Don’t cultivate an incommunicado communication style. This means keeping your voice mail on at all times; clearing your voice mail or mailbox monthly; never returning telephone calls or messages; saying ‘I’ll contact you’ or ‘I’ll ring you tomorrow’ and never doing so; keeping important data in your head and putting little on paper; requiring gatekeepers to ensure few individuals enter your diary or your office. The solution? Do conduct a small public relations check. Ask colleagues, customers, suppliers and others their experience of your accessibility, availability and rate of returning calls. Note their comments. Consider what image you want conveyed to all who have contact or would like to have contact with you. Develop time management and administrative systems to respond to messages and facilitate information flow.
Don’t adopt a flat spin technique. This means booking appointments every 5-10 minutes throughout the day and squeezing in others in-between times; saying ‘yes’ to meetings or tasks when you have no unscheduled time available; constantly being on the move with very little time at your desk; developing a ‘to do’ basket and emptying bits of it only when necessary; dealing with issues only when they’ve become major crisis material. The solution? Do get a colleague to handcuff you to your desk so you are forced to stop moving and with them look at the effectiveness of your current planning, prioritising, delegation and time management techniques. Schedule time each day for thinking, reflecting as well as hands-on ‘doing’ and attending meetings. Give attention to issues when they first appear and nip potential problems in the bud.
Don’t embrace quick fix solutions. This means implementing all the latest management fixes without much analysis or regard for what’s gone before; introducing something new in the middle of experimenting with something else; adhering to the premise if something costs a lot from overseas it must be good; randomly applying bits of systems or techniques and never, never monitoring outcomes. The solution? IDo try lots of stuff and keep what’s effective. Work to build on what has gone before, rather than starting everytime from the beginning. Monitor your progress and fine-tune solutions as you go. Remember that instant gratification may jeopardise your business, exhaust your staff and ensures you achieve very little in the end.
Don’t tough it out. This means ignoring the tell tale signs that you are finding some tasks difficult to do; having difficulty translating the theory of how to do something into actual practice, despite having attended courses on the topic; saying ‘yes, works fine’ when it isn’t; feeling you are losing or have lost your perspective on your workplace, your practice, the contribution of yourself and others. The solution? With the best will in the world, sometimes the going gets tough and the tough well, they need a different kind of support. Find yourself an external business coach or mentor and use them to help you keep on track, endorse your successes and tackle the workplace issues causing unease.
First Published NZBusiness May 1999