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Kieran Hearty

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Are the managers you’re training ‘too busy’?


Managers can suffer lack of engagement too. Kieran Hearty gives us some practical advice to minimise this happening.

When you deliver training courses, how often do you suffer from the dreaded last minute 'no-shows'? Do your participants complain upon arrival about the lack of time that they have to attend training, or worse, to put it into practice afterwards? When you have conducted your post-training evaluation, have you found that little has changed and the excuse is ‘too busy’?

We trainers sometimes need the patience of a saint because it happens so frequently; especially if the courses we are running are for managers (it’s even worse for senior managers, right?) A recent Gallup survey concluded that 82% of managers are 'wrongly appointed'. This is incredibly costly for the bottom line. That’s why good management training is so critical, not only for the people that are being managed, but for the good of the business.

That’s also why it’s important for managers to understand that their decision to prioritise work that is more important to them than for the good of the business is a recurring theme that lies at the heart of many workplace problems. Why?

Many managers cannot ‘let go’ of the single-minded focus on getting the work done and achieving personal results that got them promoted, They still work hard, but it’s not managerial work.

As employees follow an upward career trajectory, is their willingness to make personal sacrifices and out-work their competitors favourably reviewed? It’s a common, and understandable, but misplaced virtue, resulting in the accurate perception that many leaders are too task focused and not strategic enough.

We value a good work ethic. But has it now become the single currency of business? I believe that it has, and it’s no wonder therefore, when faced with complexity, time pressure, and a mountain of work, that rather than delegate, their default reaction as an ambitious manager is to work longer and harder. If effort and hard graft are the only tools in their management toolbox, then overwhelm, stress and burnout become ingrained in the culture they have created, and it’s toxic. It’s unhealthy for their people, and damaging for results. It’s insane but many managers keep doing it, because that’s the kind of commitment that got them promoted in the first place.

The problem with such an intense work focus is that it comes with an acute inability to see the wood for the trees. Most managers who suffer from this malaise show one common symptom - they are incapable of articulating clear goals that provide a specific measurable summary of the purpose of the work.

I’m concerned about how team members feel about all this, and if, as a trainer, you are concerned too, here are three problems and the decisions that need to be taken by the managers that you train. Feel free to incorporate these thoughts into your own work, and encourage the managers that you are training to understand the problem and make the required decision. It will make a massive difference:

Focus on results. Delegate the tasks

The simple logic that a team is capable of more and better output than just one person is impossible to ignore. Research shows that the value to the business of managers who do not assume proper responsibility for their new role falls dramatically. The manager who fails to do this is being lazy, because they prefer to continue with their old tasks rather than assume their new responsibility.

Required decisions: Make the transition to manager and take full responsibility for the role. Get help in becoming skilful at writing great goals and how to express results in team performance plans. Make the decision to ‘let go’ of day-to-day work tasks, and ask your team to help you with this. They will not let you down.

Focus on capability. Coach and develop team members

Recognise that the capability and motivation of individual team members may differ. Your success as a manager will be as a result of the quality as well as quantity of their output. Investing your time in helping each team member become as brilliant at the job as you were is common sense. This will not only deliver great results, but it will enhance your reputation. 

Required decisions: Fill your calendar with regular coaching and development conversations with each team member. Develop your capability as a coach and results will follow.

Improve productivity overnight. Reduce meetings and email by 50%

Research has shown that most of us waste 20% of our time in unnecessary, poorly managed meetings, and another 20% dealing with large volumes of valueless emails. For a medium-sized company of 1000 people, that’s the equivalent of 400 people doing no actual work.

Are we too lazy (or just too busy?) to properly plan meetings, and ensure that they have clear outcomes, backed up by a well-managed agenda? It is disrespectful to the people that we expect to attend these mind-numbing meetings. The same goes for the thousands of valueless and time-consuming emails we send each other.

Required decisions: Learn about email etiquette then rigorously apply it. Commit as a team to reduce the emails you send by 50%, and only read emails two or three times per a day, otherwise it becomes addictive. Learn how to run effective well-structured meetings. Get up and walk to a colleague’s desk for a quick chat rather than send an email or arrange a meeting. Prioritise meetings with team members.

I hear many of the people I work with describe organisations and their cultures as toxic, with destructive levels of stress being the norm. We are human beings, not machines, and cannot cope with the sheer volume of stuff we bombard each other with, fuelled by the single currency of single-minded effort.

In the pursuit of sustainable excellence, great results, and healthier workplaces, I truly believe that less becomes more. Most of us have strong commitment; let’s not get carried away by continuously striving to prove it. It’s simple common sense that’s good for business, and good for people.

Kieran Hearty is an executive coach, consultant and leadership speaker with over 30 years’ experience across international technology and financial services companies. Kieran’s successful programmes have made a huge difference to thousands of managers and leaders who he has coached and developed worldwide. Kieran is author of the business book ‘How to Eat the Elephant in the Room’. Follow him on Twitter here and LinkedIn here



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