The One Skill That All Managers Must Master

In order to be successful, managers need to learn how to focus
In order to be successful, managers need to learn how to focus
Image Credit: Marco Nae

As a manager, you will always be asked to do more things. On top of what you have already signed up to do, people will drop by your cube, catch your arm in the hall, and corner you in meetings and will come up with additional things to add to the already full plate of tasks that you have in front of you. It can be all too easy for us to deal with these situations by simply saying “I’ll do that”. Do this enough, and all too quickly you’ll discover that you are now juggling too much for any one person to get done. When this happens, you need to start to use the greatest skill that a manager has: focus.

Why Are You Doing What You Are Doing?

As managers, when we are facing a new project that we want to start to focus on, we always need to use our manager skills and start with the “why” questions. When you have been able to find out why you are going to be doing something, it then becomes time to move on to the “how” questions. It will now be time for you to come up with a plan that is going to get you there.

In order to create that kind of plan, you are going to have to become good at using your manager training to ask the right types of questions. These questions include finding out what the main problem the project is going to solve. You’ll need to discover who the people are that you’ll be solving the problem for. You’ll also want to know if this is the project that is the most likely to solve the problem. As a manager, you are going to want to very clearly state both your intentions and your values and then step up and put your money where your mouth is.

Keeping Your Focus Does Not Mean That You Work In A Straight Line

The problem with plans is that they are often not correct. The world in which we all live is always changing. What this means for managers is that although it is critically important that we have focus in order to accomplish tasks, we also have to realize that you cannot blindly follow the plan that you’ve created. As managers we need to understand that as our situation changes, our focus will also have to change at the same time.

Even as we become busy, we still need to take the time to think about the decisions that we are making. We need to ask ourselves if our intentions are the right ones. We also have to determine if the decisions that we are making are going to be in line with what we originally set out to accomplish. We need to build in times for us to step aside and ask ourselves if things have changed. Should we still be working towards our original intention and are our intentions still the ones that we want?

The Power Of A Calendar

In order to keep your focus, you have tools that can help. One of your most important tools is your calendar. What a lot of managers don’t realize is that yes, a calendar is a great forward looking tool. However, at the same time it is also a very good tool for reflecting on what you have been able to accomplish. As a manager, you should sit down and take the time to look back over how you’ve been spending your time.

When you do this, what you’ll be looking for is how much time you spend on each of the projects that you are responsible for. How much time you spent with people on your team instead of in big meetings. Finally, you’ll want to understand how much time you spent managing your team instead of working on team building. When you have the answers to these types of questions, you’ll know if your time is matching with what you intended to do and if it is not, then you’ll know how you have to go about adjusting your time.

Time Only Exists In Small Bites

So an interesting question that every manager needs to be asking is just exactly how much of our time do other people really need? When we are setting up our calendars, we often allocate time in blocks of 30 and 60 minutes. However, these times are often not realistic when we think about the brief meetings that were required. In the end, your calendar is going to end up looking like a jumbled mess and you’ll still end your day with many things still undone.

A much better way to go about doing things is to start to allocate your time in smaller chunks. A good way to go about doing this is to allocate 15 minutes to everyone who wants to meet with you. If they feel that they need more time, they can request it from you. At the same time, when you are setting up your schedule for a day, make sure that you include blocks of time that are not allocated. This way you’ll be able to deal with all of those last minute surprises that always seem to be popping up.

What All Of This Means For You

The life of a manager is never easy. We always seem to have too much to do. At the same time, people are always coming to us with more for us to take on. For some odd and unknown reason we seem to say “yes” and then our overloaded schedule becomes even more hectic. The skill that managers really need to learn how to harness is focus.

In order for a manager to get and keep their focus, they first need to make sure that they understand their intentions at all times. We need to understand why we are doing something and then we need to understand how we are going to go about doing it. Managers need to realize that they work in a world that is constantly changing. This means that the plans that they have in place and the objectives that they want to achieve may change over time. We need to be flexible and willing to adjust. We have to double check to make sure that what we are trying to accomplish is still the right thing. In order for us to keep our focus, our calendar is a critical tool. It can also be used to look back in time to make sure that we are really spending our time on the right things. Keeping your focus is all about properly managing your time. You can do this by allocating time in 15 minute blocks and leaving some blocks free each day to handle the things that can unexpectedly show up.

Managers get judged based on what they and their team are able to accomplish. When you consider how many different things a manager is asked to do, you start to understand just how busy they are. The key skill that a manager has to have in order to be successful is the ability to focus on what needs to be done. Using their focus, they’ll be able to keep their eyes on what really matters and make sure that they are able to deliver what everyone is expecting them to provide.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to lose your focus and if so, how can you get it back?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How much do you talk? Do you talk enough? Or perhaps, do you talk too much? A key part of the job of being a manager is using your manager skills to deliver good communication. There are a lot of different ways for us to communicate;and talking is one of the most important. However, it turns out that it is entirely possible for us to to do too much talking. When this happens, the people that we are talking to, just start to shut down and stop listening to us. Do you talk too much?

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