If you take a moment to analyze why some employees seemed to be more in control of their work than others, one factor clearly stands out - time management.
On one side of the spectrum, you will find the employee who consistently meets deadlines, is organized and appears in control of their destiny. On the other side, you have someone who struggles to meet their commitments, and appears to almost savor their frantic, chaotic approach.
Let's start by examining the two approaches:
|Employee A: Manages Time Well||Employee B: Fails to Manage Time|
|Values their time||Doesn't have a clock in their head|
|Concentrates efforts on the most important priorities||Bounces from one activity to the next without reason|
|Gets more done in less time than others||May appear to be working hard, but without the results|
|Can attend to a broader range of activities||Can only do one thing at a time|
|Will be sociable in 'spurts'||Let's others 'steal' their time in idle chatter|
|Reduces unnecessary distractions||Easily gets knocked off course|
|Has a tendency to be proactive||Mostly reactive to what's hot at the moment|
|Submits work ahead of schedule||Is always struggling to meet deadlines|
I'm reminded of a hard-working manager that once worked for me. She showed up early and stayed late nearly every day. She worked diligently to establish strong professional relationships with peers, key stakeholders, vendors and leaders alike. However, in her efforts to build rapport with others, she fell into a nasty trap.
Throughout the day, co-workers would randomly stop by her office (or call) to discuss work-related topics. Discussions that should have taken 5 minutes quickly morphed into 15-20 minute 'meetings'. In addition, she lost even more time because her one-on-one's and team meetings would frequently go longer than the allotted time.
Over the course of a week, the amount of time she was 'leaking' began to add up. Her ability to get work done began to degrade. It wasn't that she wasn't working hard, she just didn't own her time.
Key Takeaways for Leaders:
When partnering with their business stakeholders to address employee performance issues, HR leaders should assess whether some, or all, of the problem revolves around a lack of time management skills.
Other points to remember:
- Don't assume that someone who is struggling to properly get their work done has too great of a workload.
- Ask leaders to observe underperformers to assess how well they are managing their time.
- When you notice time management 'slippage', address it immediately with the offending employee.
- Time management is a competency that can be developed. However, many people who lack time management skills also lack awareness of the problem.
- In your efforts to address performance issues, teach leaders to differentiate between a hard worker who lacks time management skills, and an unmotivated, lazy underperformer.