Feb 6 2014, 4:30pm CST | by Forbes
The life for a manager inside an organization has an unrelenting pace, with very few occasions where there is uninterrupted time. As a result, relationship building and development opportunities may fall by the wayside or become superficial due to the enormity of managerial time constraints. In 1980, Henry Mintzberg authored a book called The Nature of Managerial Work. In it, he noted that managerial activity was characterized by its enormous variety, that it consisted of a series of relatively brief interactions, and that it was incredibly fragmented. He observed that phone calls averaged less than 6 minutes. Typical “one-on-one” meetings averaged 12 minutes. If Mintzberg were to repeat that research today, most of us would guess that phone calls and meetings have grown more frequent, conversations are even shorter, and the pace has become more hectic still. I doubt most leaders can find half-hours of uninterrupted time in their day.
The hectic pace would have the potential to work if being a good collaborator and team player didn’t present the need for frequent interactions with others, but it does. And being a good boss means that people have access to you. No, it is not all right to lock the office door to get all of your work done. Your influence is directly proportional to the quality and frequency of the connections you make through the day. So what can you do? Here are a few of the ideas I recommend:
1. Set the pace when you initiate the conversation.
When you drop by someone’s office, remain standing, and after exchanging a couple of remarks, express appreciation and note some of the recent efforts they have put into their work. That conversation needn’t take long, but it can go a long way in building strong relationships. Another important conversation you could have with others involves staying informed about the organization. Stop by someone’s office and say, “ I would like to hear what good things are happening in your area,” or you can ask, “ Tell me something you think I don’t know and maybe don’t want to hear.” These conversations don’t have to be long, and if you are in the driver’s seat, you can make them happen at a relatively brisk pace.
2. Others’ conversation can be softly guided.
There are many times when someone will come to you office and want to have a laid-back chat, and you can respectively hasten the pace of that conversation. One approach is standing up and therefore signaling you are short on time. You can also honestly inform them if you have a time constraint and let them at the beginning of the conversation how much time you have to talk or whether it can be continued at a later time.
The former CEO of HCL Technologies in India, Vineet Nyar, described that in most interactions that occur, there is something that I need from you and you need from me. When someone dropped by Nyars’ office, he said, “So you need something from me; what is it?” The person would reply, “I need your approval to purchase this.” He replies, “Describe it briefly.” The person does, and he says, “Approved.” (Note correction to Nyar spelling—there’s no “s” on the end.)
Most of the time these interactions can last one or two minutes and the meeting is over. Help others get to the heart of the matter and let them know you respect their time and you want them to respect yours.
3. Set expectations with your workforce.
Employees appreciate consistency. Whatever way you consistently choose to push conversations forward will help them to be better prepared. For example, if they drop by your office with a question or a problem, and the first question out of your mouth is going to be, “What do you think? What have you considered? What strikes you as the best way to go?” That will accelerate a conversation. If they know you are going to ask for a very clear statement of what they need and want from you, it won’t take many such conversations for them to realize they should come with a proposed solution in mind.
4. Even very short scheduled meetings can be very effective.
Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This is one of C. Northcote Parkinson’s famous laws. Typically, we find if we say a project is going to take two weeks, that is how long it takes. On a rare occasion, something will get done early, but usually we take the full amount of time allotted.
The same principle of Parkinson’s can be applied to meetings. A meeting will expand to fill the time allocated for it. Try scheduling shorter meetings and see how much can be achieved in a shorter time. Even a 5 min meeting can be effective when people come prepared.
5. Improve meeting effectiveness.
One of the most frequent written complaints people make to their bosses in our 360-degree assessments is about the quality of their meetings. The problems range from meetings with no agenda, to no purpose, no collaboration, no prior preparation, and no background materials sent in advance. Set an example for your colleagues by conducting brief but effective meetings.
Don’t let your busy day tempt you to decrease the number of interactions you have. These conversations can be beneficial, positive and short. On the other hand, don’t have people avoid you because they don’t want to hear a 45-minute monologue on whatever topic is being discussed. Emotions are contagious, so make your interactions and meetings consistently positive. By using a variety of approaches, you can make an extremely powerful and positive impact through an ongoing stream of brief interactions.
Jack Zenger is co-founder of Zenger Folkman, an authority in strengths-based leadership development. Zenger Folkman has been named one of the top 20 leadership training companies in the world for 2014 by Training Industry (www.trainingindustry.com). Readers can contact Zenger directly at www.zengerfolkman.com.
Source: Forbes Business
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