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26 Mar

Colleagues, colleagues, colleagues


Datum: 2010-03-26 09:33

Do you all too often expe­ri­ence that you are both­ered or dis­turbed by your col­leagues? Do you feel that you can’t go through the hall­way with­out get­ting called in to someone’s office when you have the least time for it? Do you repeat­ed­ly get inter­rupt­ed just when you are at a crit­i­cal stage in the task you real­ly need to focus on?

Sure, occa­sion­al­ly you want to tell them off for inter­fer­ing, but at the same time you are after all work­ing togeth­er to bring the busi­ness forward.

And it is hard­ly that your col­leagues address you with the explic­it inten­tion to ruin your focus, but they most prob­a­bly feel that they need you, your knowl­edge or your skills. They might even be your sub­or­di­nate staff, and as a man­ag­er, you need to be acces­si­ble and help­ful to your staff at all times.

So, you need to take them seri­ous­ly. But at the same time, you’ve got a tight sched­ule, your time is short and there are a lot of fires to quench. You will be in a con­flict of inter­est. What to do?

When we are faced with com­plex sit­u­a­tions, it usu­al­ly helps to bring struc­ture to the whole sit­u­a­tion, and thus get an overview, after which you can make deci­sions more easily.

Let’s say that there are three rea­sons why a col­league insists on get­ting your atten­tion: because she wants you to do some­thing, because he wants to dis­cuss some­thing with you (or ask some­thing), or sim­ply talk to you about some­thing that has hap­pened. If you have time left to do what is being request­ed, dis­cuss or lis­ten, then you obvi­ous­ly will, so what we’re going to focus on now are the sit­u­a­tions when you don’t have the time to spare, the times when you’re busy doing oth­er things.

The col­league wants you to do something

First, ask your­self if it real­ly has to be you who should car­ry out this spe­cif­ic task. Can you teach your col­league how to do what­ev­er thing he needs you help with? Can you spread your knowl­edge by giv­ing her a gen­er­al descrip­tion of the steps you go through when doing the task?

Sure, you might not have time to con­jure a tuto­r­i­al or descrip­tion right now, but you can do it for next time it’s need­ed. It is prob­a­bly nei­ther the first nor the last time the col­league asks you for help with this spe­cif­ic task. Or maybe you can give your col­league the pow­er or author­i­ty to car­ry out the tasks he needs to help you with?

Well, per­haps it real­ly is you who should do the task at hand.

First, ask your­self if it needs to be done right away. Is it urgent? If so, then you’ll do it right away. If you have oth­er things that have got a high­er pri­or­i­ty, then the task is not urgent.

If it is not urgent, ask your­self if it’s pos­si­ble to per­form the task very quick­ly, in less than two min­utes? If so, and if you have two min­utes to spare, do it right a way, then it’ll be out of your mind and you can con­tin­ue to car­ry out the things you need to do today.

If you real­ly don’t have the time to do the task right away, it’s a typ­i­cal bul­let-point for your to-do list. You will answer your col­league that I will def­i­nite­ly fix this, but right now I need to focus on a cou­ple of oth­er things. I take note of this and will get back to you. When do you need it?” Write it down as a task on your to-do list and view it as a to-do task like any other.

If you’re on the move and don’t have your to-do list avail­able, write the task on your portable list or col­lect­ing point for new tasks, such as a note pad you always car­ry in you inside pock­et. As soon as you have your to-do list avail­able, trans­fer the data from the note to the to-do list.

The col­league wants to dis­cuss some­thing with you

Once again, con­sid­er if the issue is urgent or not, mean­ing if it strong­ly effects the busi­ness’ path towards achiev­ing the vision. If that’s the case, deal with the dis­cus­sion imme­di­ate­ly. Urgent things nat­u­ral­ly have the high­est pri­or­i­ty amongst the things you have to do. If some­thing else is more impor­tant, then that sim­ply is more imper­a­tive (and should be dealt with first).

Is it about a non-emer­gency, but still just a brief dis­cus­sion? Talk the issue through right away, then both of you can take it from there. If the dis­cus­sion demands more time (which you do not have now), ask your col­league if it’s pos­si­ble for him to write down the issue in an email instead. When you receive the email, you han­dle it like any oth­er e‑mail (you can add it as a to-do task to com­plete (or respond to) before your col­league at the very lat­est needs a reply). 

If your col­league real­ly wants to dis­cuss this one-on-one, decide that you are going to make an appoint­ment for it (because as you recall, you’ve got no spare time to do it right now). If it takes less than two min­utes to arrange a meet­ing, do it right away. If it’s more com­pli­cat­ed, ask your col­league to sched­ule an appoint­ment with you when you’ve got free space in your agen­da. Since you share your agen­das, your col­league will be able to see when you’re free and when you’re not.

The col­league just wants to talk about some­thing that’s happened

When your col­leagues come to you and want to talk things off their minds”, see it as a com­pli­ment and feel hap­py they do. They prob­a­bly think you’re a good lis­ten­er and it’s reliev­ing for them to think out loud” in your company.
If you don’t have time to lis­ten right now, sug­gest that you take a cup of cof­fee around eleven (or have lunch, by all means), then you can talk about the urgent top­ic in peace and qui­et, because right now you have to pri­or­i­tize oth­er things.

How do you usu­al­ly han­dle these situations?

How do you han­dle the con­flict of inter­est between that your col­leagues need your help and that you need to focus on oth­er tasks? 

You are wel­come to leave a com­ment below.

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