Freedom to Manage: Play the Percentages

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CHICAGO — It’s estimated that in corporate America, more than 70% of a manager’s time is spent in meetings, on conference calls, traveling and doing important organizational tasks that have nothing to do with their job responsibilities. That leaves 30% to manage a program that one is responsible for, including directing a workforce, trying to reach internal goals and communicating with the customer. I’m sure that my peers who are still with the government wish they had it so good — they’re at 80% and 20%.
Human resource programs within our industry, regardless of whether they are in laundry operations, healthcare management, or organizations providing services and products, in most regards, have yet to dig out of the traditional “What have we done lately to generate profit?” scenario and refocus on developing programs that empower managers to better respond to the ultimate goal — taking care of the customer.
Top management (we must all realize that this is, and should be, a lonely job — if it’s not, then these managers aren’t doing their job) needs to recognize such deficiencies, as it now seems that we’re moving managers in waves and training them and their bosses at every turn. One needs to ask, when will the job ever be accomplished?
Managers, both top- and mid-level, must focus on being flexible and speak out when overburdened with expectations that have nothing to do with getting the job done. Systems should be established at the group or division level that would incorporate pay raises more closely to job performance and move employees between jobs as the requirements and expectations change. Yes, that goes from top to bottom and side to side.
Above all, we must enable managers to maneuver without burden. Remember, you can spend all of your time in meetings, which does put a focus on you, but then who is going to be responsible when the job doesn’t get done? That would be you. A good program will give the manager the time it takes to get the job done, which includes spending more time coaching and rating employees. Quite simply, in order for a program to be a success, managers must spend considerable time training and coaching employees.
All managers should spend 25% of their time coaching, setting priorities and giving positive feedback. The days of taking care of our buddies, friends or sensitive political folks who are part of the organization must stop. Step out of the batter’s box and take a clear look at the field. Managers at all levels (which are the stimulus for a top-to-bottom program) should be focused on developing an open-source management style, which requires a high degree of delegation, not a command-and-control program. The goal should be to deliver innovative solutions, sustaining a platform for success.
Big risk takers are usually heartbreakers; try to avoid such situations when the writing is clearly on the wall. If you fail at a high-risk situation and you knew the situation in the beginning, you obviously failed to communicate and to conduct or communicate a risk assessment to those driving the train, and you have done a disservice to those on the train — not to mention the damage in maintaining sound customer relations.
No matter who you are or your position in the management tree, business environment loyalty and the business of maintaining that loyalty are the keys to your success. Remember, loyalty goes from one end of the organization to the other. We should all have a career path!


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