombs detonating nearby or gunfire whizzing by anybody's ears in office places and on retail and service job fronts. And so the typical workplace environments should not be treated as boot camps.
Overloading your people with work and job responsibilities that they cannot possibly fulfill are time wasters. Longer and longer hours often create dissension and — in the big picture — poorer results. As a managerial art, coaching and mentoring understands human nature and, thus, how to get the most out of human capital without ever exploiting genuine, breathing human beings.
Sure, overwork amounts to “work” getting done. But, in many instances, it is not the right work — not what you want accomplished. More mistakes are made when people are overworked. In addition, tired and unfocused employees encounter more obstacles in undertaking their regular job tasks. Overwork inevitably leads to more job corrections. That is, finite work hours are expended retracing the tracks of work already done — but not done correctly.
We know that some people confuse coaching and mentoring managerial strategies with forms of therapeutic counsel. Others think that coaching and mentoring works with a copy of the Declaration of Independence in its proverbial pocket — and that one and all are created equal with no distinctions ever made between or among employees. Well, under civil law, all men and women are seen as equal (or, at least, they should be seen that way). But in the business world, not every individual is of equal competence and equal temperament — far from it. While coaching and mentoring asks managers to scrupulously avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to problem solving, it doesn't ask them to make no distinctions of individual employees' abilities.
Having the right people in the right jobs is essential to good time management. Incompetent job performances inevitably lead to failures in accomplishing goals and meeting crucial deadlines. Just as with poor planning, men and women in roles that they cannot possibly fulfill always portends a breakdown in project development. Incompetent work eats up valuable time.
Sometimes you've got very intelligent and capable people working for you, only they are in the wrong jobs. Coaches are expected to do their necessary homework by not only inhaling people's resumes, but by regularly talking with their employees and assessing their potential. Coaches repeatedly observe what their people do right and wrong and identify areas where improvement is needed. Simply stated: They know their people. This scrupulous brand of people management minimizes the deleterious effects of incompetence.