How frequently are you interrupted during the day? Does it seem impossible to get things done in your office because you or the people how work for you seem to be always being interrupted? In many offices the nature of the work demands interruptions. If you’re in customer service area, customer calls can be "good" interruptions. In fact even with your people another kind of "good" interruption could be a teaching experience. Yet frequently most interruptions are not what might be classified as being "good" and even those that can be teaching experiences often fail to yield their fruit since many owners and managers fail to put this opportunity to use.
Would you li, ke to change all that? Would you like to prevent interruptions, and get the good that can come from those that offer that opportunity? The first thing to do is begin looking at the communication that goes on in your office. In our business development work we teach our clients to recognize interruptions first in the Leadership Module with Time Management, and then latter in the Management Module in Working Relationships That Work.
Look at your own interruptions first. Start by quantifying them. [A time log summary of a typical work week would allow you to do so.] How often are you doing something that requires a degree of concentration that you are interrupted? Why is this happening? Is it because you haven’t told everyone interrupting you is off limits at that time? Is it because your people don’t know what to do and you don’t have systems in place to cover the question that’s come up? Is it because your people have become overly dependent upon you to answer every problem, and you have encouraged it because it unconsciously feeds your need for self-importance and being the hero and rescuer or savior in your business?
If you have children, then you may be aware of how frequently we as parents enable our children to run over us. Shows like the Nanny and Wife Swap have made correcting some of the mistakes we make as parents obvious. As a parents or managers we ourselves are often our greatest. Too frequently the solution we choose to solve a challenge is not to allow our employees and children to take responsibility for remedying their challenge. We find it easier to pick up their clothes, or with employees do the work they are being paid to do rather than taking the time to enforce their responsibility. We don’t want to hear them whine or explain to them for the 100th time how we want things done right.
Here again is why we always press upon owners that to change your business you must first begin to change yourself first. Recognize you are the root of the problem and changing your behavior to not accept less than responsible pattern's of performance is the key to making a difference.
If you need time to concentrate, set boundaries on when and where to do this. One client set up a flag system [like those on a postal mailbox] in his office. When the flag was up it meant only to interrupt in an emergency. When it was down it was okay.
Finally if you have systems set up and documented, when your people interrupt your first question should be: Are you following the system? If they are but haven’t reviewed how to handle this and you’re sure your system has it spelled out have them refer back to the system. This requires discipline, and often it’s much easier to simply explain what needs to be done. But don’t give in to this tempatation. Why? Because you are setting yourself up to have it repeated continuously. What happens if you do answer and accommodate them? Right you reinforce their need to see you every time. You don’t teach them the valuable lesson that they can learn on their own.
In Dale Carnegie classes we were taught a technique that Napoleon used to get his staff to learn and think better. No reporting position ever came to a supervisor with a question on what to do, rather they came with a clear set of thought through steps that presented their commanding officer with options and included what the reporting position felt was the best option in their opinion. This taught everyone responsibility and helped them to learn from the issues the military was facing. Ultimately the supervisor had the authority to make the decision, but by having the reporting positions think through the situation before confronting their supervisor Napoleon was training his staff from the ground up how to act like generals and think consistently in the heat of battle. This same list of questions is available to you, and can help you make every possible interruption in the future a learning experience that increases your staff’s responsiveness and eliminates the stress of upward delegation that can cripple an organization.
Interruptions can be good. If they come from your customers often they are veiled as opportunity. If they come from your staff it is your responsibility to make sure they aren’t robbing you of time and them of the opportunity to be better employees, leaders and managers.