Where Does the Time Go? …3

To empower others, you must take their measurements regularly…

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Post 3: Dennis held Josh and Tonya to their promise the next month at lunch. “You said you’d give me some ideas of how to prioritize the time I spend with individual employees since coaching has become important to my crew.  I don’t want to slow down our progress, but I gotta reduce the time it takes.
But first, Tonya, I have to tell you that asking them about their career ideas was like a magic sauce. Two of them that had shown little interest in anything but breaks and quitting time suddenly wanted to talk about how they could contribute using skills they were working on already. One of them saved me $200 on some finishes he negotiated with our sales rep when I let him give it a try! Who knew? I’m also learning that short, regular conversations that check on their energy and confirm our immediate priorities saves me lots of time, because, when we do need to discuss performance, I’m aware of the more personal aspects that need to be considered as I motivate them.”

Tonya smiled, “I’m so glad. Sounds like everyone is benefiting, and you’ve laid a critical foundation for reducing that time by learning about them and exciting them about what they get from the coaching.”

Josh looked at her, “A few years ago you shared your thoughts with me on isolating the employee’s specific need and then prioritizing your time with them depending on the kind of support they needed. That idea helped me; how about sharing that with Dennis.”

“Sure, as Josh says, I start by identifying the specific skill or task or issue the employee needs help with. Sometimes we have to take a few minutes together and uncover the key issue if things are a little complex. But it usually comes down to something they must accomplish, and I then identify if they’ve done it to my satisfaction in the past or not. From this point, I can usually determine how much time I likely need to prioritize to help them. Some of this I learned years ago from the Blanchard situational leadership concepts; here are the key differences that drive the time usage.

  • If I’ve seen an employee do the skill well in the past, I ask them immediately for their ideas:
    • If they are confident with a direction they want to try, I realize they just needed confirmation, and it takes very little time to do that.
    • But, if they are reluctant to share their plan, I know I’ll need to take more time because there is something standing in the way of their normal performance. The roadblocks differ by individual, and it almost always takes some two-way conversation; giving them this time is critical.
  • If I’ve seen an employee do the task or skill in the past, but I know it is still a little new or this is a new aspect, I know I’ll need to give them time and help them explore their own options and to build a confidence in themselves.
  • And if a person is just learning a new skill, I don’t spend too much time with them on that. I usually just tell them how to do it, or I partner them with someone experienced that can tell them how and ensure they do it correctly.
  • Here are my two greatest challenges with this:
    • First, when people just refuse to improve or apply themselves or the skill is beyond their real ability, I must do as Josh mentioned last month and begin to help them find a more satisfying job. That does take consistency and time to confirm in a way we are both convinced they need to move on.
    • I’m also challenged by the temptation to spend more time than is needed with my best performers. They don’t always need the time, but I enjoy the interaction!

“Yes,” said Josh, “that’s what I found also. If they are developing a brand new skill or are consistently doing a skill well, I can usually spend less time; if they are still perfecting a skill or have lapsed in their previous performance of it, I usually need to spend more time figuring out what’s up.”

Dennis asked a few questions to make sure he understood the concept of focusing on a single skill when coaching. “Thanks. I think this concept can actually help me manage my coaching time now that I’ve established an understanding of what’s important to my crew members. They are used to identifying their work as specific skills, so the language is even perfect. You’ll know by next month… if I make it to lunch on time!”

Reality: Giving communication time to employees is becoming more critical for managers who are responsible for performance and results. This reality requires managers to prioritize and craft their employee interactions with much more awareness than even a few years ago.   The silver lining is that more people seem willing to guide their own career journeys if they are given support and direction.


  • Building a work-relationship foundation on which to build coaching saves time! With each direct report instigate regular, informal check-ins on their specific job perspective, energy level, and process or personnel obstacles.
  • Leaders who consistently seek feedback on things their employees observe them doing earn more of a right to share casual feedback on what they observe their employees doing. This saves time in coaching sessions.
  • Wise managers save time by continually ensuring their teams are aware of how their tasks and results fuel organization priorities and team goals. When employees don’t know why they are doing their job, it takes time to realign their engagement.
  • Expecting to manage your coaching time begins with strengthening your coaching foundations:
    • Listen to your employees so you understand their personal values; motivating from their perspective saves time.
    • Ask about employee career dreams; time used in delegating will be cut in half if they realize they are practicing skills they will need for those dreams.
    • Time and effort is wasted in scores of ways when we don’t make our expectations clear!
    • Personal encouragement takes minutes; rebuilding trust is time-consuming: finding the thing that encourages good performers to feel valued is critical… but we often forget that – until they feel neglected and their performance begins to lag.
    • Adjust your coaching style to conversation when the obvious barriers are obviously not the barriers your employee is facing. Learn how to meet those more subjective development needs.
  • Hours of sleep are lost – along with the time at work – when we don’t hold employees accountable for poor performance. More time is lost when we don’t hold them accountable respectfully, legally and consistently – get help from the resources you have… or partner with a resource that may help you navigate guiding employees to self-identify their need for a new job.

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