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Are You Wasting Your People’s Time?

Few managers believe that they can possibly be the cause of wasted time, but it’s often the case.The boss who keeps people waiting to see him, or who drops in to discuss unimportant things, or considers breathing down an employee’s neck a normal part of followthrough is killing time as surely as a daydreamer.Some overlooked ways in which you may be affecting your people’s schedules:Poor instructions: Poor communications are evident in hastily given instructions.

Few managers believe that they can possibly be the cause of wasted time, but it’s often the case.

The boss who keeps people waiting to see him, or who drops in to discuss unimportant things, or considers breathing down an employee’s neck a normal part of followthrough is killing time as surely as a daydreamer.

Some overlooked ways in which you may be affecting your people’s schedules:

Poor instructions: Poor communications are evident in hastily given instructions. Ironically, such instructions are usually issued to save time, but have exactly the opposite effect: the employee either commits errors because he misunderstood them, or is forced to come back to you for clarification.

Investing sufficient time to give clear instructions leads to more effective communications and improved performance. There is no substitute for a delegator’s making sure that the person who is to do the task understands (1) precisely what is expected; (2) the extent of his responsibility and exactly what authority is being delegated; and (3) when the assignment is to be completed.

Keeping them waiting. Many managers won’t think twice about keeping people waiting, often out of a distorted sense of their own importance. Such arrogance is not only a time waster; it’s poor public relations, for no one enjoys being reminded of his or her subordinate position. It is certainly detrimental to the creation of esprit de corps.

Keeping people waiting is also expensive. If you waste the time of a $50,000-a-year employee by making him twiddle his thumbs for half an hour, you are literally throwing away about $13.

The “hurry up and wait” syndrome is particularly irksome to your most effective people, who are conscious of the value of time.

It might help if we all viewed appointments as contracts between people that ought to be honored as diligently as their written counterparts.

Interrupting their work. The delicate thread of concentration is all too easily severed, and when it is, it can take a long time to repair. The boss who excuses his interruption with some such statement as “This will only take a few minutes” is demonstrating insensitivity to this truism. It may take the employee many minutes, even hours, to recapture the sense of immersion in—and the momentum of—an interrupted job.

Some bosses will even interrupt meetings by phoning or dropping in for the answer to a routine query. The manager who is considerate of his people’s time takes measures to assure that their time together is uninterrupted except for real emergencies.

Nothing tells people so much about what’s important to a manager as how he spends his time. The manager who allows interruptions to fragment his—and their—day is sending signals that say interruptions are more important to him than planning and insuring the accomplishment of their objectives.

In short, if you want your people to respect time, you must set the example.

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