Do Less to Get More Done

Updated: Jun 2, 2020


every measure, the workplace is rapidly evolving. Tomorrow’s workplace will have more flexible work spaces, more flexible work schedules, and more remote working. But the changes in the workplace go beyond the environment. Top talent is becoming increasingly selective in who they work for, opting for employers who offer interesting project-based opportunities, meaningful work, and career development. When these employees are doing meaningful work and feel like they are advancing with the company, studies done by Gallup, show that profits can increase by as much as 11% (Gallup, What High-Performance Workplaces Do Differently, 2019.). So, it is not surprising that scores of organizations are rushing to develop tactics to attract, develop and retain talented individuals.

However, for the middle manager, tactics to attract and retain talented employees piles more onto an already full list of to-dos. On any given day, middle managers are saddled with dozens of decisions they must make, the busywork of managing subordinates, and the host of other organizational priorities they must roll out. Because these individuals are struggling to get through their day, it is not at all surprising that Inc. Magazine estimates that 50% of new managers fail within their first year on the job, while the majority of the other 50% flail (Inc. Magazine, The Easy Way to Help a New Manager Succeed, 2015.).

Studies show that the small percentage of middle managers, who have found how to get more done in less time, are twice as likely to improve engagement and retention, improve performance, and improve productivity (Fortune, Half of us Have Quit our Job Because of a Bad Boss.). These managers leave work feeling accomplished because they have figured out that the way most other people go about time management is all wrong! While most manage their time by prioritizing the to-do list according to relative urgency and importance of what needs to get done “today,” accomplished managers look at the significance of how they spend their time and ways they can free up hours in the future. Here are four things to do, to free up more of your time, leave work feeling accomplished, improve your team’s engagement, and retain your top talent:

1. Stop doing non-value-added work and attending unnecessary meetings! Because it seems futile to say “no,” many managers often end up saying “yes” to unnecessary duties. If you generate a report that never gets discussed or if you never have anything to say in a meeting, maybe it’s no longer worth your time. Spending a couple hours assessing what work is not adding value and looking at what meetings to take off your calendar can free up a few hours per week.

2. Do not send the whole team to the meeting! How often is a task force assembled or a meeting series convened where you notice members of your team, your boss and your boss’s boss are all part of the task force and asked to attend the meetings? To free up your time, decide which one person needs to attend the meeting and hold that person accountable for keeping the rest of the stakeholders informed?

3. Delegate! If today’s top talent wants more meaningful, project-based work, try asking them to help with some of your projects and priorities. The top talent on your team are perfectly capable of mastering a task; just like you did at one time. So, if you have ever said “They just can’t do it as well as I can,” it may signal an opportunity to empower the team with some of your tasks. As you delegate some of your work, be sure you remember to make explain the “why” behind doing the task (i.e. the value to the performance of the organization). Then step back so they can complete the task and allow them to come up with ideas on how to do it better. Only step in when the team is having trouble navigating conflict or needs your help in removing barriers. Most importantly, remember to recognize the team and celebrate their success!

4. Dedicate most of your time to ensuring the day-to-day work is performing as it should! Managers who make good use of their time focus two-thirds to three-quarters of their time ensuring the day-to-day work runs as planned and achieves the intended outcomes. The remaining one-third to one-quarter is focused on projects that grow the business. When it’s the other way around, it sends a signal to the team that the day-to-day work isn’t important and productivity, customer service and employee engagement suffers.

This shift in the workplace alters what employees need from their manager. In short, a manager who is overbooked with meetings, over-resourcing the work, afraid to ask the team to help, and is too focused on growing the business is becoming obsolete. Improve performance, employee engagement and retention by freeing up your time to work on what makes sense, what is necessary and can a development opportunity for the team – and create more work-life balance for yourself, at the same time.

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