Being accessible is important when you’re a manager with a team to lead. But what happens when your team takes advantage of that accessibility and interruptions threaten to sabotage your own work? That was the case of a client of mine who recently expressed frustration at the mental tug-of-war she was experiencing. How could she be available for her team and also get her own work done? Her solution: find a hiding place and hunker down for a solid hour or two.
I can relate to the desire to hide away to avoid interruption. During my career, I have sought refuge in a windowless library and a remote conference room. Both locations enabled me, in times of need, to concentrate and advance on important projects, but eventually colleagues discovered my hiding spots and I was back where I started.
What to do? With my client we agreed that she didn’t have enough information to understand why her team was interrupting her so often, so she agreed to collect data for two weeks. Her task was to note 1) who was interrupting her; and 2) why they were interrupting her.
By the time we met two weeks later, she had already solved the problem. What did she find?
Average daily interruptions: 6
Who: 4 of 6 interruptions were made by 1 employee
Why: This particular employee was a new hire and he lacked the confidence to perform certain procedures on his own, so he was constantly seeking confirmation from his manager, my client.
The Fix: My client quickly realized the problem and moved forward with a training program that helped the employee to do his work with more confidence and therefore with more autonomy.
The Result: Significantly less interruptions!
Although this may seem like a simple solution, I can assure that if my client hadn’t taken the time to look at the problem through a different lens, she would still be feeling frustrated about her inability to balance team accessibility and personal productivity.
Have you considered collecting data to improve your time management?