From the Desk of the Training Director: Management – It’s a Balancing Act

In October, I will have been Director of Organizational Development & Learning for nine years (what?!). The transition into the role was fast and unexpected … that’s a story for another time.

A few weeks into the job, toward the end of the day, I walked into my boss’s office for our scheduled meeting feeling deflated. She asked how my day was going. My response, “Terrible. I’ve gotten nothing done today!” In her ever-supportive way she said, “I’m sure that’s not true. Tell me about your day.” I proceeded to unload a tale of multiple interruptions including, but not limited to:

  • Three employee “pop-bys” asking if I “had a minute” (a phrase I have since learned to clarify, “Does a minute mean a minute or 15 minutes?”);
  • A variety of calls from internal colleagues needing my input, assistance, or clarification on something; and
  • Multiple “fires” to put out related to training materials, classroom equipment, and last minute member requests (which, of course, always take priority)

The projects I really wanted to get done – working on the budget, analyzing seminar revenue, and planning for the next year – sat on my desk untouched, mocking me around my ineptitude as a manager. Deb’s response (when I stopped to take a breath) is one most supervisors can relate to, “It sounds like you did a lot of important things today . . . just not what you had planned.”

As supervisors, managers, and leaders that pull between getting things done and being there for people is not an easy one. It is a delicate balancing act of managing the tactical and the relational in all aspects of the job.  According to research by the Gallup organization, this is the defining characteristic of great managers.  In their “State of the American Manager” research, they identify the competencies of motivation, assertiveness, decision-making, accountability, and relationship-building as the defining talents of the best supervisors. Notice the diversity of skills – people and process – without an over focus on one vs. the other.

Today’s business and economic climate continues to demand working efficiently and doing more with less. Identifying productive strategies to assist us on the task side of the equation can create more space as we also engage in the relational responsibilities as managers and leaders. Consider some of the below courses to help you find that balance . . . and maybe that pile on your desk won’t mock you like it does me.