“Sorry, I just haven’t had a chance to get to it yet”

I’ll bet that if you’re a manager you’ve more than once given someone a task or project to do and when you check up on it sometime later you hear, “I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet, but it’s the next thing on my list.” I know it’s happened to me and we should accept that when it does, it’s our fault.

Fournies, in chapter six of “Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do,” states one reason as being, “They think something else is more important.”  Why do you think that is?  Why would your employee decide that some other tasks are more important than the one that you assigned?

There are a number of reasons, and they pretty much all begin with you.  Let’s start with good managerial technique.  How often do you state a deliverable time when you assign a task?  If you have employees who always complete their work in a timely manner you usually don’t have to worry about it, but if you have team members who are poor at prioritizing, then it’s useful to tell people when you want it completed. 

Good technique is to facilitate this conversation:  “This is a relatively high priority, but I want to be sensitive to your workload and other tasks. When do you think you can have it back to me?”  And then lead the employee through a discussion to help him prioritize and manage his time.

As a consultant, always working from outside an organization, I’ve often witnessed “the next new thing” syndrome.  You’ve seen it too.  Executives will declare that some project “is of top priority” in the company and that this year it will be our total focus.  Then a few months later the “next new thing” appears and everyone is told to devote all their energy to that.  It’s no wonder some people aren’t sure what they should be working on.

This brings up a rant I have about a word with a bad connotation:  “micro-manager.”  It’s a word that has gotten a bad rap because it conjures up an image of the manager constantly looking over his employees’ shoulders to make sure they are on task and not making mistakes.  But if you look at it another way, you could say that the micro-manager may simply be one who is constantly guiding, observing, coaching and praising his team to ensure that people do the right things at the right time and do them well, which is admirable management behavior.

So for you as a manager, do you often let people work on their own? Or are you a benevolent micro-manager who explains company priorities, allocates work based on strategic priorities, tracks progress and rewards effort?  If the latter, then you are quite unlikely to have someone say to you, “I didn’t know you were in such a big hurry for it.”

Try being a bit more of a micro-manager for the purpose of treating employees with kindness and respect for their efforts.

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to “Sorry, I just haven’t had a chance to get to it yet”

  1. Pamela Flores says:

    An interesting and thought-provoking perspective. I like it!

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