Circumference of Me – Chapter 6

6. Obtain, use No. 1 management tool

It’s time to do an itemized check of your professional tool belt.

Education (regular classroom or Street Smart U.)? Check.

Experience? Check (Or soon will have, or working on it).

Strong work ethic? Check.

Ability to work well with others? Check.

Ready acceptance of any task, and ability to deliver satisfactory results on time and under budget? Check (When circumstances allow).

So, what’s the problem? Why does your personal corporate vehicle seem stalled,or your fast-track career slowed down, like a tractor-trailer rig straining up a mountain highway? Are your beliefs realistic about where you are and where you should be? If you are young, eager, and impatient, probably not. If you are older, and have started questioning your abilities and blaming others for your status, another glance at the mirror will show you the problem.

Have you done everything you can do to get where you want to go in the time you wanted it to take to get there?

What do you think is the No. 1 tool that every great manager has at the ready at all times?

A great education and a high GPA? Can’t hurt, but in some cases your supervisor may have made it on a high school diploma.

Superb work ethic? Good, but that’s a given for up-and-comers.

Willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done? Okay, but see “Superb work ethic.”

Profit-oriented? A good tool to have in the belt, but it’s a Catch-22. You can’t get what you don’t have without having the wherewithal to get it.  How do you get the experience you need to be profit-oriented without getting the experience?

Good communication skills? Absolutely essential, but not the main driver.

Brown-nosing without getting your proboscis dirty? Oh, shut up! 

Well, what about time management?

One of the hardest things for managers to learn, and to learn to use to maximize efficiency and productivity is time management.

Let’s accept that there’s not enough time to do all the tasks assigned to you. On top of that, you get seventy to eighty e-mails a day, each requiring time and many demanding even more time. If you don’t take the time to read and answer them, then you’re a jerk, a slacker, a goldbrick, a drone waiting around for retirement, or have a colossal don’t-give-a-damn attitude. If you are a high-level manager and don’t make the time to answer e-mail queries, you are a snobbish jerque. So you lose time to e-mails.

But think: Your e-mail volume is just a percentage of what your boss gets, and his or hers is just a percentage of what the next level of management gets, and so on. If you are swamped with e-mails, that does not bode well for those higher up the corporate ladder.

Still, some great managers make it a conscientious practice to answer every single e-mail from every single employee, every dealer, and every customer or potential customer.

Aspiring managers – those who want to lead rather than perpetually follow – must quickly learn what those great managers know, whether dealing with piles of tasks or e-mails: the not-so-subtle art of time management.

Learn the two “izes”: Itemize and prioritize. Make a list of projects and tasks, prioritize them according to relative importance, and cross-index them to take into account deadlines and available resources.  The items you can do quickly, or for which you can do your assigned part and pass on down the line, should be at the top of the list.

And be sure to answer those e-mails.

Here’s why: A president and CEO of a large technology company admits that answering e-mails takes a huge bite out of his workday. But he knows if he wants to be a leader, he has to make time – in a word, prioritize his acknowledgment of the concerns of others – to show people how important he thinks they are.

What could be more important to a leader?

Learn and adhere to the principles of time management in your life and work, and you will control your destiny.

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