Here at =mc we encourage every participant we meet on our programmes to get in touch if they have specific issues they want to follow up on. From this we hear some common problems, issues, challenges, and worries. In this regular feature we share some of those challenges, and our advice, for dealing with them.
This time, the issue comes from a manager with a very common challenge: people management is taking up a lot of their time.
Hello Management Centre. I work in a charity and I am relatively new to management. When it was suggested that I manage someone, I was pleased. It showed me that my manager recognised that the work I am responsible for needs more resources. I was also very excited about this next step in my career.
I have recruited someone into my team, and they are great. They are picking up the tasks allocated to them and are really proactive. However, managing them is taking up a lot more of my time than I anticipated. Of course, there are the one-to-ones to prepare for and run. But I have been surprised by all the additional ad hoc enquiries, questions, progress conversations, problem solving, reviewing their work etc. It feels like I have even less time than I had before. Management is taking up so much time, I can’t get my real work done. What am I doing wrong?
Dear Manager, thank you for getting in touch. This is an issue we hear regularly on our management programmes. Moving into management is a big change and the mindset you approach it with is crucial to success. You mention having less time for your real work. It is vital that you recognise that managing people is now your real work. You now have two key areas of responsibility: delivering results and getting the best out of the person you manage. And both of these responsibilities take up a lot of time.
I have heard people say that now they manage a person, the tasks that they collectively deliver on will double. This isn’t right as it doesn’t leave any time for management. When you become a manager, the work you are directly responsible for doing, must decrease to give time for management – it’s a necessity. However, the work you are accountable for, the work of your whole team, can increase.
As a manager try shifting how you think about your success. Success is not based on what you are individually delivering anymore. It is about the results that collectively you and the person you manage are creating. It sounds like your new team member is great, and doing a good job, in which case the time you are spending with them is paying off. You are investing in them, and they are doing well. That is your success.
Dear manager, I do empathise with you, managing people can take a lot of time. I agree with Rachel that it should do, and that management is now your real work. However it can be particularly daunting during the first few months of managing someone new. Your new team member is learning about the tasks, processes and results, as well as learning about the organisation and how things work. Inevitably during this steep learning curve, you need to give them a lot of your time.
I think it is great that you are available for conversations and questions, reviewing their work and giving them feedback. At the moment, they need your advice and input in order to do things right and to do the right things. With your help, they will become more knowledgeable, skilled and confident. Over time you should then see that they need less of your advice and help, though they will still want your feedback. How long this takes will depend on how complicated the work is.
Try mapping out the different elements of their role, and when you might expect them to need less advice and input from you. For easy tasks you might expect them to be autonomous quite quickly, for complex pieces of work this could take many months. This plan will help you track their progress. It will also give you an indication of how much time you will need to give to advice and support and when that might start to decrease.
However, don’t think that once your team member is up to speed, your time spent managing will dramatically fall. Instead, your focus will shift to developing them, providing opportunities for stretch and keeping them motivated and engaged. This all takes time and real thought. But to see people develop in skills and confidence and to see the results they create, is incredibly rewarding.
Hello and thanks for reaching out. I think loads of new managers feel like you but aren’t always confident enough to ask for help. There is great advice above: reframe what you think your role is and what success looks like, and plan the upskilling of your new team member so you can gauge how long that will take.
When we move into management, we have conflicting demands and there is more unpredictability; it can feel like we have less control. So my advice is to take some of your control back.
Try working out your priorities: what work needs your attention, what work will have to wait or take a slower speed whilst you support your new team member. Share your ideas with your manager and ask for their help if needed. Mark on your calendar when you are available for questions and when you need uninterrupted time to get things done. As your new team member develops, decide what tasks you can delegate to them. And are there other people they can learn from in your organisation? Not only will this free up some of your time, but it will help your new colleague build relationships with others.
Finally, I would suggest you get yourself a mentor. Moving into management is the biggest step you take in your career and balancing time effectively is a real challenge. Is there someone in your organisation or at a similar charity who has been through this too, who could share their learning with you? This will give you an opportunity to talk your situation through and determine how best to focus your energies, in a confidential setting.
If you’d like to explore ways of handling for situations like this, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to discuss similar challenges and how we might be able to help.
Finally, if you’re facing a challenge you’d like some advice on in the next issue of the Safe Space, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can’t promise to publish all the requests we receive, we will offer advice by email as a minimum.