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We can’t lead our people from behind our desk.

I’ve been working a lot with Managers and Leaders recently who struggle with the 4 competing demands of: 1 Leading and developing their direct reports, 2 Doing higher level work (often escalated or complex where their particular experience is required), 3 Forecasting/reporting/management admin, and – finally – 4 Working hard to otherwise keep their own boss happy and their own career moving forward.

A lot is written about leadership and I promise I won’t pontificate here. It is much more important in these ‘Productivity Pointers’ , I believe, to – well – point you towards actionable good practice based upon insights and hindsights gleaned from the real world. So, here’s 2 pointers around this constant competition for anyone with responsibility for people as well as their own numbers.

1 I was recently supporting a Call Centre Manager with a handful of Team Leader direct reports and a total team size of about 100 people. We had just run one of our training programmes on working smarter on competing priorities with Microsoft Outlook. Some of the things he is doing are exemplary.

Why not go beyond tips now and deep-dive into serious, sustainable and integrated workload, priority and time management approaches with our specialist productivity training and support. Just hit the iceberg graphic to access an enquiry form or call me on 0044 (0) 1428 607763 and let me know what you want

  • He actively discourages his people from emailing him questions. He started this by saying ‘I’ve deleted your email, now, what do you want from me?’
  • He believes in the potency of coaching and mentoring on the floor and has minimised the number of meetings at his desk or in a separate meeting room. Tactical meetings are conducted on the call centre floor. His Team Leader reports are picking up on the practice. This keeps them closer to the people, they in turn, must manage, lead, coach and develop.
  • His people are learning that when he is at his desk he is working on mission critical work and they only approach him if their reason is critical.

Its not earth-shattering and it is not going to change the world but he already feels that he is changing his world for the better. And that – in my opinion – is Leadership Work.

2 There is real leadership leverage in giving and receiving feedback, coaching and building up the productive capacity of our people – and you have to be with them to do this. Equally, there is potency in creating and defending specific ‘Focus Time’ in our calendars for mission critical work. If we can protect our highest energy time in the day for our highest value work, so much the better. Turing the ‘Out of Office’ on and the phone off might also be a good idea!

Tony Schwartz, another of my few HBR blogging heroes recently included these 2 points in his Six Ways Leaders Can Fuel Excellence at Anything   It is well worth a read – as is his linked HBR post Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything

Well, thats it for now. Feel free to join in the conversation and add your own insights or hindsights on this topic.

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