Time Power: Saving Time When Dealing with Others

03/03/2023by dang tin0

Saving Time When Dealing with Others

‘Nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature. What compulsions drive a man, and what instincts dominate his action? If you know these things about a person, you can touch him at the core of his being.’’ WILLIAM BERNBACH

Your interactions with others consume as much time, if not more, than any other part of your day. Even technical workers spend up to 75 percent of their time communicating with coworkers. You can greatly increase the efficiency of your interactions by improving the quality of your communications.
Some of the biggest time-wasters in life are people. These people’s problems can be broken down into a few critical categories.

Common Misunderstandings

A major waste of time is caused by misunderstandings between people about roles, goals, and responsibilities. People do not know what they are expected to do, how to do it, and by what time. Misunderstandings lead to inefficiencies, anger, frustration, and unhappiness. It often requires an enormous amount of time to clear up a misunderstanding and get matters back to normal.

Most of your problems in life talk back. They come with hair on top. Perhaps 85 percent of your happiness, or unhappiness, in life involves other people in some way. Miscommunications with other people are a major source of time wastage.

Unclear Priorities

Misunderstandings about priorities often lead to your working at the wrong job, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason, and perhaps aiming at the wrong level of quality. Or the problem may be that you are working for the wrong person. Some of the most stressful times of your life are caused by misunderstandings at work, especially miscommunications with your boss.

The single most important cause of positive feelings and high levels of motivation in work is defined as ‘‘knowing exactly what is expected.’’ On the other hand, the number-one complaint, or demotivator, of employees is ‘‘not knowing what’s expected.’’

To perform at your best, you need absolute clarity about your job and what you are expected to do. You need clarity about the results required and standards of performance. You need clarity about schedules and deadlines. You need clarity about the rewards for doing a good job and the consequences of failing to do good work. Clarity is everything.

Poor Delegation

Poor delegation to others, or from others, leads to mistakes and frustration on the part of both the boss and the employee. It is a major time waster.

One of the rules for success in life and work is to ‘‘assume the best intentions of everyone.’’ You can generally assume that each person does the very best he can at the job he thinks he is supposed to do. But poor delegation causes even the most sincere and talented people to do poor work or the wrong jobs. Therefore, they end up feeling frustrated and unhappy.

Unclear Lines of Authority

Unclear lines of authority and responsibility lead to time wastage. People do not know who is supposed to do what job, when is it to be done, and to what standard of quality. People are left to wonder, Who is supposed to report to whom? Who’s in charge? Who’s the boss?

A Management Game

In my management seminars, I often invite the managers to play a game with me. The game is called ‘‘Keep Your Job.’’ The rules are quite simple.

First, the managers must write down the names of the people who report to them. Next to those names they must,t write the most important job that each of those people is expected to accomplish, in what order of priority, and why they are on the payroll. The next step, I tell the managers, involves interviewing each of their staff members. Each staff member will be asked to answer the question, ‘‘What exactly have you been hired to do, and in what order of priority?’’ If the answers given by each staff member are identical to the answers given by the managers, then the managers will be allowed to ‘‘keep their jobs.’’

I then ask, ‘‘Does anyone here want to play Keep Your Job?’’ No one ever wants to play. In years of conducting this exercise, I have never found a manager who is willing to stake his job on the sure knowledge that all of his employees are clear about what they are on the payroll to accomplish.

The Manager Is Responsible

The fact is that each manager is responsible for making sure that each employee knows exactly what he is supposed to be doing. One of the fastest ways to increase efficiency, clear up misunderstandings, and improve communications is to take the time to sit with each person on your staff and discuss exactly what they are supposed to do, in what order, and to what standard of excellence.

Incomplete Information

Another major time waster in business is poor or incomplete information, which leads to erroneous assumptions and conclusions. It is amazing how often people jump to conclusions or make false assumptions based on wrong information. The very best managers take the time to ask questions, and they listen carefully to the answers before they make a decision. If there is a key piece of information that suggests a problem or difficulty, they double-check this piece of information to make sure that it is accurate.

Always ask, ‘‘What proof do you have for this statement or fact?’’ Never assume that something important is true without taking the time to corroborate it.

Aimless or Too Frequent Meetings

Too many meetings, or aimless meetings that proceed without an agenda, direction, or closure, are an enormous waste of time at work. These are meetings that start and stop without any particular resolution. No problems are solved, no decisions are made, and no responsibilities are assigned. No deadlines are agreed upon for action.
Since 25 percent to 50 percent of working time is spent on meetings of all kinds, you can dramatically increase your effectiveness and productivity by taking the time to improve the quality of your meetings, preparing agendas in advance, and bringing each question to closure.

Lack of Clarity Concerning One’s Job

Lack of information or unclear communications on important matters affecting a person’s work causes a lot of wasted time. In one survey on employee motivation, the best companies were defined as places where each person felt that he was an insider and ‘‘in the know’’ about what was going on in the company. The worst places to work were described as those where no one was sure about what was going on. In this type of situation, people were unclear about their responsibilities, unsure about their jobs, and cautious about taking any risks. When people don’t know what is going on, it leads to demotivation, poor per- performance, and ‘‘playing it safe.’’

People need to know everything that is happening in the company that affects their particular jobs. The very best companies are open and honest with all employees concerning those matters affecting the health of the company. Employees know what is going on and how their jobs fit into the big picture. When employees are unclear or unsure, an enormous amount of time is lost as the result of conversations, discussions, and gossip, which leads to ineffective work behaviors and poor productivity.

Take Time to Communicate Clearly

In one study, 84 percent of successful executives said that their ability to communicate effectively with others was the key reason for their success. Almost all successful men and women today in the world of work, business, politics, and other fields are in their positions because of their ability to communicate well with other people. Effective communication is a vital time management skill.

Here is a rule: Never assume that the other person under- stands what you have discussed until she has fed it back to you in her own words. Never assume that you understand something until you have repeated it back, or you have explained it in your own words and had the other person agree.

It is a truism that we only understand something to the degree to which we can explain it to another person. The very act of articulating an assignment or decision in words clarifies for both the speaker and the person listening.
In interacting with others, seek first to understand, then to be understood. Most people get this rule backward. They are so busy trying to get other people to understand them that they don’t take the time to understand the other person flfirstListen closely to the other person to be sure that they fully understand what he is both saying and meaning. Only then should you try to get the other person to understand you.

The key to effective communication in working with others is developing absolute clarity about what needs to be done, any, any, and to what standard. Clarity requires time, attention, and patience.

The Law of Comparative Advantage

In 1805, the British economist David Ricardo announced what has become one of the most important principles of economics, the Law of Comparative Advantage. This law initially referred to trade between countries. It demonstrated mathematically that countries should specialize in producing those products that they made better than any other country. Ricardo showed that even if country ‘‘A’’ produced two products at a higher level of quality than country ‘‘B,’’ it was still better for countries y ‘‘A’’ to concentrate exclusively on producing the one product that it made best and to let country ‘‘B’’ exclusively produce the other. The total value created by both countries for their citizens would be greater in proportion to the resources consumed in production than if each country tried to produce both products.

Applying Comparative Advantage to Your Work

In business and commerce, this is extremely importanprinciplele. It is the basis of modern wage differentials. In your work life, the Law of Comparative Advantage says that you should assign, delegate, outsource, or have someone else do any job that can be done at a wage less than you earn, or less than the wage you desire to earn.

In its simplest terms, if your goal is to earn $50,000 per year and you work 2,000 hours per year, your hourly rate is approx- matelyapproximately $25 an hour. This means that you should hire someone else to do any task that can be done at an hourly rate of less than $25, even if you can do the task better than he can. This allows you to spend more time doing more work that pays $25 an hour or more. If you want to earn $100,000 per annum, your hourly rate is $50 per hour for every hour you work. But you cannot earn $50 per hour during the workday if you are getting your car washed, picking up your groceries, or dropping off your dry cleaning. You cannot earn $25 or $50 per hour if you are chitchatting with your coworkers, making coffee, reading the paper, or susurfinghe Internet. This kind of work or activity does not pay you that kind of hourly rate. The basic rule is this: If you want to earn $100,000 a year, you have to do $ 50 per hour work for eight hours every single working day.

The Key Personal Productivity Principle

This is a key personal productivity principle. If you do not focus single-mindedly on working at or above your desired hourly rate, you will not earn this amount of money in the long run.

This rule applies to hiring whether it is someone to do bookkeeping, typing, shopping, housecleaning, or any other task. The key is effective delegation, where you outsource or delegate those things that pay a lower hourly rate than you earn. This is the only way that you will have enough time to concentrate on doing the kind of work that will pay you the kind of money that you truly desire.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are laid off from different jobs in different industries. In almost every case, it is because their hourly contribution to their companies has dropped below the amount of money they are receiving in wages or salary. This situation may have been caused by external circumstances, by changes in the market that render the products and services they produce less desirable.

You Can Only Be Paid What You Contribute

In too many cases, the value of workers has dropped because they have not continually upgraded their skills. On the other hand, they are wasting too much time. They are engaging in activities performing tasks of low or no value—tasks that no one can pay them $25 or $50 an hour to do. As a result, workers are laid off they must make the rounds for several months before fifindingew jobs that pay even lower amounts than they earned before.
The focus on your hourly rate, and continually increasing the value of your work on an hourly basis, is the key to your future. Basketball coach Pat Riley said, ‘‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.’’ If you are not continually learning and upgrading your skills, you are aiding backward, and your time is becoming less and less valuable to your employer. Don’t let this happen to you.

Delegation Is the Key to Leverage

To achieve everything you are capable of achieving, and to be able to concentrate on those few tasks that can make the greatest contribution to your life and work, you must become excellent at delegation. Whether you are a boss or an employee, you must continually seek ways to outsource, delegate, and get other people to do the things that pay a lower hourly rate than you desire to earn. There are several ways to become more effective at delegating, outsourcing, or hiring other people to do parts of your work so that you can concentrate on the parts of your job that pay the most.

Who Else Could Do This Job?

Ask the question, ‘‘Who can do this job instead of you?’’ Remember, you have to delegate everything possible in ordetonough time to do those few things that are most important.

Who Can Do the Job Better Than You?
One of the characteristics of effective managers and successful leaders is that they havecandfindple who are superior to them in specific. You should continually look for people who can do certain parts of your work better than you.

Can the Job Be Done at a Lower Cost?

Evaluate the job and ask, ‘‘Who can do this job at a lower cost than me?’’ Many companies and individuals are finding that they can outsource major parts of their operations to companies that specialize in that area. Companies that specialize in a particular function can usually do the job cheaper and faster than a company that does that work as part of its other activities.

Can the Job Be Eliminated?

Ask yourself and others, ‘‘Can this activity be eliminated?’’ What would happen if the job were not done at all? Many routine tasks and activities in a company or business could be quite easily eliminated with no loss of productivity and great increases in effectiveness. Once upon a time, in a Fortune 500 company, a new vice president of finance over the accounting and bookkeeping for the national organization. One of his departments consisted of twelve highly paid accountants and analysts who spent their time assembling the monthly reports from all the operating divisions into a single binder, which was then distributed to all the division heads. This department and its activities were costing the company almost $1 million a year in finance

The new vice president was curious. He went down the hall to one of the division heads and asked him if he had been receiving the monthly reports from his accounting department. The division head assured him that he had been getting the reports each month. The vice president asked, ‘‘What do you do with them?’’

The division head said, ‘‘Come here and I’ll show you.’’ He took the vice president down the hall and into a storage room where the monthly reports, each of them about three inches thick, were neatly stacked on a set of bookshelves. ‘‘We never have time to read them, but we keep them here just in case.”

The VP of finance went back to his office called in the specialists who produced the report and told them to discontinue their activities. They would be reassigned to other jobs where the company needed their expertise more than this department. They argued vigorously against this decision. They insisted that the company depended on their monthly reports. But the new vice president was adamant. He discontinued the reports and didn’t tell anyone.
Nothing happened. Nine months later, the vice president was at an executive meeting and one of the division heads asked him in passing, ‘‘Whatever happened to those big reports we used to get from your department each month?’’ The vice president of finance said, ‘‘We stopped sending them out.’’ The division head said, ‘‘Well, we never read them anyway.’’ That was the only comment he ever received from anyone in the company on the discontinued reports.
It is amazing how many activities go on in business, and in private life, that could be quite easily discontinued completely, with no loss or inconvenience to anyone. Rooting out these opportunities for increased efficiency dramatically improves the productivity and profitability of an organization or department.

Six Steps to Effective Delegation

To delegate effectively in your work with others, there are six steps that you can take. If you neglect any one of these steps, you run the risk of miscommunication, misunderstandings, demoralization, and poor performance.

1. Match the person to the job. One of the great time wasters in the world of work is delegating a task to the wrong person. Often the task is delegated to a person who is not capable of doing it properly or getting it done on schedule.
The best predictor of future performance is past performance. The rule is that you never delegate an important task to a person who has not performed that task satisfactorily in the past. It is unfair to expect a person who has not done a job before to perform at a sufficient level of quality when he is given the job first.

2. Agree on what is to be done. Once you have selected the right person for the job, take the time to discuss the job with that person and agree upon what must be done. The more time you take to discuss and agree upon the insult or objective—the more effort you make to achieve absolute clarity—the faster the job will be done once the person starts on it.

3. Explain how the job should be done. Explain to the per- son your preferred approach or method of working. Explain how you would like to see the job done, and how you or someone else has done it successfully in the past.

4. Have your employee feedback you what you have said. Ask the person to feed your instructions back to you in her own words. Have her explain to you what you have just explained and agreed upon. This is the only way that you can be sure that the other person understands the job or assignment that has been delegated to accomplish.

5. Set a deadline. Set a deadline and a schedule for completing the task. At the same time, arrange for regular reporting and periodic inspection. Invite feedback and questions if there are any delays or problems.

6. Manage by exception. Managing by exception is a powerful time management tool that you can use to work more efficiently with other people. If the job is on track and scheduled, managing by exception means that the person does not have to report back to you. If you don’t hear from him, you can assume that everything is going well. The individual only has to report back to you when an exception occurs and there is a problem with getting the job done on time, to the agreed-upon level of quality.

Seven Ways to Get More Done Each Day

There are seven methods you can use to get more done each day. Each suggestion is simple, direct, and costs no money.

1. Work harder. Work harder than you are working today. You can concentrate with greater intensity on your work. You can focus single-mindedly and discipline yourself to work without- interruption, diversion, or distraction. You can work harder than anyone else, which is the secret to great success.
2. Work faster. You can work faster than you do today. You can pick up the pace. You can develop a faster tempo. You can move more quickly from place to place and from job to job. When you combine working harder and working faster, you can get more done in a single day than most people get done in a week.

3. Batch your tasks. You can batch your tasks. You can do a series of similar jobs together, taking advantage of the learning curve.

4. Do more important things. You can do more important things. You can work on higher-value tasks. You can work on tasks that have a higher potential payoff rather than those activities that have a lower payoff.

5. Do things you’re better at. Do things at which you excel. The better you are in a key skill area, the more that you can get done, and at a higher level of quality. Because you are better at these tasks, they will be easier for you, so you will get them done with less effort, and you will have more energy as a result.

6. Make fewer mistakes. To get more done, you can make fewer mistakes. You can take the time to do it right the first time. You’ve heard it said, ‘‘There is never enough time to do it right, but there is always enough time to do it over.’’ One of the best time management techniques is to do it right the first time, even if it takes a little more effort and concentration.

7. Simplify the work. You can simplify the work by reducing the number of steps necessary to complete the task. This makes the job simpler and easier to get done.

Paying Attention

Life is the study of attention. You always pay attention to that which you most value. If you value another person, you listen to him intensely when he is speaking. If you value the result of a job, you pay close attention to the details that determine whether or not that job is completed successfully. Effective managers value the results of their departments and employees and pay close attention to everything that is going on around them.

Ensuring Success at Work

The very best times you will ever have at any job or company are when you are getting along wonderfully well with your boss. On the other hand, the very worst times you will ever have at any job are when you are not getting along well with your boss. And the major reason why employees have problems with their bosses is because of a lack of clarity about what exactly is to be done, to what standard, and in what order of priority.

Here is an excellent exercise for you. Make a list of all of the answers to the question, ‘‘Why am I on the payroll?’’ Write down everything that you believe you have been hired to accomplish in your work. Focus on results, rather than activities. Imagine that your work consists of a series of deliverables. Define your job in terms of the deliverables for which your company pays you a wage or salary.

Now, take this list to your boss and ask your boss to organize this list by priority, based on what is most important to her. This may take a few minutes. Be patient. As you discuss this list with your boss, ask questions so that you are clear about what she wants or needs.

Focus on Your Boss’s Top Priorities

From that day forward, focus and concentrate on doing those jobs that your boss considers to be the most important before you do anything else. Whenever your boss asks you to do something else, take out your list and ask her what order of priority the new task has, relative to the tasks currently on your job list.

If you are working at your full capacity, you will have to stop doing something old to do something new. Many bosses do not realize that your plate is full already. When your boss asks you to do something new, you should ask him what he would like you to stop doing so that you can work on the new task that he has just given you. This is a wonderful way to minimize misunderstandings and improve communication.

It is only when you are working on those tasks that are most important to your boss that you can have any chance of satisfying or pleasing him, being paid more, or being promoted more often. If you make the mistake of doing things on your list in an excellent fashion, but you work on tasks that are not important to your boss, you will sabotage your career. The more time you spend doing an excellent job on unimportant tasks, the further behind you will fall.

Three Types of Decisions

There are three types of decisions in any organization or family. When decisions involve other people, everyone must be clear about what kind of decision is under consideration.

1. Command Decisions. These decisions have to be made by the boss or the person in charge. These decisions are so im- important that one person is solely responsible for making up his mind about what is to be done.

Hiring a key staff member, finding a poor performer, making an important investment decision, finalizing a sale or transaction, or even negotiating a new loan with the bank are all command decisions. They must be made by the person in charge.

2. Consultative Decisions. This is a decision where you, or the boss, ask for advice and take input from other people. You combine the opinions, ideas, and inputs of others, together with your own, and make a decision. Even though it invites the advice and participation of others, a consultative decision is not made based on that advice.

You may be thinking of hiring a new person, assigning someone to a particular task, spending a certain amount of money on a business activity, or embarking on a new sales or marketing campaign. If you are the boss, you can ask for advice from every- one before you finally close the door and make your final decision.

When General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of Allied forces in Britain, he took the advice and input of hundreds of military experts, planners, and specialists in his preparation for the D-Day invasion. This process took several months. But in the end, with a single day of calm weather pre-dictated for the English Channel, General Eisenhower alone made the fateful decision that launched the invasion of June 6, 1944, and brought World War II to an end ten months later.

3. Consensus Decisions. The third type of decision is made based on consensus. This is a democratic decision where everyone gets involved, discusses the pros and cons, and then agrees on what is to be done. Sometimes, everyone agrees, and sometimes the decision is made by a democratic vote, where the majority rules. Once the decision has been made, everyone commits to making the decision successful, however, they may have voted during the discussion phase.

Clarify the Type of Decision

One of the problems in communications and working with others is confusion over which kind of a decision is being made at that moment. Sometimes the boss asks for input and ideas. The staff members automatically conclude that this is a consensus decision, while the boss may be viewing it as a consultative decision. When the boss makes a decision that is contrary to the expressed wishes or opinions of others, it can lead to hard feelings and misunderstandings. Time will be wasted going back and explaining to people that their input was invited and welcome, but not necessarily followed in the final decision.

When a boss makes it clear that this is a democratic or consensus decision, he is saying that the staff can decide what is to be done in this case and that whatever the group decides, everyone will go along with it. When everyone is clear about the kind of decision under consideration, everything proceeds more smoothly, with less friction and time wastage.

Focus on the Solution

Often in my seminars I will say, ‘‘I know the job description of every single person in this audience.’’ This immediately gets everyone’s attention. People then smile and wait to hear what I am about to say. ‘‘You can take your business card and cross out whatever title is below your name,’’ I say, ‘‘and replace it with the words problem solver. Everyone here is a problem solver. This is what you do all day long.’’

One of the characteristics of top people is that they are intensely solution-oriented. They do not continually think and talk about the problem, who is to blame, how much has been lost, and why it happened. Instead, they focus on the solution and what can be done to address the problem.

Your job, in whatever position, is to solve problems. Your income, your rate of promotion, the respect and esteem of your peers, and all of your success in life will be determined by how effectively you solve the problems and difficulties that you have to face every hour of every day in the achievement of your goals. Leadership is the ability to solve problems. Success is the ability to solve problems. Personal effectiveness is the ability to solve the inevitable problems of daily life. The only question is, ‘‘How good are you at solving problems?’’

Here is a wonderful discovery. The more you think and talk about possible solutions, the smarter you get. The more you think and talk about what can be done to solve the problem, the more ideas you will have. You will become more creative. Your mind will function faster. The more solutions that you come up with, the more solutions there are that will occur to you. Eventually, you will become like the Pac-Man of the video game, gobbling up problems as fast as you encounter them. One of the biggest time savers in life and work is your ability to solve the right problem in the right way. You can deal effectively and efficiently with problems, overcome them, and to keep moving forward toward the result or goal that you desire.

On the other hand, one of the biggest time wasters in life and work is the inability to solve problems. The inability to solve a single key problem can lead to underachievement, frustration, failure, and even the bankruptcy of an organization. Thinking and talking in terms of problem-solving and solutions is one of the most important mindsets that you can develop.

Seven Steps to Effective Problem Solving

There are seven steps to effective problem-solving. If you follow them for the rest of your career you’ll be able to cut through any difficulty or obstacle.

Define the Problem Clearly

Start by asking, ‘‘What exactly is the problem?’’ Deflne the problem clearly, and whenever possible, in writing. Remember, accurate diagnosis is half the cure. Sometimes, writing a problem down on a flipchart or whiteboard and having everybody agree to the definition of the problem will lead rapidly to a solution.

Very often, forcing yourself to define the problem clearly in writing on a piece of paper will trigger a logical solution. Fully 50 percent of problems can be solved in the deflnition phase.

What Else Is the Problem?

Once you have a clear definition of the problem, you should ask, ‘‘What else is the problem?’’ Never be satisfled with a problem that has only one definition. Keep probing. See if you cannot develop multiple deflnitions to a single problem.
Sometimes a large problem is actually a ‘‘cluster problem,’’ where the larger problem is actually made up of several smaller problems. By deflning the problem clearly, you break it down into its constituent parts so that you can solve each of the smaller parts at once.

The rule is that, in every complex problem, there is usually a single problem that must be solved before any other problems can be solved. This single, large problem that must be solved is often not clear or obvious. It requires a little digging on your part to flnd it.

It is human nature to jump to conclusions. We see a problem and we leap to a solution. We leap quickly from the problem to the solution, without considering that we might be jumping from the pan into the flre. In deflning the problem, or problems, it is important that you go slowly at the beginning to make sure that you are not working on the wrong problem. Solving the wrong problem in the right way will often create a worse situation than the one you started with.

Identify All the Possible Causes

Before seeking a solution, ask, ‘‘How did this problem occur?’’ What are all the possible causes of the problem? What are the reasons for the problem? It is not enough to simply come up with a solution. It is important that you deal with the underlying causes that created the problem in the flrst place. When I started my company some years ago, no matter how busy we were in the market, we always seemed to have cash flow problems. Every couple of months, the bank account would be empty and we would have to scramble around to flnd the funds to make payroll and cover other bills.

We flnally realized that we were lacking a cash management system. I learned later that this is one of the most important tools for business (or personal) survival and success. It is a long-term monthly projection of your cash needs, based on your very best estimates of your income and expenses.

Once we had taken the time to project forward a year, based on the seasonal fluctuations in our revenues, we were able to predict with some accuracy how much was coming in, how much was going out, and what times of the year we would have cash shortfalls. Once that cash plan was in place, we organized lines of credit and flnancial reserves to make sure that the cash crisis did not occur again.

Very often, identifying the cause of a problem immediately suggests an obvious solution that enables you to solve the problem and stop it from occurring again.

Identify All the Possible Solutions

Before leaping to a conclusion, ask, ‘‘What are all the possible solutions?’’ What are all the different things that you can do to solve the particular problem? This is a very important step in the process. Rather than assuming that there is only one answer, write down as many different solutions to the problem that you can think of. The more solutions, the better. Beware of a problem for which there is only one solution.

In many cases, the obvious solution is not the best solution. In some cases, the correct solution is to do the opposite of your initial inclination. Sometimes, it is to do something radically different. Occasionally, the solution is to do nothing at all.

In developing different solutions to a problem, you should clearly deflne your boundary conditions. These are the con- straints within which you have to work and the results that this solution must achieve. Often, you can develop better solutions by defining the minimum and maximum conditions for the solution before you begin.

What does this solution have to accomplish? If the solution were perfect, what result would it achieve? How would we know that this was a good solution? Start with the end in mind. Be clear about what you want to accomplish with the decision before you decide on the solution.

Make a Decision

Once you have all the information, make a decision. Select the solution that looks and feels to be the very best of the solutions available. But before you go on, ask, ‘‘Why is this the best solution? Why is this solution superior to the others?’’ The more time you take to think about and study both the problem and the solution, the better and more accurate your answer will be.

A few minutes spent in careful analysis in problems and solutions can save you an enormous amount of time when it comes to implementation.

Establish a Fallback Solution

Be sure to ask, ‘‘What is our alternative solution?’’ In other words, once you have decided on the best solution, be open to the possibility that it will not work out at all. If that were the case, what would be your Plan B? What would be your fallback position? What would be your alternative solution if your flrst solution failed?

The process of thinking through an alternative solution is a powerful mental exercise. It forces you to expand your view of the problem and all the possibilities. Very often, by thinking through and developing a fallback position, you actually improve the original solution. Sometimes, you change it altogether. Remember, you are only as free as your well-developed options. The more alternatives you have developed before you take action, the more effective you will be when you flnally move forward. Keep asking, ‘‘What will I do if this doesn’t work? What would be my alternative if I turned out to be wrong? How would I respond if this course of action failed altogether?’’

Determine the Worst Possible Outcome

Before you implement the solution, ask, ‘‘What is the worst possible outcome of this course of action?’’ What is the worst possible thing that can happen if you go ahead with this solution? Very often, the second alternative you developed turns out to be better than the flrst choice, because the worst possible consequences of the second solution are not as severe as the worst possible consequences of the flrst solution.

In every decision making process, there is a certain element of risk. There is always uncertainty as to the outcome. There are risks that you can afford to take and there are risks that you can not afford to take.

For example, a large-scale advertising campaign can be quite expensive. Many companies have made the mistake of betting the bank and throwing all their money into advertising at the Super Bowl. Their thinking is that even if only a small percentage of total viewers tuning into the Super Bowl were to buy their product, they will make back all the money spent in advertising. However, they fail to consider the worst possible outcome: that no one would respond to the advertising at all. And this has happened several times. As a result, a number of companies have gone bankrupt. There are some risks that you cannot afford to take.

Assign Specific Responsibility

Once the decision has been made, either assign or accept responsibility for carrying out the decision. Set a schedule and a deadline. Make it clear to everyone exactly what is to be done, by whom, and to what schedule. Many companies make the mistake of solving the problem, coming up with an excellent solution, assigning responsibility, and then leaving the table. Two weeks or four weeks later they reconvene and nothing has happened. Why? No deadline was set. The individual who was assigned responsibility has gotten sidetracked and busy with other projects. No action has been taken. Sometimes, this inaction can be disastrous. Once you have made a decision, assign responsibility, set a deadline, and then follow through. This is the essential part of problem solving.

Focus on Contribution

One of the key time management techniques in working with others is called a focus on contribution. The focus on contribution in an organization is essential to good communications and excellent teamwork. Good human relations occur in companies when they are task-focused and aimed at achieving speciflc goals or solving speciflc problems.
If relationships in the world of work are not task-focused, they have a tendency to become people-focused. Instead of being objective and measurable, they become subjective and personal. As a result, people talk to and about others most of the time. This leads to enormous losses of time and reductions in efflciency.

Practice Participative Management

Participative management is a great time saver in working with people. It is one of the best tools that a manager can develop. Participative management requires that you bring your team together at least once each week for a general staff meeting. At this meeting, staff members talk about what they are doing, the progress they are making, and any problems they are having. People ask questions of each other, and decisions are made and solutions are agreed to.
The interesting discovery of participative management is that when someone makes a commitment to do something by a certain deadline in front of his peers, he will be internally motivated to complete that task.

Not only that, when you bring people together on a regular basis, you can solve problems, make decisions, and clear up misunderstandings faster than almost any other way. Participative management is an incredible tool that you can use as a manager or supervisor for your entire career.

Avoid Reverse Delegation

One of the most important time savers in the world of work has to do with what is called reverse delegation. This is where your staff member, to whom you have delegated the task, delegates the task back to you. Work is now moving up the chain of command, rather than down the chain of command. Work is coming up from the subordinate to the boss, rather than from the boss to the subordinate.

You must consciously resist reverse delegation and be aware that employees are always trying to delegate the job back to you. They use a series of techniques to which you can become a victim if you are not careful.

One of the ways that an employee delegates a task back to you is by bringing you a problem and asking you to solve it. The employee asks, ‘‘Can you take care of this task for me, or get me this information?’’ Since you are the boss and more competent and knowledgeable than he is, you agree to take care of it and get it back to him as quickly as possible. But then something else comes up, and it goes onto your stack and gets buried among your other responsibilities.

The Monkey Is Now on Your Back

Here is the rule: The person who has the responsibility for the next step in the job is the one who is responsible. When your staff members ask you to do something, the outcome of which determines how they do their job, they have delegated the task back to you. The monkey is now on your back. Soon, your staff members will be coming by to supervise you and to ask you how things are going. You will now be working for the people who were working for you. You will be promising and assuring them that you will get their job done and back to them as quickly as possible. The way to resist reverse delegation is to refuse to take the task back, once you have assigned it. When your staff members ask you to do something, you instead ask, ‘‘What do you think we should do?’’ Whatever they suggest, you can comment upon or agree to, but whatever it is, you pass it back to them so they can get on with their job.

Resist Your Natural Tendencies

There’s a natural tendency to want to go from managing back to operating. Since you got to where you are today by doing a good job on your way up the corporate ladder, whenever you flnd yourself under pressure, your natural tendency is to go back to doing what you did so successfully in the past. You must flght this tendency, or you will soon flnd yourself at the bottom of the food chain, being delegated to by the different members of your staff.
The deflnition of a good manager is a person who ‘‘gets things done through others.’’ Your job is to make sure that other people do the job correctly, rather than going back and doing it yourself. Push on to others everything that can possibly be done by them. Once you have delegated and assigned a task, don’t take it back.

Teach and Train Others

Take the time to train and to teach your subordinates (and others) how to do their jobs. The more you train them, the more you build their confldence so that you can delegate even more tasks to them. Teaching other people how to do a job gives you a high return on energy. Once you have taught someone how to do a part of your work, you can always delegate and free yourself up for other work that pays you a higher hourly rate.

Focus on Clarity

The major problem and time waster in communication, and in working with others, is fuzzy understanding. The antidote to fuzzy understanding is clarity. Clarity is one of the greatest time management tools of all. It is only achieved through repetition, discussion, feedback, and agreement. Take the time to learn how to be a good communicator. This will pay off in tremendous timesaving, and it will increase your effectiveness in every area of your life and work.

‘‘Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe.’’ WINSTON CHURCHILL

Action Exercises

1. Practice delegating everything to anyone who can do the job at a lower hourly rate than you desire to earn.

2. Be crystal clear in explaining to others exactly what is to be done, and to what standard of performance, and by what date.

3. Sit down with your staff members and explain to them exactly why they are on the payroll and what their highest- value tasks are.

4. Keep everyone ‘‘in the know.’’ Be sure that your staff is aware of everything that is going on that affects their jobs in any way.

5. Whenever you assign a task, ask the person to feed back to you what you have said; this clears up a lot of misun- derstandings.

6. Practice participative management with your staff; hold weekly staff meetings and invite everyone to participate and ask questions.

7. Remember that your people are your most valuable asset; continually seek ways to communicate with them more clearly.

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