Monday, 7 September 2009

Managing the diverse workload

I resist at all costs the temptation to use the term 'time management' when talking about this... as with so many words and phrases, this one is laden with baggage. Neuro Linguistic Programming principles tell us that words generate involuntary emotional responses in our heads and hearts..... So perhaps it's because I am of the age to remember such things that the expression 'time management' immediately conjures up images of Filofaxes, hair gel, stripey shirts & braces... a living tableaux of the Virgin Atlantic 25 years advert.... or maybe that's just me.

Either way; in the down-sized, performance-related, six sigma'd world that most of us now inhabit, I strongly suspect that a diary, however fancy and leather-bound, isn't going to be enough to stem the tide of priorities, demands and to-do lists nor to organise them and you.

So how does - and how should - a leader balance the demands of operational management and leadership?

On the one hand, we can all easily fill the working week with tasks; meetings, reports, data analysis, policy-making, stakeholder demands and so on.

On the other hand, regular readers of this blogazine (a word I just made up, but it seems to describe what I'm trying to do here quite well) could be forgiven for thinking that I am exhorting them to swan about being all heroic and charismatic and saying wonderfully pithy things that fire people up and bring tears to their eyes.

Chalk & cheese, oil & vinegar, day & night and other polar opposites spring to mind.

So the key word here has to be 'balance'. Leaders hit trouble when one 'pole' thrives to the detriment of the other.

As with all things, balance can be discerned through alignment with purpose and vision. As a leader, there are many things you wish to make happen and that are your personal responsibility. Further things will be yours by dint of being attached to the team, discipline or unit you lead.

If you had to line them up and apportion 100% between them.... what size of 'slice' would each get from the 'pie' that is your working week, month or year?

Making it almost absurdly simple, try this peice of thinking:

Whatever size the slice, that's the amount of your time that should be devoted to it.... if something is 20% of the 'pie' of your purpose.... it should be worth a day each week.

Is that how your time is being spent?

I'd go and have a look if I were you. I know I'm going to.

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