Are You Tuned into WII-FM?
As my routine tends to be in prepping for this blog, I compose a number of “quick-hit” drafts (guerilla-style) throughout the week, then sift through the best ones and finalize an entry, reviewing before sending it out to air. So after a frenetic start to this week, which included a school Christmas performance that got done late tonight, and getting the nightly routine at home settled, I found some quiet time alone, ready to finally sit down to write my blog draft. That’s when this entry changed course.
While we talk about disruption in the workplace, I’m certain it’s prevalent in our homes as well. Because it sure was at my home tonight. Two of our pets, one four-year old tabby cat and our 10-month old puppy, came bounding in to see me, simultaneously wanting their fill of attention. Meanwhile, I keep pushing them away, “Go on, you guys. can’t you see I’m busy?” (Yes, I talk to my pets like they’re people. No, they didn’t understand me either). I push one away and the other would take it’s place for my time. Determined not to have my valuable time stolen, I nudged them back again. Just then the thought struck me – another leadership principle in action right before my eyes.
How many times have we as leaders, out of sheer want of our own valuable time, have pushed aside genuine needs of our people? And of those times, how have we hurt our credibility? Or even worse, the value and esteem of the team member(s)?
Granted, we have so much that is demanding our attention these days, it seems that time is not a precious commodity; it’s absolutely scarce in spots. We either have projects piled high, or pressing deadlines, or want a quick break in the pace to read, organize, or just get our thoughts back in line. Then disruption in the form of a person’s need enters in and threatens our “survival time”.
While we can all justify the desire to block out a time for ourselves and the relative needs we have, we must realize that the person’s time is coveted just as much too – by them. They may have waited all day for us to be available, or to gather up the courage to speak, or realize there is a sensitive issue to disclose, and we shut the door because there doesn’t seem to be anything in that time lost for ourselves. The “What’s In It For Me?” urge takes over, and we react.
Keep in mind, however, that the other person has a “What’s In It For Me” need knocking at your door at that very moment. They obviously need a concern addressed, a question answered, a boost in confidence, or a fear allayed. They are ringing the alarm for their leader to come running to action. Dear leader, are you listening? Are you tuned into station WII-FM? Have you set your frequency to answer the needs of your team?
You may be reluctant to give up valuable time to be “on call” like this. Yet quite simply, there are two ways to handle it. The first is the immediate way, telling them you have some time to listen to them, and giving them your undivided attention. The second way, is to be open and honest with them about the time you have. One example would be: “I would be glad to talk with you, yet I only have 10 minutes as I have a deadline to meet. Is that enough time to tell me what you need?” That lets the staff member get what they need to off their chest, and you can either give a quick solution or set a time to talk more about the situation in the next day.
Leaders that consistently do this find that they end up with more time, and not less. Staff that know their leadership is willing to listen to them end up having fewer “urgent” needs, as they feel they are always being heard, have an ongoing and open dialogue, feel more valuable and are therefore more productive. That in turn gives you more time to accomplish your needs, including plan and spend more time with your teams.
By taking care of your people’s needs first, you will always find that you have plenty of time for yourself. As I was reminded tonight by my pets. Once Akiza and Stripes had their fill of attention, they scurried on their way to their nighttime spots. I was able to get my blog finished. And just in time, because the tabby is coming back for Round 2.