What should the focus of a manager be?
How should a manager’s time be spent?
These are questions we get asked quite often in our work. Whilst everyone’s role is different and the answers can vary a lot, there are some common themes worth considering.
We have taken a weekly view on the Manager’s Diary to ensure there is an optimal perspective of not being too short-term (daily) or too long-term (monthly).
A weekly perspective offers room for flexibility – the ability to make up for the reactive, the unexpected and the unplanned interruptions to our day.
The week offers time for rest and balance – time at work, time to work and time away from work.
We have also found tremendous success with the concept of “13-Week Sprints”. It breaks down the year into four manageable periods. Where we spend a week in planning, 10-weeks of action, a week in review and a week of rest before starting the process all over again.
It has proven to be by far one of the most powerful ways to conceptualise, introduce, execute and ritualise change in organisations and teams.
WEEKLY TEAM MEETING
A seemingly obvious routine but one that is often omitted, postponed, or rushed is the Weekly Team Meeting. With the onset of Covid, this critical practice seems to be sidelined even more leaving teams uninformed, unclear and divided.
As Peter Drucker said “A manager sets objectives. S/he makes the objectives effective by communicating them to the people whose performance is needed to attain them.”
There is no better way to achieve this than in a well-managed and effectively facilitated weekly forum.
WHAT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED IN A WEEKLY TEAM MEETING?
Many managers are unsure what should be discussed in a Weekly Team Meeting. Without clarity of purpose, they can quite easily become a talkfest that everyone grows to detest over time.
We recommend the use of a simple dashboard the purpose of which is to:
1. Clarify & Update Purpose, Mission, Goals, Objectives, Values and Behaviours
2. Review the Progress of key Objectives and Operations both qualitatively and quantitatively as well as any concerns – Controls or Indicators.
3. Communicate the performance of each business unit (vertically) and integrate the organisation across the various departments or divisions (horizontally). Again as Drucker noted, “a manager motivates and communicates. He makes a team…. This is the manager’s integrating function.”
4. Acknowledge and attribute success as well as draw attention to concerns and areas of improvement.
5. Encourage learning especially from outside the organisation as well as across teams. How can we use our strengths to support others in the organisation?
For organisations, teams and operations where a more frequent briefing is required, we recommend stand-up huddles as an efficient way to get things done and keep everyone informed.
One very successful entrepreneur I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with, who had built a multi-billion dollar organisation from scratch used to call them ‘Cabinet Meetings’.
We use this term to acknowledge the impact he’s had on our lives and learnings.
“Let’s stand around the filing cabinet and talk through the day ahead,” he would say. A practice that was necessary for the highly demanding project at hand.
AN HOUR ON THE FRONTLINE
Not a week should go by where a leader does not spend at least an hour on the front line. There is no better way for one to understand what really happens inside the business, out on the field, with suppliers and partners, customers and non-customers.
As we often work in industries we are unfamiliar with, the efficacy of this practice resonates more than ever.
Leaders and managers must avoid the temptation of hubris and elitism that comes with the corner office or the top-floor – a lonely place that quickly separates them from reality.
To paraphrase Drucker again, “managers have to understand the work. The gaps to be filled. S/he needs to classify the work, divide it into manageable activities, and jobs…select the right people for the management of these units and for the jobs to be done.”
This cannot be done from the ivory tower.
Spending an hour at reception or on the phones each week has been a ritual we’ve advocated for almost two decades to leaders, managers and CEOs. Get out in the delivery truck, school clinic, retail store and factory floor if you really want to understand the business.
Let the team see you with your sleeves rolled up, high-vis vest on, and steel-cap shoes. Lead by example. First in, last out.
There is a great amount of learning that can be achieved from a leader’s presence on the frontline.
Once whilst standing in at the team store of a professional sporting franchise during an hour on the frontline I was berated by an avid fan.
“We’ve just had our first grandchild and we’re here to buy him an outfit, but you have nothing for infants,” he said.
That simple engagement drew our attention to a gaping hole in our merchandise range. One that we filled immediately resulting not only in increased, revenues, happy customers but lifelong fans from a very young age.
ONE-ON-ONES WITH STAFF
“I’m just too busy to spend so much time in meetings,” the manager barked, at my suggestion to spend 10 minutes each week with each of his seven direct reports. “Plus all I’ll hear is their problems and what I need to do for them.”
We were meeting to help with the organisation’s low morale and staff turnover. The conversation soon turned to how much it would cost for us to fix the problem.
Culture cannot be bought. Neither can leadership.
Spending a few minutes each week with those we work with understanding their human context, their needs at work and away from work…what we call the 5Fs (Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness & Finance).
Their engagement factors (Reward, Recognition, Voice, Choice, Learning and Legacy) and how to authentically care, nurture and empower them can only be accomplished by spending uninterrupted time with them.
It is in these meetings, as Drucker directed, a manager also establishes targets and yardsticks…analyses, appraises, and interprets performance.” Where a manager can “develop people, including himself or herself.”
There are numerous requirements of a manager today, none more important than caring for people, humanising them, understanding their strengths, making their weaknesses irrelevant, clarifying their effort goals and rewarding them for results.
To accomplish all of this, the manager must spend at least some time each week with his/her in a team environment, in one-on-one authentic conversations and time on the front line.
These three rituals form the foundation of a good leader’s weekly diary on which other routines can be built.
*Peter F. Drucker, Management (Revised Edition), Chapter 2, 15:28