The reality is that we will never have more time; everyone has the same 1440 minutes in a day, and the same 168 hours in a week. (Okay, so if you’re in the UK you will have had an extra hour on Saturday night, but don’t forget that will be cruelly snatched back from us in March!).
It’s what we do with that time that counts.
It’s not just how we spend our time that impacts us, but how our team spend their time, too. When they’re not being as productive as you think they should or could be it’s important to stand back and analyse why.
That’s one of the things I’ve been doing this week for one of my clients. I’ve been working with some newly appointed customer service supervisors, who have been getting too bogged down in the day-to-day reactive tasks (which really should be carried out by their team members) and thus making very little headway on some of the proactive activities they should be working on to drive their customer service forward.
I find it’s not unusual for newly appointed managers or supervisors to lack confidence in allocating or delegating tasks, for fear of losing control or in case the team member doesn’t do it as well as they would’ve done. Particularly when they have been promoted internally.
However, when they fail to delegate and trust team members to get on with things this can lead to frustration all round. The supervisor has too much to do and ends up with too little time to complete bigger picture and more proactive tasks. Their line manager is frustrated because there is little headway on these proactive activities. And the team members end up feeling undervalued.
Of course, this all has a knock-on effect on the customer too. Even if they don’t sense the frustration amongst the team, they will undoubtedly end up not receiving the best service possible.
If your supervisors are struggling to let go here are 7 ideas and points to review with them.
- Get them to identify what they are here for; what things wouldn’t happen if the job didn’t exist. Most people will give you a list of the tasks or activities that won’t get completed. Let them give you this list but then go back and get them to identify the outcomes of those activities. For example: an activity might be conducting monthly 1:1 meetings with each of their team members, one of the outcomes of which is for team members to feel valued, ultimately contributing to their level of engagement and productivity.
- Ask them to track and then analyse a day’s activity. Of all of the activities they completed during the day how many of these and what proportion of time was spent on things that only they could do, and that contributed to what they’re there for. Then get them to identify all the things that in a perfect world could be delegated to somebody else. See if there are any activities left, that really don’t need to be done at all.
- Explain to them the difference between importance and urgency (ref: Stephen R. Covey ~ The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People). Help them identify examples of tasks which are non-urgent but important (QII activities). Then get them to break down these activities into the smallest possible denominator, so they can identify which tasks could be delegated, and schedule in the rest, so they can be chipping away at these QII activities.
- Ask them to identify what holds them back with delegating; for them to be as honest as possible. Their responses might include: fear of losing control, reluctance to give up the tasks they enjoy, thinking it will be quicker to do it themselves, they’re not confident team members are capable, they’re afraid they’re going to get a negative response when they ask, they don’t want to overburden anyone.
- Help them identify what can be gained from delegating tasks: free up time for proactive tasks, develop and/or stretch team members, the job might get done more quickly, more cheaply, and maybe even done better!
- Before delegating anything, get them to prepare, by thinking through the purpose of the task, how it will be measured, what this person will need to carry it out effectively, and how it will be followed up. Here’s a checklist I use with inexperienced managers and supervisors to help them really think it through in advance. They won’t need this every time, but it helps focus their mind on what they need to consider beforehand.
- Monitoring and measurement is an area where you might have extremes. Some newly appointed managers are so nervous about letting go, they hover the whole time and never give the person a chance to get on with it. But then at the other end of the spectrum you might have managers who simply make the assumption that everything is on track, and don’t do enough to monitor or follow-up that the task of been completed, as requested.
Letting go is a gradual process, and any inexperienced manager or supervisor will need time to build up their confidence before they will trust their team members to get on with the task in hand. So, in the same way you would expect them to review and follow-up with tasks they have allocated, you’ll need to do the same with them to build up their confidence and skill.
p.s. If you’d like some help training your first line managers set up a call with me here, via my online diary