Tips to Grow Employee Productivity

by WOHe

As Steve Vlachos and I travel the country giving our “Managing
For Profit” seminar series, one topic that always comes up is this:
“There’s more work to do than there is time to do it.” In fact,
this has been such an issue that we’ve actually added a short
section to our “Professional Selling Skills” seminar to address
it.

In this month’s column, as well as next month’s, I’m going to
concentrate on presenting ideas for helping kitchen and bath
professionals free up time for more productive pursuits. These will
include tips for accomplishing more in less time, coping with
deadlines, controlling paperwork, holding effective meetings and
delegating duties in order to help make your work group more
productive.’

Almost everyone who works in the kitchen and bath industry wears
more than one hat, and has a multi-faceted job description
(assuming they have a job description in the first place).

This can be even more challenging for managers.

One of the major hassles facing anyone who serves in a
supervisory role is making the time to address problems as they
arise. This is very common in our business. In addition to
performing and producing well in your own position, you must also
manage others in their duties. In the worse case, these demands on
your time can make it seem like you’re’
working two jobs while only being paid for one.’

Anyone faced with the dilemma of too much work and not enough
time attempts to cope with this in one way or another either by
spending long hours at the work place or taking work home. On the
other hand, some folks may devote themselves to putting time
management programs to work, only to discover they have no more
lasting value than the’
short life of one of those dot-com companies.

For most supervisors, coping with time management pressure boils
down to concentrating on the newest and hottest problem of the
moment and putting everything else on the back burner. Mistakes are
made, deadlines are missed, and your boss and clients are breathing
down your neck to speed things up. Meanwhile, the phone is ringing
off the hook and your in-basket, e-mails and voice mails are piling
up. The end result of this approach is generally frustration at not
being able to accomplish things in an efficient and effective
way.’

Supervising trap
Supervision lends itself to being a time trap in general,
particularly because many supervisors confuse managing staff with
taking on their work load.’

To a large extent, the main problem with managing your time lies
within the very people you supervise and work with, who can either
help or hinder you. Often, they become a “time trap” in innocent
seeming ways.’

For example, an employee comes to you with a problem and you
solve it. Now, sometimes this may be practical and proper. However,
too often, employees approach their boss to seek out advice on a
problem they could handle themselves, or in conjunction with other
employees. After all, unless workers are encouraged to exercise
more initiative in their jobs, getting approval from their boss is
following the path of the least resistance.

Too many folks succumb to the constant time pressures and accept
them as just part of the job. That’s the bad news. The good news is
that you can conquer the time demands placed upon you if you
recognize and follow one simple rule: Good management
is’
getting the job done through other people.

Many supervisors take over a particular task rather than simply
teaching the subordinate how to go about resolving the issue at
hand. You’ll often hear a manager say “Leave it here and I’ll look
into it and get back to you.” The already overburdened boss has
just accepted another assignment. This is diametrically opposed to
the aforementioned basic rule: Good management is getting the job
done through other people.

Ten time savers
It’s important to realize that interruptions not only waste time,
but also disturb the thought process especially when you’re fully
engaged in trying to resolve a matter or perform a task. Although
many interruptions are brief, the cumulative time lost to
intrusions during the day, week and month can be significant and
can really add up. Put to use the techniques in the list below and
your time management problems will be rapidly cured.’

1. Be aware of your behavior.
Your personality and temperament with others is more important than
anything when discouraging interruptions. If you encourage
schmoozing and small talk, you’ll get plenty of it.’
Having lunch or coffee on a regular basis with members of your
staff fosters a friendship leading to a familiarity, which may
result in staff members feeling comfortable constantly interrupting
you throughout the day. By keeping your distance in terms of
socializing with the folks you manage, your supervisory role will
be made easier.

2. Encourage decision making.
Trust your employees and give them the authority to act on their
own. This will cut down the interruptions caused by employees
requesting routine guidance. To make this approach work, be careful
to not criticize employees when they make mistakes. This is how
they learn; support them through their lessons.’

3. Make sure assignments are understood.
Be clear on what you want. This will avoid countless interruptions
later on. Be specific on deadlines and progress reports.

4. Visit others so they won’t visit you.
Make a habit of stopping by your subordinates’ work stations or
offices. They will get used to you stopping by, thus lessening the
need for them to see you at several different times throughout the
day. This puts you in control of your time. In addition, it will
also discourage goofing off by employees if they know the boss is
likely to drop by.

5. Promote alternatives.
Encourage your staff to get answers elsewhere. Promote problem
solving through teamwork and by having written policies and
procedures for them to refer to (every business should have these
written policies and procedures).

6. Establish a routine time of day to meet with staff.
Establish a set time each day for employees to see you with routine
questions. Whether you choose to meet early in the morning or at
the end of the day, you’ll provide an opportunity to cover the
issues of the day and future assignments. Raise questions and
expect answers during this time. You will discourage workers from
besieging you with trivial matters and dumping problems in your lap
for resolution by meeting with them daily.

7. Minimize the opportunity for interruptions.
Simple logistical practices can discourage potential intruders.

  • Close your office door. If you choose to practice an “open
    door” policy, then get in the habit of closing the door when you
    don’t want to be disturbed.
  • Have someone field your phone calls. These callers can often
    interrupt you more than your staff.
  • Remove any chairs for guests. It’s easier to keep people moving
    if they are standing.
  • Position your desk so the back of your desk faces the door.
    This discourages passers-by from dropping in.

8. Discourage the persistent interrupters.
Usually it will be just a few folks who commit most of the unwanted
intrusions upon your valuable time. Deal with them in a more
hard-nosed manner. Be to the point and tell them you do not want to
be interrupted with tasks and situation they can handle
themselves.

9. Buy time.
If your staff approaches when you are busy, suggest meeting them at
the end of the day. For example, when someone interrupts you, you
can say “I’m busy right now, Bonnie. Can you see me at 5 o’clock?”
This also will give people time to think about resolving the
situation on their own or consult with co-workers.’

10. When all else fails HIDE! Orregularly block time off of your
calendar for office time.
There will be many times when you will need a block of
uninterrupted time to finish a job, solve problems or do some
strategic planning. Make an appointment with yourself. If there’s a
conference room or another get-away place at work, go there. If
there’s not a place at work, then leave the office and finish the
job at home. Remember, don’t defeat the purpose by telling people
where you’ll be!’

Your purpose in practicing these various time savers is to
eliminate idle and wasted time both yours and theirs and to
encourage workers to solve their own problems and further involve
them in the decision-making process.

Hank Darlington is a Gold River, California-based writer,
business management instructor and former kitchen and bath
“whotail” business owner who conducts consulting for kitchen and
bath dealers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

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