“Hey, Boss. Do you have a minute?” How many times a week do you hear that? It can be frustrating to hear those words when you
were finally getting some momentum on your own projects. What can you do to maximize your own time at work by minimizing interruptions by your direct reports? First, you need to understand the hidden meanings behind them.
Hidden Meaning 1: “Should I even start this?”
Employees will interrupt you to get clarification about what you really expect them to do. This occurs when employees are unclear about your expectations or when you have a habit of jumping in to do their work (aka “micromanaging”). To counter this, get clear about how your time is best spent and which tasks and meetings could be delegated to direct reports. Also, clarify your expectations by defining the scope of work you assign them, along with deadlines and check-in points.
Hidden Meaning 2: “I’m not touching this with a 10-ft. pole.”
When things “blow up”, employees will interrupt you to solve the problem they see as “above their pay grades”. Often, you can avoid these types of “fires”. Minimize this type of interruption by exploring “why” things went sideways to begin with by using The 5 Whys technique. Once you know the root cause of the “fire”, you can put things in place to avoid these types of events and the interruptions that result.
Hidden Meaning 3: “This isn’t working the way it should.”
When processes aren’t working consistently to produce the expected results, you’re likely to get an unannounced knock at your door with a question about how to do something. Decrease interruptions due to process questions by spending time up front to (1) clarify ownership of processes, (2) automate what you can, and (3) fix the root causes of backlogs, poor hand-offs, and errors.
Hidden Meaning 4: “When are you gonna be around to discuss this?”
Your employees will interrupt you haphazardly if they are uncertain of your availability for questions and consultations. It pays to create predictable and consistent opportunities for them to give and receive information they need to do their jobs. To do this, ensure you have scheduled, timely meetings with direct reports – in groups or individually — for reporting back, checking up, and checking in. This allows you to stay abreast of what’s going on and encourages employees to save their updates for your next scheduled meeting.
Daily huddles and meetings on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis can cover the strategic and tactical information that needs to be shared. Additionally, you can schedule a couple hours throughout the week where your door is open for employees to talk with you for up to 15 minutes about the inevitable “things that come up”.
Instead of getting annoyed at interruptions, take the time to assess the reasons for the interruptions. Then, create the clarifications, processes, and meetings that give your direct reports the access to you that is warranted and productive.
WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.