I was recently enjoying some leisure time working on a pine table in my workshop. It was one of those rare occasions when deadlines, plans and preconceived schedules were not an issue – just the table and I working together at our own pace. I remember how rewarding and refreshing the experience was – being free to concentrate on nothing but making the best table possible.
Unfortunately, in both personal and professional life, there are few opportunities to work at a leisurely pace. Devoting oneself fully to a project without deadlines, timeframes and conflicting priorities is rare. Ironically, it is exactly this lack of constraint that helps ensure a job well done. With my table, as I ran into an unexpected roadblock, I didn’t treat it as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to take measured and careful steps to improve for the best outcome possible. As I stopped to reflect, I wondered why managers were unable to have the same type of experience. In our work lives, we need to create space to be able to focus on our value-added work.
Managers Are Pulled In Multiple Directions
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Too often as managers, we let a busy day set the pace as we spend the majority of our time reacting, as opposed to planning, delegating and proactively creating an environment where our team can thrive. We let ourselves get drawn into work that doesn’t always allow us to use the capabilities we have as managers. As expectations are not always clear it can be easy for our focus to stray to those tasks that are not the most important. We attend meetings, redo a subordinate’s work and put out fires. When we finally get around to doing our own value-added work, the day is almost over. Successfully navigating conflicting priorities, whether they are demands from coworkers, requests from cross-functional departments, or even our own task list is a pressing issue in the workplace.
Creating the Space for Value-Added Work
All too often, it is that important, value-added work that receives the least of our attention. Yet, as managers, this is precisely the work we need to deliver to create the highest quality output. If you choose to spend 8, 10, even 12 hours a day at work, there must be a clear strategy in place for focusing efforts, defeating conflicting priorities and getting the most accomplished. The real challenge is in learning how to create the space needed to be able to focus on value-added work – that work that only we, with our capability, at our level can do.
Creating the appropriate space for value-added work gives managers the clarity to do the best job possible amidst conflicting priorities, while ensuring output is of the highest quality possible.