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Rachel Matthews Why the management balancing act is L&D's problem


It happens to every manager at some point.

I’m talking about that moment where you realise how you are no longer the person waiting on others for information – you have become the person everybody is waiting on instead.

Nobody warns you that it is going to happen. You often don’t see it coming, and you certainly aren’t prepared for it. It’s a huge shift in dynamic and it can be the start of panic-mode.

It happened to me recently. I knew I had a lot of management activity on my plate, and I knew I had a lot on in my marketing role, but I entirely underestimated how much time I was spending on the management part of my role. Until one moment where I realised 80% of my week had not been tackling my to-do list. And I definitely panicked.

I imagine this happens to even the most experienced managers occasionally. Sometimes circumstances can be out of your control and you can get caught in the snowball effect of management challenges. Before you know it, a week or two has gone by and you’re behind in everything else.

But how does this affect everything else?

You may think that one person being a couple of weeks behind won’t be detrimental, but I disagree. My holding people up meant that they couldn’t achieve their objectives and deadlines started to slip.

No matter how big your organisation is, everyone’s role is important to maintain your well-oiled machine.

Letting people down and not hitting objectives is also hugely demotivating and, I’ll say it, stressful. No manager likes to think they can’t cope with their workload, but it’s not unusual for that to be the first thing to come into your head when you realise how deep you are into it. And it’s dangerous territory.

What’s the real problem here?

Balancing management and workloads

Many may say this is a time management issue. Perhaps this plays a part but workloads and putting real time and effort into your team plays a huge part.

Most managers have additional responsibilities to people management; there may be strategic input, day-to-day tasks, even leadership. It’s a lot of plate-spinning and there’s no perfect balance.

Things change! We can all agree to that. We have quieter weeks, weeks where one thing takes clear precedent over everything else and weeks where we can’t see the wood from the trees. Being able to move the goal posts and keep all those plates spinning during these times can be difficult, and if it’s not dealt with quickly it can be risky.

Why is this L&D’s problem?

Want to hit your objectives? Want your people to remain motivated? Want great team relationships that communicate well and are stress-free?

Managers influence all of these things, and so many more. Helping your managers fine-tune that balancing act can make a significant difference to their results and wellbeing. Avoiding it can do just the opposite.

Hopefully your managers have great managers of their own, who will identify this as a problem and support them through it. But does the onus then pass onto them? At what point does the struggle stop?

Again, that’s where L&D come in.

Enabling your managers to manage themselves

I was lucky. I’d been fortunate enough to go on the Management Development Programme, and had a clear understanding of what steps to take next. Once I’d identified what had happened, I had the knowledge to cope.

But what was the knowledge?

It’s about balancing time as a manager, and identifying which of your responsibilities fall into admin, tasks and processes, people and relationships, and strategy and change. It’s important to figure out where the split currently is and, importantly, where it should be.

Through doing this small task it’s easy to spot potential issues in where your time is spent, and opens the opportunity to problem solve.

It’s about thinking “where am I spending too much time, and where does that time need to be focussed?” When you know this, it’s much easier to consider ways to save time in different areas to get the balance right again.

Here’s the tool I used (a little snippet from the award-winning Management Development Programme), which might be great to circulate to your managers. You never know what they might be struggling with, without even realising yet!

Once they’ve identified where they are currently spending their time, it’s important to use the tool again to establish how they should split their time. Looking at the differences can give them insight into where they need to make changes in their workload.

 How I typically spend my time at the moment


 Level 1 – Admin


 Level 2 – Tasks and Processes


 Level 3 – People and Relationships


 Level 4 – Strategy and Change


My lesson learned is to use this tool regularly, so that I can identify issues like these in the early stages – before the stress arrives!

Find out more about the Management Development Programme here, or start your managers on their learning journey with our free webinar, the Art of Successful Management.

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Rachel Matthews

Rachel Matthews, Social Media and Marketing Manager

In my blogs I will look at industry constraints and issues and problems that employees face in their day-to-day work lives.


Copyright © 2017 Bray Leino Learning

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