Managers have an essential role in the successful running of a business, helping ensure everything runs smoothly. But many managers do not receive training in productive management and they’re often promoted into the role from non-management jobs, meaning they have to find their own way of doing things.
There are few other roles where we expect someone to just know how to do a job effectively and productively without any training – so why management?
Here we lay out our top five tips to becoming a more productive manager.
Ditch the meetings
Most people consider meetings to be a waste of their time: A period of time where they are away from their desk when they could be doing real work.
This should not be the case.
Meetings should be necessary. They should be considered to be real work, and if they’re not, it’s suggesting you might be holding too many meetings. The problem with meetings is the motivations behind why many people call them, often it is not because a meeting will be productive but because they want to bounce something off a few other people, or even make it look like progress is being made to higher ups when a project has stalled.
These are not good reasons for calling a meeting. But even when a meeting is legitimately necessary, there is a tendency to invite more people than are needed, or allow it to overrun – all of this wastes time. And when it comes to senior staff, that time can be very expensive for the business.
To illustrate this, why not have a go with our meeting calculator. It tells you how much time – and money – you may be wasting on meetings. Meetings should be productive, not a chance to catch up on some sleep.
Focus on the right things
Managers are notoriously busy, with plates spinning non-stop. However, in the confusion of the busyness, managers can find themselves doing work that isn’t required. Some tasks may have been passed down from predecessors and have just continued. Perhaps the board of directors requested that they have a progress report every month, but they never get round to reading it and instead schedule a meeting to go over the highlights. Perhaps a junior team member is struggling with their workload, so their manager has taken on some of their tasks.
There are numerous perfectly reasonable explanations for why managers find themselves working on tasks that are outside their core duties and are not productive. Often these unnecessary tasks only become clear when you step back and really examine your workload.
By removing the unnecessary tasks – such as scrapping the time put into creating the report as you’ll have a summary meeting anyway – managers may well find they have more time to focus on the things that actually beneficial to their productivity.
Ensure you add value
Similar to the above, focusing on the right things helps to ensure you add value. However, the more time you’re able to free up by eliminating superfluous tasks, the more you’ll have to invest in projects that can further improve your team or department.
Imagine what you could do if you freed up an hour a week once you’ve completed all of your scheduled (and unscheduled – you’re managers after all!) tasks. That time could be invested in trying to improve how things are currently done, looking at long-term staff niggles (that really wear down morale in the long term) and even evaluate how your team or department could better work with others in your organisation to improve the flow of goods or information.
An hour a week may not sound like much, but if you’re able to find it and use it productively, you make yourself invaluable.
Listen to everyone’s ideas
If you’ve created some time to add value and brainstorm about improvements, then you’ll need some ideas to increase productivity. You’ll probably have plenty yourself, particularly if it’s a role you’re very familiar with. Most people will have some ideas for how their job can be improved.
And that’s precisely why you would encourage your staff or team to tell you what they want to see improved. It’s not a chance to gripe, groan or raise old grievances, but should be a genuine opportunity for people with the right knowledge to share their ideas for improvement.
This is a great way to motivate a disengaged team too. Often small things can be a major annoyance when they impact your job day in, day out: So if you’re given an opportunity to suggest a way to remove that annoyance, and your manager acts on your suggestion it’s likely to improve your perception of your job.
Plus, the people who are working with a process every day know it inside out, so their ideas and suggestions are like gold dust.
Motivate your team
An engaged team is a motivated team. Many of us in management know this, but it’s tough to do anything about it other than helping lift the burden where possible and supporting staff where they need it.
However, there are steps you can take to improve motivation, and this in turn will increase productivity. Engagement and motivation are not linked to explicit benefits such as bonuses and reports in the long term, rather, businesses have to deliver implicit benefits: These include responsibility for tasks, feeling they have an impact at work and the ability to progress.
A job that is interesting and challenging will generate more engagement then one where employees are expected not to deviate, voice their ideas or challenge the status quo.