You’re Wasting My Time! 10 Ways Leaders Squander a Most Important Resource
You’re Wasting My Time! 10 Ways Leaders Squander a Most Important Resource
There is a most precious resource, of which we are universally poor.
It’s not gold. It’s not silver. Regardless of how hard we might try, we can never have enough of it – and we certainly can’t buy more.
That resource, of course, is time.
And the craziest part about time is that we have no clue how much of it is left. As a haunting song lyric from Anna Nalick reminds us, “Life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table.”
Or as Psalm 39:4-5 puts it, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.”
Remembering life is short, we are called to guard time wisely – including and especially the time of those we lead.
Time is (More Than) Money
Honestly, I would never intentionally mistreat those I lead or haphazardly waste their resources. Can you imagine it? Throwing their money in the garbage? Keying their cars? Telling them they are unworthy of my attention or love?
Yet I confess, I’ve been guilty on occasion of squandering their time. And by doing so, I missed opportunities to lead them effectively, and to use my influence to help them become all that God created them to be.
Time is more than money. Honoring our employees’ time communicates that we see they have purpose; they have value. Good time management is a highly practical expression of compassion, empowerment and love.
10 Ways Leaders Squander Time
What about you? Are you guilty of any of these time-consuming behaviors?
Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” If you find yourself meddling in all the day-to-day details of the people you lead, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
2. Meetings that could have been handled through a call or email
Productive meetings focus on team building, collaboration, problem solving, teaching. Ineffective meetings revolve around reports that could have handled through a quick call or email. Before scheduling any meeting, make sure that you’ve thought through the purpose and agenda. Will this meeting move your team forward – or will it simply interrupt everyone from other things they could be doing? Your employees will be far more appreciative and engaged in gatherings when there are clear goals identified.
3. Discussing concerns as a group that should have been handled individually
I recall having a relatively minor but ongoing issue with an employee several years ago. Being the inexperienced manager and non-confrontational person that I was, I decided to handle it under a bullet point buried deep in a team meeting’s agenda. (See #2. Yes, I pulled a double time wasting whammy.) I kept talking in generalities: “we” need to do better at this, and “we” need to be better at that. After the meeting, an overachieving, un-guilty employee came to me distraught and apologetic, thinking she was the intended recipient of my clear-as-mud admonishments. Meanwhile, the guilty party continued the troubling behavior for several weeks after the meeting, completely oblivious that I was talking about him. Clearly, it was a waste of time for everyone.
4. Training that doesn’t lead to action
Professional development meetings and conferences can provide you and your team fresh ideas, enhanced skills, and renewed passion. But in the absence of follow-up or changed behavior, they’re a complete waste of time. If you place enough value on training to provide it to your employees, also provide them with the accountability and support they need to ensure a healthy ROI. Ask them: What are 1-2 practical things you can take away from this training, and how will you apply them? What do you need from me to help you succeed in implementation?
5. Beating Around the Bush
Yes, it can be incredibly difficult to deliver bad news or constructive criticism. Know what’s even harder? Answering an employee when they eventually ask, “Why didn’t you just tell me?” Putting off saying the inevitable will waste time, and it often breaks trust and undermines relationships, too. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
6. Tasks that detract from the main goals
According to a FranklinCovey survey of 26,500 U.S. workers from 150 companies, employees only spend 49 percent of their available work time on their company’s most important goals. The remaining 51 percent of their time is spent on less important tasks, often distracting them from ever getting the most important things done. Choose wisely when assigning tasks to employees, and help them prioritize appropriately.
7. Asking for input – then disregarding it
Sometimes we ask for “feedback,” when what we’re really looking for is a pat on the back. Insincere gestures of collaboration are no help to anyone. Only ask for input when you are truly ready to listen and contemplate alternate viewpoints. Of course, you can’t please everyone or act upon every random suggestion. But your employees need to know that any time they spend providing input will be worthwhile since you look at all angles to make the best decision possible.
8. Unclear or evolving directions
There is nothing more frustrating than pouring your heart and soul (and time) into a project, only to discover that critical details were left out from the instructions – or that an employer simply changed his/her mind along the way. Save your employees time and frustration on the backend by pouring ample time into the planning and strategizing phases. And make sure to establish key check in points where you can offer any necessary clarifications or time sensitive adjustments. Measure twice, cut once.
9. Answering the phone or email while with your employees
Unless you’re under nuclear attack, or your wife is 9½ months pregnant, there are few reasons why you need to immediately answer an unexpected phone call, email, text or any other ding while meeting with your employees. They’ve carved out time they probably didn’t have to spend with you, so do your best to return the favor. Forward your calls if necessary, or ….and I know this seems radical! ... let them go to voicemail. Even a “quick” check sends a subtle cue that the person on the other end of the line is more valuable than the person sitting right in front of you.
10. Tardiness or starting late
I’m squeezing this in at number 10, with the outright acknowledgement that “the struggle is real.” I’d blame my kids for my habitual tardiness, except that those closest to me know this has been a lifetime battle. The truth is, when we keep people waiting, we send the message that our time is more valuable than theirs. Leave early enough for appointments to allow time for the unexpected. Start and end meetings on time, every time.
Called to Serve
We all know that our time is valuable, but so is the time of everyone we have the privilege of leading. After all, as Jesus-like leaders, we are called “not to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45).
So let’s get to it! Let’s show those we lead they are loved. They are valued. They have purpose. And they’ve got too many important things to do for us to waste another second.
Don’t you think it’s about time?
Pause and Reflect
- In what ways am I wasting the time of those I lead?
- What would change if those I lead saw that I truly value their time?
- Pray this prayer from the Psalms: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)