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Busy Doesn't Equal Productive

All employees have a preferred pace for action. Some like an extremely busy schedule and on the other extreme some like a more self-controlled schedule. When needed, if you can help the employee schedule their work, you’ll end up with more productive employees.

Let’s look at some examples. I’m sure you may recognize yourself and your employees. First there’s the individual that like a busy schedule, many definite things to do and opportunities to be physically involved in those activities. You probably know a few employees like this, you might actually be one yourself. When you ask them to join a meeting or go to lunch you get the “I’m way too busy,” but I’ll fit you in. They just can’t say no.

What’s the problem with a busy schedule? First it doesn’t allow time for reflection on your task, we all know the old saying” if we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them – we’ll get the same results we’ve always gotten”. These employees can be wasting their energy. Another problem that can be happening is the person is so “wired” to have a busy schedule they take on the work of others. We see this happening quiet a bit with “new” managers. They’re so anxious to prove themselves they are always saying, I’ll just do it myself. The biggest issue here is that, busy doesn’t equal productive. A manager with too busy a schedule has probably failed to delegate. So, how do we manage these individuals? Step one is to sit them down and find out exactly what they’re so busy doing? Is it all productive? Is it all within their job responsibility? I recently worked with a manage that when we looked into why she was “so” busy we found that she had very little confidence in her people, so she was doing their work. Our solutions was for her to take an evaluation of each of her direct reports and to replace those that she had been doing their work. We also went to work of her to dispel the thought that a very busy manager, subordinate or whomever doesn’t necessarily mean a productive employee.

On the other extreme we have the employee that likes a more relaxed and flexible schedule. They like to be in charge of their own scheduling and they like time to re-charge before taking on a new assignment. A big problem that happens in this situate I when the employee’s priorities don’t match the departments or managers requirements. Another issue that can arise is their need to over-emphasis on the planning phase of a project, or even putting things off. We all have our preferences of the work we enjoy so logically we’ll schedule that work if we can and this just might not be the “priority” work that needs to be scheduled. These individuals can cause a real issue in a fast-paced work environment. You know the ones—or maybe your one? The ones that announce I’ll get into it when I’m ready don’t hassle me. Management of these employees sometimes takes some hand-holding, we can let them schedule their work but ask to see what their schedule is and the allotted time for each task. Modify the schedule when needed.

Out third example is that employee that falls in the middle, not a real busy schedule, yet not too much time unscheduled. This employee will take immediate and direct action when needed (think handling an irate customer) or is able to lay out a well thought out plan and schedule when required. This employee is a good prioritize. These employees can easily become your “A” employees. Allowing them to help in the scheduling of their activities gives them buy-in and the research shows that those employees can be the most productive.

So, how do you identify a person’s pace? There are three possible ways to identify these characteristics. One way is to simply ask the employee. A second way to identify a person’s pace is to have him or her take an assessment—a tool that can help identity their pace and the level of that pace. The third possibility and generally the hardest (but a lot of managers try this) is to simply observe this person’s behavior! Is she always “busy”? Is he always asking for some time to “think” it over? When a new task is brought to the department do, they immediately volunteer, or do they want to think about taking on the task?

Once you’ve addressed the employees and your own pace, you’ll end up with very desirable employees. Ones that are active, thoughtful, enthusiastic, and energized.

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