Balancing interruptions with availability

10 mins

As Maura Thomas summed up in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, “y...

As Maura Thomas summed up in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, “you need to be able to balance interruptions with availability to your team”.

Those words made me pause to reflect and consider how leaders that I worked under handled things and how effective (or ineffective!) I am in juggling both.

Although the author was specifically talking about leaders, these points are relevant to all of us, at whatever stage we may find ourselves. From the CEO down, you’re not going to get far without the help of your team. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We all need to pull our weight for the greater good of the team.  

I’m not saying that this should come at the expense of your own ambitions or goals, but especially if you’re in a management or leadership role, you need to make time for one-to-one meetings with your direct reports and listen to their challenges and issues, which of course can sometimes be non-work related.

Personal development and growth

Where some of us may struggle (myself included) is in the ‘balancing interruptions’ bit. In recruitment, the sector that I work in, we juggle many moving parts. Dealing simultaneously with organisations and candidates to make sure that the hiring cycle is ticking along nicely can be challenging.

To work effectively, we need to maintain a laser focus on our priorities and concentrate on the things that produce the greatest gains. This has been referred to as the ‘80/20 rule AKA the ‘Pareto Principle’: manage your time so that you can work on the 20% of things that will produce 80% of the results.

As a manager, you must allow for some thinking time and not get caught up in every request that lands in your inbox. And as Thomas points out, by not responding, you’re allowing people to work things out for themselves, which will help them develop and mature as professionals. It’s about coaching the person rather than fixing the problem.

So, the next time your manager ignores your message or email, they might just be doing you and themselves a favour...