In today’s high tech world, being available for your team can be hard to manage along with all your other responsibilities. Nowadays, everyone is expected to be available twenty four seven – that means 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you get a text, a tweet, a post, or an email, you are expected to answer within a reasonable amount of time, even if it’s late at night or the weekend. It used to be that a reasonable amount of time was a day or maybe a few days, but now it is an hour or maybe a few hours – or at most, 24 hours.
The problem with all this interconnectivity is that it makes it very hard for people to concentrate on their work. So interruptions become the norm rather than the exception.
It is essential that every manager learn how to control these interruptions or at least minimize them so they are able to concentrate and focus on the work that needs to be done. This is all very handy, however you then get another time management problem – How can you make sure you meet your team’s needs if you institute a technology blackout?
Above all else, people need to feel that their leaders are there for them. If they send emails and don’t get a return, if they call over and over again and get only voice mail, if they send instant messages and get no reply, they may feel like they are alone out at sea with no one charting the course. It is important for them to know that person at the controls can handle all the different demands placed on them.
To get the balance right and not just deal with the emergencies that manage to get through your technology isolation, you need to implement some discipline. For example, instead of shunning your email, check it every 2 hours, answer actual inquiries and ignore the CCs, BCCs, newsletters and social messages. The same with your phone… remember those old black and white movies where the business executive tells his secretary to ‘hold my calls’. That’s what voicemail does for you, it gives you the power to have uninterrupted time when you just need to get things done, so use it.
Keep your team informed whenever you need to go off the email, phone, open door radar, so that they can plan their time with you when you’re next available. Also give you team permission to put things aside if they have a problem that can only be resolved with your input and allow them to get on with other things
Learning to monitor and rank the requests from your team is also important. You may need to your own kind of scoring system, something that your team can also use to determine whether or not they can interrupt because “the world is about to end” or just hold on until you’ve resurfaced. Either way it can help you enormously to rank, which requests do need your immediate attention and which do not. That way you will be able to respond to emergencies when they arise and screen out the emails, phone calls, tasks and meetings that can wait.
Both you and your team will need time to adjust to your new regime, and at first it may be difficult to enforce. However at the end of the day, the only way for you to continue achieving your own success is to preserve focused work time and set the example for your team so that they can copy what you do as well as accommodate the needs of the team.