Many years ago, the manager’s job was to manage people. Today, an additional role has been added. Now the manager has specific work or tasks of their own to do.
For example, sales managers frequently have a personal financial target to achieve in addition to overall responsibility for the target of their team of sales staff.
The impact of this shift in the way work is allocated is that managers are far less visible and available to their staff.
In the short term, this is unlikely to be a major problem because staff adapt to the situation and find ways to resolve issues when their manager is not around.
In the longer term however, individuals suffer because they do not receive the benefits of on- going coaching, support and experience from their manager.
They find ways to get things done that may not be best practice and behaviours start to creep in that do not align with the organisation or its values. This can be very frustrating for both the manager and their staff.
The loading of work on to the managerial role is unlikely to change given it is a result of the flattening of organisational structures and overall staff reductions. So the leader needs to find a way to achieve their personal targets and meet the needs of their staff.
The most obvious approach to implement is a common time management technique of allocating certain time slots when you will be available to staff.
Having a few blocks of time each day or week when staff know you will be available will overcome the constant walking backwards and forwards to see the boss only to find they are not in their office.
A second approach is to ensure you walk the floor of your workplace regularly, to be seen, to be visible and available if someone wants to ask you a quick question.
It is easy to lock yourself away and keep very busy on the other work, when it is probably more important for you to be visible in the workplace.
The second key element is to be available to a staff member when they “really” need you.
Being told by your leader that they are too busy right now to discuss an issue, before they even hear what it is, can be demoralising.
At a minimum, leaders need to be available, receptive and focused when staff request time and, if it is not urgent or important, they need to have the skill to deflect the person to another agreed time.
If the leader explains why now is not the best time and commits to the alternative time, then there is the opportunity to meet both sets of needs.
By hearing the issue first before deciding on their availability, the leader avoids missing a major event or issue.
One small step in the next 24 hours
Find 10 x 10 minute spots in your diary over the next week when you will make an effort to walk through your workplace. Make sure they are at different times of the day and use them to acknowledge staff, speak to someone you haven’t seen for a while and just be available to speak to anyone who has a query.
By allocating time in your diary, you will start a habit and get used to the behaviour. Arrange specific times in your diary when you will make a point of being at your workstation and available to meet with staff.
Word will spread quickly that you are usually around at this time.