Being in charge can be exhilarating, frustrating and challenging – sometimes all in the space of a single hour. But whether you're a small business owner or working as a manager for someone else, being the one in charge is always busy. It's understandably tempting to cut some corners so you can fit more into your busy schedule.
But be careful. Shaving some corners to save time can gouge your reputation and undermine your good management efforts.
When temptation arises, reach for this list of things you must not do to save time, no matter how time-crunched you feel.
To Be a Good Manager, Never:
I know, I know. When it comes to saving time, skipping breakfast is natural. And who's not in a hurry to get their day started? But skipping breakfast is a bad decision that will make you cranky, hungry and prone to making other bad choices throughout the day. If you want to be a good manager, breakfast is a must.
Set a Bad Example
When you're in charge, you're in a position of leadership, whether you want to be or not, which means that people will look to you for clues as to what to think and how to behave – whether you want them to or not. So if for instance, you often come into the office late, your employees will assume that that's acceptable to some degree. So don't try to save time by doing (or not doing) something that sets a bad example.
Not Answer Someone's Email Within a Reasonable Time
I’m talking about legitimate email, of course, not spam when I say this. But not answering legitimate email is a time-wasting habit, not a time-saving one. If you've bothered to open and read it and you intend to answer it, all you're doing by closing the message is make more work for yourself as you'll have to reopen and reread the message before you reply.
What's a reasonable timeframe? Within three business days. If this is problematical for you, remember that there is nothing wrong with an acknowledgment email that lets the recipient know you have received her message and will be responding in more detail.
Neglect to Praise Someone for Good Performance.
Praise is one of the most valuable management tools we have available to us. Praising people's work provides recognition and motivation not only to the individual receiving the praise but fosters a climate of respect.
But generally, perhaps because managers are geared towards solving problems or because our culture encourages criticism rather than praise, praise is underused. If you want to be a good manager, seek out opportunities to praise your staff. It will save you time in the long run because happier employees who feel valued create fewer problems down the road.
Not Bother to Seek Input From Others
If you don't bother to listen to or consult with other people, you're severely limiting your ability to be a good manager. For one thing, you close off the flow of information and ideas that are vital to making right decisions. For another, the people you are managing may view you as an autocratic leader, “controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.”
Not bothering to seek input from others is inviting because it's so must faster than the alternative. But proper management demands seeking and being receptive to the ideas of others, too.
Not Explain or Show How to Do Something When Someone’s Asked for Help.
We all know better. But in the interests of saving time, it's so much easier to ignore someone's request and tell them you'll show them or answer them later. The problem, of course, is that later never comes. Questions not answered don't save time; they squander it.
Make your job managing staff easier by taking advantage of the teachable moment and answering the question or doing the demonstration when it comes up – or, if this isn't possible, scheduling a definitive time to do so.
Not Bother to Properly Train Staff
There is a simple reason never to try to save time by not properly training your staff; untrained staff cost you money. People who don't know how to perform a task properly or where things are or what to say or do in this or that situation are going to make mistakes.
And then, to top things off, as a manager you are going to have even more fires to put out and have to spend even more of your time dealing with something that never should have happened in the first place. To be a good manager, start training staff as soon as they arrive - and keep doing it.
Put off Paperwork
I know. It’s aggravating. It’s boring. It takes away time you could be doing something that makes money. And so much of it seems completely unnecessary. But this is another one of those situations where saving time now will cost you more time later when some piece of paper you should have filled out gets lost, or some deadline is missed. Take it from a long-time piler, get it over with and save yourself future grief.
Not Bother to Keep up With Your Industry
What happens to small business owners and managers who don't bother to keep up with the things that are happening in their industries? Other business owners, customers, and possible promotions pass them by.
So don't try to save time by not reading trade journals or not attending functions related to your business. You need to be aware of current trends and technologies in your field of endeavor to manage well (and to avoid looking like an idiot to those who are in the know).
Pass the Buck
Umm... who to? As a small business owner or employed manager, you're the one it gets passed to, not the passer. Sure, some updated version of "the check's in the mail" may save some face and buy you a little time in an immediate crisis, but no one's really going to believe it. The time you've saved coming up with an excuse may have cost you a customer or client.
Is Saving Time Really the Important Thing?
Feeling a need to save time is natural; we all seem intent on cramming ever more activities into already busy lives while increasing demands are made on us. But if your work involves managing others, it’s important to resist trying to save time in ways that will diminish your management skills.
If you follow the advice on how to be a good manager presented in this article, you'll be well on your way to being the kind of business owner or manager that employees love to work for – and that's more important than saving time, isn't it?