82 Things: Help Your Frontline Managers Prioritize Their Day!

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I remember as a frontline manager one of the toughest issues that I faced every day was trying to plan my day. Sure the executives said I should focus on the people but it seemed there was always something else more important.

Many frontline managers have the same struggles and need help in prioritizing their day.

Here is an idea for how to help:

Schedule a meeting with your frontline managers. Open the meeting by discussing the importance of focusing on people. Talk about what they would do if they had more time each day. Direct the discussion to one of their most important tasks – coaching employees. Ask what keeps them from putting the most important things first? I am sure they will share a long list of issues.

Now take them through an exercise to list all of their responsibilities and daily activities. Remember this is a blue-sky discussion so there are no wrong answers. List the items on a white-board or flip chart.

Several years ago I took my team through this exercise – we created a long list that included 82 things. In fact, the meeting became know as the “82 Things Meeting.” The list will usually include various projects, paperwork and processes that, while important, are not really key components of success. Now, assign estimated times to each task for each week. There will typically be more assigned time than there are hours in the day.

Ask them to help prioritize the list. Every organization is different but there will always be about half of the tasks that qualify as not a priority. Now, tell them to stop doing these things. In our case we stopped doing 56 out of the original list of 82. The managers were concerned about the impact, but as the Director, I gave them permission to stop – and we redirected the time to the things that were important. The new focus was on coaching. The managers left the meeting with hours of new time that could now be dedicated to their team. The impact was amazing.

I must admit that several of the items from the cut-list of 56 did make their way back into the workload, but the exercise provided a much-needed refocus on people. You may also find that some of the tasks can be assigned to analyst and administrative support people. The duties are passed to someone else in the organization – freeing frontline managers to do the work we hire them for – spending time with their team – coaching people to improve the customer experience.

Ask your frontline managers, “What is on YOUR list?”

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