Spend less time sifting through emails and more time developing your people.
Leadership training doesn’t work, argues Aaron Levy in a recent article for Forbes.
“Most leadership training programs are designed for ease of operational delivery within an organisation, not for habit formation. They are event-based trainings, meaning that the training takes place over a day or two,” he says.
If you’re lucky, you might leave the training session feeling inspired to instil change in your workplace. But the shine is likely to fade within a few weeks time.
So, if leadership training isn’t the answer, how do we make superhero leaders? Leadership expert Scott Stein says instead of trying to change the forest we should focus on the trees.
He offers his three best hacks for managers including: understanding the nature of your meetings, becoming a delegating guru and changing your relationship with your inbox.
1. An inbox hack
Amplifying productivity means minimising distractions. We can lose a chunk of our day when we enter the inbox whirlpool.
“Distractions are the achilles heel for most leaders and they’re not even aware of it,” says Stein.
He says humans have a “biological need to be busy”, which explains why we instantly tend to every email that pops up. In fact, research says the average email is opened within six seconds of receipt. Multiply that by how many emails you receive each day and you’ve got yourself a productivity issue.
“Today’s leaders don’t have enough time to get through the tasks on their plate. What HR needs to do is provide practical solutions. There are some great HR departments that are already doing that, then there are some that are stuck in training and leadership concepts from the 80s and 90s,” he says.
Stein shares an inbox management strategy he learnt from Kevin Cruise, a New York Times best selling author who studied the habits of billionaires, entrepreneurs and olympic athletes. He came up with a method called the “3,2,1 approach” which suggests checking emails just three times a day – in the morning, at noon and in the evening. The “2” and the “1” represent setting a timer for 21 minutes and trying to clear your inbox within that time-frame.
Here is Stein’s four step email hack:
- Scan – don’t start reading from top to bottom. Look for relevant information.
- Delete – get rid of non-relevant information straight away.
- Sort – this is one of the most important stages. Some of your mail providers will do this for you automatically. Sort into important, updates, social, personal etc.
- Respond – you’ll be left with what matters and you can respond accordingly.
2. A delegating hack
It’s often difficult for leaders, newly-minted ones in particular, to make the transition from doing into coaching. But they need to learn how to be more essential while being less involved, says Marion Barraud for HBR.
“When you justify your hold on work, you’re confusing being involved with being essential. But the two are not the same — just as being busy and being productive are not necessarily equal. Your involvement is a mix of the opportunities, mandates, and choices you make regarding the work you do. How ancillary or essential you are to the success of that portfolio depends on how decisively and wisely you activate those around you,” she says.
There are two main reasons people don’t delegate says Stein.
“One is that they believe they can do it faster and better themselves. Sometimes that’s true. But if it’s a task that needs to be repeated in the future, they’re actually shooting themselves in the foot because they need to develop their people. The second reason managers don’t delegate is because they don’t have the skills to do so,” he says.
According to Stein, there are four different types of delegation:
- Delegating to yourself. This is usually a knee-jerk reaction. Over time, you’ll start to become overloaded and aren’t actually doing what you’re paid to do.
- Sit down with the person you want to delegate to and map things out with them. Don’t tell them what to do, ask for their help. Make a mindmap together and then number the tasks in priority order.
- Similar to step two but this time ask the employee to map the actions out themselves.
- Leave the employee to complete the task alone then check their results afterwards.
Most managers screw this up by jumping straight to step four, says Stein. “They think they’re doing a good job of delegating by just giving it to their people to figure out. But by doing this they’re missing the essential ingredient – coaching”.
3. A meeting hack
As we recently reported, there are plenty of ways to make your meetings more meaningful, but did you know there are four different types of meetings? Chances are you’ve been trying to squeeze them all into one.
Stein says make sure everyone is aware which type of meeting you’re having. Is it a:
- Check-in meeting – these are the most common. You come together, look at your KPIs and give everyone an update on what you’re doing.
- Problem solving meeting – get a number of people together to find a solution to an issue you’re having.
- Decision making meeting – you’ve previously got the information and now it’s time to make a call on something.
- Strategy meeting – this is about planning for the long term.
“If it starts as a reporting meeting that turns into a problem solving meeting and then all of a sudden you’re talking about strategy, you don’t achieve any of the desired outcomes.
“You don’t need 10 people in the room for a problem solving meeting. You might only need the four people that know the problem really well. Why waste the time of everyone else?”
Do you have a handy leadership hack to share? Post it in the comment section below.
Scott Stein is CEO of The Learning Difference and the author of Leadership Hacks.
Photo on Foter.com
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