Scheduling Time to Manage and Interact with Your Staff

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If you're a manager, you walk a fine line: It's important to be available to staff to address issues and offer encouragement, but you need to prevent in-person interruptions while maintaining your role as a teamwork facilitator and employee go-to resource. Both management techniques center on blocking time in your schedule to interact with staff so you put constraints on the open-door policy.

Creating specific time blocks to interact with the staff allows you to shut your door and focus a greater percentage of the day so you follow your schedule more readily. The times before and after lunch — when you're likely between projects — are excellent for open-door hours.

Here are some options on how to approach this scheduled time for interaction:

  • Making the rounds: A popular preemptive tactic, management by walking around puts the time control back in the manager's domain. It suggests that making the rounds on a scheduled basis allows you to establish your availability and deflect those interruptions that could otherwise come later. Instead of getting snagged on the way to get a cup of coffee, you proactively seek out your staff, asking how their projects are going or whether they have any concerns or issues you can help with.

    Setting your rounds for the morning is a sound strategy, though it's a good idea to wait until everyone gets settled in at their desks and the caffeine kicks in so they can respond to your "How's that proposal coming?" with some clarity.

  • Having employees come to you: Establish your scheduled interaction time as open-office time for staff to drop in. Or require employees to make appointments to meet with you during that time.

    One danger in setting up specific drop-in hours is that it puts you in a state of waiting. You may not get any takers of your time, but your ability to focus on any other work is more challenged because you're expecting to be interrupted at any moment. To avoid this, consider implementing scheduled-appointment hours in your office. Continue to set aside the same time block to be available to your staff, but insist that they make appointments. They can't just stop in without notice.

    [Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Jacob Wackerhausen]
    Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/Jacob Wackerhausen

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