Saturday, August 25, 2012

Assessing Personal Organization: Tips for Increasing Yours and Improving Others

Have you ever had an employee who was always behind, struggled to manage their time, and couldn't prioritize if their life depended on it? What's worse is when you work for a leader who struggles with the same thing. I worked for and with people like this and it is maddening. When a person with a lack of time management and prioritization skills infiltrates a company it begins to erode trust, confidence, camaraderie, and leadership equity.

If you are a leader with this problem, it's time to get some help. This doesn't mean hire more people, instead this means to reach out to those who successfully handle competing priorities. Odds are you'll learn about their process and how they've built it to suit their personality, demands, etc. As with most things, you can't just assume that one day things will slow down or that you will have an epiphany regarding your personal organization. Humbly admit where you struggle and use your resources. If you don't, you will sacrifice effectiveness and it just isn't worth it.

If you are a leader with followers who struggle with time management and prioritization, good luck! Just kidding! I have made many mistakes over the years, but one of the more common ones in the beginning was not assessing and valuing this trait in the hiring process. Attitude, charisma, and work ethic all have value, but you have to throw personal organization into the mix. What I began to find was that I hired some great people with outstanding attitudes, but when it came down to tactical strength (prioritization, organization, and time management) those same people STRUGGLED. Once I identified this and saw the consequences, I began asking questions in interviews like, "How many emails are in your inbox right now? What do you do when you get an email? How do you organize your inbox?" It's funny how someone's email habits are a litmus test for their organizational skills.

What did I do with the people I had hired who were extremely weak in this area? My leaders and I tried teaching them how to establish methods in order improve. We showed them how to arrange their inboxes. We helped them set up systems to deal with clutter on their desks so that things weren't falling through the cracks. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn't because no matter how you slice it, strengths are strengths and most weaknesses will continue to be weaknesses (ala Marcus Buckingham). Therefore in the end, we released them into the world to be free and find something that better suited them.

So let's prioritize this and do something about it. Assess your own process (maybe you don't even have one) first and then look at your team. Set a due date for action and move. You can't just file this away for the future and forget about it. The time is now.