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The Memo Managers & Leaders Skipped

If I had a dime for the number of times I heard from managers and leaders, "People don't think" I would be a billionaire. And I even agree with this statement, they don't but that's why we have you managers and leaders to think for them. 

Yesterday, I threw this back to a leader and he stopped for a second. He got it, he is there to think. The job of any manager or leader is to solve problems yet, they complain about problems. Dude, that is the job! Why else would organisations pay you if you just had to maintain the status quo or pass the problem onto someone? That is the job and the good news is that you can be employed for the rest of your lives because problems are in abundance. That's why I don't like to get stuck on one because the queue is long..... 

Often managers and leaders get frustrated by the level of the problem they have to solve because they think it is easy and their staff should be able to handle that. I agree, however, that's not the reality so, what are we going to do about it? Get constantly upset or acknowledge the fact that I have to think and solve their problems when they cannot? I opted for the latter, it was easier and saved me from burnout. 

The same applies to empowerment because not everyone can be empowered. Instead of pushing people to make decisions, solve problems, or come up with initiatives we sometimes must conclude that "This person cannot be empowered" and change our management style. Many times, burnout in managers and leaders is the result of pushing against reality and forcing something that cannot be done because someone trained them that we must empower people and here is how you do it. Well, most things we learn in corporate training fail on the floor because people are complex. Attend trainings, but you must find a unique way of applying it in a way that works. 

Here is something I used to do with my Housekeeping staff to keep them on course, basically applying the timeboxing technique in real life. 

A few years ago, I had an issue with the quality of cleaning and I tried everything with my guys but nothing worked. They kept saying "We don't have enough time bla bla bla." So, I calculated the total minutes they worked per day, deducting time for lunch, tea, toilet breaks, and trolley refill breaks, which left us with roughly 38 minutes per room. 

Then, I provided each team member with a small countdown clock to be placed on their cleaning trolley. The instruction was simple: start the clock when beginning to clean a room. The result???? Upon finishing a room, they would look at their clocks, often finding themselves with 2-5 minutes remaining. This small window of time was where the magic lay. They began revisiting the room, attending to minor details like dusting the skirting boards or ensuring all amenities were spotless, actions they might have otherwise overlooked. 

When we are faced with tasks such as cleaning 12 rooms within a 10-hour shift or having 12 things on our to-do list the brain can struggle to maintain focus and structure. This often leads to rushing and compromises in quality. As a manager or leader, it's our job to provide a structured breakdown of complex or lengthy tasks. This helps employees understand and organise their activities within a clear context, that enhances quality and efficiency. It helped the slower members of the team to speed up and it helped the faster ones to slow down and pay attention to the quality. It also made them realise that some would start the day rushing and slowing down towards the end of their scheduled rooms to clean leaving quality issues in the first 8 rooms or so but taking time in the last rooms. Some did it the opposite way, taking time during the first room cleanings but rushing towards the last. Specifying the time they can spend in each room managed their performance better. 

I didn't organise time management or other training courses organisations often do when people are unproductive. Instead, I applied the training to them. I also, do this when people don't complete their tasks or keep saying, "Oh I forgot": I ask them what do you have on their list until lunchtime. Before lunch, I would ask if those are done. After lunch, I do the same. Keeping people focused on their tasks is the real unlock for performance and managers and leaders have to figure out how to do it. 

You have to think for them! That's the job! It's hard but what other choice do you have? It can feel like a kindergarten!

PS: When you find people who don't require you to think for them, they should be part of your succession planning. They can think for themselves and as part of their development program, you have to train them how to think for others. 

Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilt the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!:

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