You’re a manager now, which means the buck stops with you. More specifically, it means that you’re called upon to take responsibility not just for your own work, but for the contributions and actions of every person who reports to you. You have to handle what’s on your own plate, but you also have to own and sign off on the plates to your left and right. Plates are spinning all around you, and even though you aren’t watching them every minute of the day, they’re still yours.
If you’re not used to this level of responsibility, all these spinning plates can place a huge drain on your attention and energy. And at the end of the day, your divided attention may keep you from paying attention the handful of tasks that really DO require your personal focus, your specific experience, and your unique set of skills. Here are a few moves that can help you prioritize while in motion.
Shorten your speeches and condense your ideas.
When you’re asked for an opinion or a recommendation or feedback, think first, then speak. Don’t talk your way toward an answer. Think about what you’d like to say, then condense your response into the most succinct spoken or written message. The more lengthy and complex your sentences, the more likely you are to be poorly or incompletely understood, which can result in more questions, and more requests for information and feedback, etc. Keep a ten-minute exchange from swallowing up your morning.
New managers have a tendency to over-manage, but the faster you learn to step back, the better. Give your team members the benefit of the doubt, and try not to step in unless or until they ask for help or demonstrate that they need it. This may feel difficult at first, but as long as lives are not at stake, your ability to step back will accelerate the learning and growth taking place around you. The faster your teams learn and grow, the more value they bring to the company…and to you.
Cross things off your list.
Delegate responsibilities whenever you can, but just as important, delegate some of your “responsibilities” to the circular file. Chances are, at least a few action items find their way onto your desk each day that don’t belong there. Or anywhere. Doing nothing is an underutilized strategy, and a wise manager knows how to identify the problems that are likely to solve themselves.
Don’t get dragged in.
Out of boredom, camaraderie, or for any number of reasons, your teams may feel reluctant to wrap things up after a chat or a meeting. They may find themselves creating problems that aren’t problems, identifying issues that suddenly need attention, or seeing fixes where there are no breaks. Stay focused and encourage them to do the same. Set an example.
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