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How to Be Brilliant in Brief
Successful leaders effectively manage even the shortest of interactions. Chief Learning Officer guest columnist Jack Zenger offers up six ways leaders can inspire and motivate their teams when time is precious.
Several decades ago Henry Mintzberg wrote The Nature of Managerial Work, in which he noted that managerial activity was characterized by its variety, a series of relatively brief interactions that can be incredibly fragmented. He observed that phone calls averaged less than six minutes and typical one-on-one meetings averaged approximately 12 minutes. In the ensuing years learning and development professionals have observed that days have become even more frantic, and managers are keeping up this hectic pace during longer work days.One thing that gets sacrificed in these work situations is the leader’s ability to provide inspiration and motivation to the work team. There is never enough time to provide adequate coaching and development to the immediate staff. When you ask today’s managers why they do not provide more development for their subordinates, invariably the answer has to do with time.In a series of sessions Zenger Folkman has conducted with groups of managers, we asked: “Have you ever received coaching from a manager that had a marked impact on your personal development?” The majority of participants said yes. Then we asked: “How long did these coaching conversations take?” The majority of people indicated it took less than 15 minutes.One of the key skills for leaders in today’s world is the ability to manage brief interactions. Every leader needs to make good use of short time bursts during the day to be successful in carving out time for more meaningful discussions having to do with longer-term career issues. The keys to managing brief interactions are identified in the following six rules:1. Pick up the pace when you are in the driver’s seat. You can dive directly to the heart of the matter. If the leader is trying to determine the heartbeat of the organization, the question may be something like: “Tell me something you think I don’t know and probably don’t want to hear.” Note that it need not take long.2. Gently guide others when they initiate the meeting. If someone drops into your office and obviously wants to have a leisurely chat, you can hasten the pace of that dialogue. Try standing up and having the conversation near the doorway or announcing that you’re under a tight time crunch and have only a couple of minutes available now, but that you could reschedule a later time.
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