I’m privileged to work with organizations and businesses on leadership development. What I do most often is give presentations, facilitate meetings, or conduct classes based on one of my books. And although all are rewarding, they’re not my favorite. The leadership coaching that I enjoy above all else is when I have the opportunity to sit one-on-one with a manager, listen to their challenges, ask about their needs, brainstorm actions, and offer my advice. Today, I’m writing about helping an office staff member by reducing constant interruptions at work.
- I approach these sessions with an open mind, I don’t want to prejudge or preclude. I begin by asking the following:
- Where could you use leadership help and advice?
- What are your biggest challenges in management?
- What are your biggest frustrations as a manager?
- How can I help you?
I’ll be writing about some of these sessions as I complete them. Hopefully, I’ll share a few ideas that can help you and others.
Front Office Staff Member – Constant interruptions
When I sat down with this member of the front office staff their biggest challenge was constant interruptions. This was exacerbated by the fact that her workstation was in an open area, she was the most accessible staff person, and she disliked telling anyone no. This would create problems for most of us.
There were times of the day when she was working on a critical project that being disturbed not only slowed her work but caused her to make mistakes. Being interrupted during a task means you must remember where you left off, and that’s not always easy. I know for me I’ve left out a step in a task after being intruded on and then going back to it.
- I advised her that it was okay to politely tell co-workers she was in the middle of something. It can be as easy as, “Thanks for asking, I need to finish this right now, can you check with me at 3:00?”
- Sometimes an interruption is unavoidable, in that case, it’s important to mark where you are on your task. For me, it works best to make a note to myself about where I stopped.
- I also suggested she communicate with staff about times when she’d appreciate not being disturbed.
- She allowed herself to be interrupted even when the topic wasn’t anything she could help with. I advised her that when she was asked about things outside of her area to politely let teammates know she wasn’t the person to ask. She’d most likely have to repeat this several times, but eventually, this action would eliminate some of the interference.
- Next, I suggested she enlist her staff co-workers to help her. First, by limiting when they interrupted her, and then by running interference for her – help her by reducing the number of people who interposed on her daily routine.
As of now, she is still interrupted. However, by setting expectations, educating others about her responsibilities, and teaching teammates how to treat her, she has reduced the number of times she’s interrupted per day.
How can I help?
I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me.
Does your business have a management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program.