Joe and Wanda on Management

Joe Kerr and Wanda B. Goode, two characters from Nick McCormick’s book, “Lead Well and Prosper,” dispense their management wisdom

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Category: Time Management

Time Management Solution

25 July, 2012 (22:31) | Leadership, Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

While listening to public radio this morning, I heard a story about a recent study that concluded that when we volunteer our time, we actually feel like we have more time.

What do you think, Joe and Wanda? Is volunteering a solution for all those overworked managers out there?

Joe Kerr: So it was more than just team building when I “asked” my managers to help me move into my new home last weekend!

Wanda B. Goode: I guess it’s all in the noodle. Volunteering is time well spent. It generally makes you feel good knowing that you are making a difference. It’s a lot more rewarding than watching an episode of Dancing with the Stars. If it also make you believe you have more time, I say, “Get out there and volunteer!”

A couple of related posts

Does Volunteering Make You Feel You Have More Free Time?
Best Way to Feel Good and Live Longer

What’s on Your Plate?

20 May, 2010 (20:30) | Communication, Leadership, Management, Podcast - Management Tips, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Wooden Nickel - Management Tips 4

We continue to be asked to do more and more with less. Nance Guilmartin, author of The Power of Pause, offers some relief. Do a plate check! Listen to this ten minute Management Tips Podcast to find out more.

icon for podpress  Nance Guilmartin's Management Tip [10:33m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Accomplishing Something or Just Busy?

3 September, 2009 (22:31) | Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

We’ve talked about time management quite a bit in prior posts. I just came across a tidbit in Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s newsletter that reinforces a lot of what we’ve discussed.

Dr. Zimmerman

You need to understand the tricky nature of TIME.

No one ever seems to have enough time, yet everyone has all the time there is.

And nothing is easier than being busy, while nothing is more difficult than actually accomplishing something. I’m sure you all know coworkers who are busy, but they don’t have too much to show for it. They confuse activity with accomplishment.

Thoughts Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Can I get back to you on that one? I’m busy right now… back-to-back meetings all day.

Wanda B. Goode: Amen Dr. Z! Spot on as usual. It is so easy to bounce from task to task all day long. It takes discipline to filter out the noise and focus on the most important tasks.

Here’s a related post.

Time Management Revisited

No Time to Think

27 June, 2009 (12:12) | Leadership, Leadership Development, Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

In his book, Purpose: The Starting Point of Great Companies, Nikos Mourkogiannis indicates a critical component of leadership – to think. “Thinking is the starting point of change. Without it you can not possibly discover your purpose, choose your strategic position and align the two.” Of course the thinking activity takes time.

Mourkogiannis further points out an inherent flaw, “Give a leader a Blackberry, a dozen direct reports, some commitments to charity, and a seat on a few corporate boards – and then ask him to think? There isn’t time. He can’t possibly do it.”

Isn’t this a problem in many other areas as well? We don’t take the time to think or to plan. Why? We’re too busy tending to the day-do-day. We flow with the current, repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and then we ask, “How did we allow ourselves to get to this point?”

Thoughts Joe and Wanda?

Joe Kerr: Obviously Nikos doesn’t understand the fundamental concept of delegation. My admin handles my charitable responsibilities, and 90% of the board activities, and I lean on HR for help with my directs. I just need to show up. Great leaders know how to delegate. As for thinking, that’s what consultants are for.

Do you happen to have an aspirin? My head hurts.

Wanda B. Goode: This is indeed a huge problem. However, even if there were less to do, people would still struggle with the thinking and the planning. Why? It’s not a comfortable thing. It’s harder. Further, it does not generate immediate results. People will avoid things that make them uncomfortable, especially when they don’t get any immediate benefit. It is so much easier to just show up and jump from one crisis to the next.

The key to sustained success is doing the important things in the short term that will benefit in the long-term. It’s a fairly simple concept, but not an easy one to execute.

Here are a couple of related posts…

Carve Out Time to Think

Purposeful Leaders Take Time to Think

Only Have Time for Meetings

28 October, 2008 (23:38) | Leadership, Management, Meetings, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Managers are experts at attending meetings. There always seems to be time to attend them, but never time to complete the action items assigned during prior meetings. Wouldn’t it be better to skip out on the meeting, complete the assignment and have the deliverable in the organizer’s inbox before the meeting ends?

Joe Kerr: I’d rather skip out on the meeting and play golf! Seriously though, I get most of my work done during meetings. As long as I have my Blackberry, meeting time is productive time. No one can bother me, and I have a real knack for picking up keywords from the participants and throwing in my two cents (more like a buck fifty!) every so often just to keep the meeting flowing.

Wanda B. Goode: In so many environments, the stigma associated with missing a meeting is worse than for missing a deliverable. I use the word stigma because punishment is far too strong a word. There is typically no punishment for either.

It’s fairly common for people to spend their entire days in meetings and get no work done. This is a sign of a dysfunctional organization. I think one common mistake we managers make is to let things slide, because team members are overworked, or maybe we’re just afraid to address them. We set the precedent and the undesirable behavior is repeated until it becomes ingrained in the corporate culture.

It’s tough to change culture, but the first step is to start with ourselves. We need to show up on time for meetings, be present, and complete our action items. We need to reduce the number of meetings we attend so we can get our work done. Then we can work on turning the others around.

People gravitate to what is comfortable. Assisting them with prioritization helps a bit, and should be pursued. To answer you initial question, I have asked team members to skip out on meetings in order to complete tasks. I’ve had to be crystal clear about what needed to be completed in the next hour though. If not I’ve found that the task took a back seat to something else.

We need to do more than just help with prioritization. Team members need to believe that the tasks are worth doing. There must be significant reward and/or punishment (preferably the former) to spur action. It’s the manager’s job to point that out and drive it home.

Interested in making your meetings more productive? Check out this post.

The 1-3-6 Exercise

9 October, 2008 (22:13) | Leadership, Management, Podcast - Management Tips, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Wooden Nickel - Management Tips 4

What’s the 1-3-6 Exercise? Listen to The Management Tips Podcast with Dan Coughlin to find out.

icon for podpress  Dan Coughlin's Management Tip [6:17m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Drucker on Meetings

15 February, 2008 (00:46) | Management, Meetings, Time Management | By: Administrator

We’ve talked about meetings quite a bit in the past (see the posts below), but these comments from Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive warrant resurrecting the topic.

Peter identifies a common time waster as malorganization, of which meetings are a symptom.

“Meetings are by definition a concession to a deficient organization. For one either meets or one works. One can not do both at the same time…There will always be more than enough meetings…Every meeting generates a host of little follow-up meetings—some formal, some informal, but both stretching out for hours. Meetings, therefore, need to be purposefully directed. An undirected meeting is not just a nuisance; it is a danger. But above all, meetings have to be the exception rather than the rule. An organization where everybody meets all the time is an organization in which no one gets anything done. Wherever a time log shows the fatty degeneration of meetings—whenever, for instance people in an organization find themselves in meetings a quarter of their time or more—there is time-wasting malorganization.”

Joe Kerr: Once again I must take exception to the words of the genius, Mr. Drucker. I am a multi-tasker–a term, with which the old timer may not be familiar. I work in meetings all the time. I read and reply to mail, review financials, make phone calls. In fact, sometimes I get more done in meetings than outside of them.

Wanda B. Goode: I love Peter’s stuff. He is so honest and direct.

I’d like to point out one solution that Peter recommends. Don’t call a meeting with all your direct reports regardless of the topic and make them sit through a long drawn out affair where all participants feel the need to feign interest by asking questions that prolong the meeting even further. Rather, call the meeting for the 2 or 3 people that are required. Invite the rest to come if they are interested, but let them know that shortly after the meeting, they will receive a summary of the discussion and any decisions made together with a request for their feedback. This is a tremendous time saver and it ensures that no one feels left out.

Here’s a link to a Top Ten List of Time Wasters. Not surprisingly, meetings make the list.

Other Joe and Wanda posts on meetings:
Meeting Productivity
More on Effective Meetings
Meetings are “Cockroaches of American Business.”

Opportunity Knocks

9 December, 2007 (17:21) | Leadership, Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

Joe and Wanda, “Have I got an opportunity for you?” When was the last time your boss approached you with that line? How did you react? What did you do?

Joe Kerr: First I went on for a few minutes about how busy I was. Then I told him that I was willing to sacrifice to take on the extra task as I knew it was important to him and the company.

That’s some wonderful advice for you youngsters. Accept every piece of new work or responsibility with a smile, but don’t forget to constantly mention how busy you are. It’s actually a beautiful thing. If you use the “I’m busy” line, you don’t need to actually get anything done. You have a built in excuse. If the boss asks the status of a project, you say, I’ve been so busy working on project x that I just haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll get to it though. The boss can’t possibly replace you, because you have so many responsibilities. It’s job security 101.

Wanda B. Goode: The most recent time I was offered an “opportunity,” I accepted the assignment. Of course, every time there is the possibility of taking on more work, I look at what’s on my plate. I see if I can defer anything, or maybe delegate some things to others. I try my best to accommodate, but I have turned down assignments in the past. Some think this is the kiss of death, but in my experience, if you are good at your role and you have a reputation of being honest and straightforward, the boss will actually accept and approve of your well thought out decision.

I try not to use “I’m busy” as an excuse. In his book, Dear Boss, Dr. William Werther mentions that if people have time to constantly lament about how busy they are, they obviously aren’t that busy! Scott Young has a post where he exposes the “I’m busy” excuse as a way to avoid stepping out of our comfort zone. Click here to read more. Take care to avoid doing that.

Don’t Just Flow with the Current

1 October, 2007 (01:07) | Management, Time Management | By: Administrator

I once had a manager that used to say, “I’m all caught up with my mail today. I don’t have anything more to do, so I’m going to head home early.” To this day it amazes me how many people use their inbox as their time management system. They have no idea what they will be doing day to day, hour to hour. It’s all based on the mail that they read, the phone calls they get, and of course the meetings that they are scheduled to attend. Is that any way to manage?

Joe Kerr: Don’t knock it until you try it bub! In my job I have to jump on my mail. If I don’t my boss is breathing down my throat and my customer is too. I’m a big time multitasker, though which enables me to make a significant dent in all the requests that I get. 

Wanda B. Goode: It used to be just the phone and an occasional office visitor that caused interruptions. Now there’s email, instant messaging, cell phones, etc. We get interrupted no matter where we are and no matter what time of day. Many feel compelled to jump on every ring and ding. It’s ironic that lots of the new “productivity” tools significantly hinder productivity if not managed properly.

I set aside time in my calendar to do certain tasks. During that time I can not be reached. I don’t answer my cell phone (The ringer is turned off). I’m not logged into instant messaging. I don’t have all the bells and whistles turned on to alert me upon the arrival of each and every email. Amazingly the world has not yet come to a screeching halt because I haven’t returned a phone call within an hour. The work gets done.

If a manager answers queries from all these tools within seconds of arrival, there is something dreadfully wrong. Are they managers, or are they Help Desk operators? My advice is to block out time for planning, teaching, learning, and various other major management priorities, and make the choice to limit the distractions during those times. You will be amazed at how much you accomplish when you are not pulled from a task every 5 minutes. Don’t just go where the current takes you. Set the course and have the discipline to stick to it.

Time Tracking

7 September, 2007 (09:04) | Management, Productivity, Time Management | By: Administrator

Tracking people’s time is important for managing your portfolio of assets and resources. It shows where you are spending your money, which is critical for decision making. Joe, do you and your team track your time? To what level of granularity? What have you learned from doing so? 

Joe Kerr: Sure we track our time. It needs to go into our ERP system. My team supports a variety of internal customers, so we break out time accordingly. I don’t break out my time though. I’m a manager. It’s straight eights each day for me. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned. If I don’t approve the group’s time sheets by 10:00 am Monday, there is hell to pay. One more thing…I’ve also learned that threatening to hold back paychecks if time is not entered is a very effective motivator.  Wanda B. Goode: Like Joe’s group, we track time by internal customer. We also do it by project. I need to know where people are spending their time. In addition to internal billing, we use the data to validate estimates. We also use it to identify areas that may be sapping our time. I provide reports to my boss which help with budgeting. I track my own time for the same reasons mentioned. Plus, I don’t like to require team members to do any administrative task that I’m not prepared to do myself. It would send a bad message.  We’ve learned quite a bit from reviewing our time reports. Most recently we learned we were spending 40% of our time in an area that generated 5% of our revenue. We automated some tasks, eliminated some others, and rebalanced our time to align more closely with revenue. Personally, I’ve also learned to focus my time better.