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How Can I Manage 60 People Every Day?

Delegation, communication and efficient use of your time are essential to effective management.

Managerial spans of control have gotten wider and thus, most managers are responsible for too many people. Without a doubt, this has contributed to the undermanagement epidemic. Faced with managing 16, 60 or even more employees, managers throw their hands up in frustration: "How can I possibly talk one-on-one with every single employee, every single day, in just one hour a day?!"

Instead of tackling the challenge, overwhelmed managers hide in their offices, complete the required management paperwork and do little "managing" beyond that.

So, how can you manage 60 people every day?

Chain of Command

To start, make a reality check: Do you really have 16 or 60 people who directly report to you? Or do you have a "chain of command?" That is, employees who are actually managers or supervisors who are supposed to be managing some of the other employees in your group?

SEE ALSO: The Undermanagement Epidemic

If you have a chain of command, you must use it effectively. Make a habit of talking to these supervisors or team leaders every day and focus intensely on helping them play the role you need them to. Teach them how to manage on an ongoing basis, and manage how they manage on an ongoing basis. Just as you are working hard to be a great boss, they need to do the same.

Whether you have a chain of command or not, or how many people you are responsible for managing, you do have to make choices everyday about how you are going to use your dedicated management time.

One very effective manager in a busy hospital taught me this simple reality about making choices: "I have 32 nurses that report directly to me and no chain of command. 12 of those nurses regularly work different shifts than I do and four work in another facility that is 20 miles away." So, what does she do? "I concentrate on four or five different nurses each day. Some need more of my time than others, but the meetings are no more than 15 minutes, and I always have them standing up with my clipboard in-hand to make notes. One or two of the nurses I have to meet with every single day, but most of them I speak to only once a week or every other week. At that rate, I talk with everyone pretty frequently."

Keep in Touch

What about those nurses working other shifts or in a remote location? "Sometimes, for those working different shifts, I use telephone or email. I make a point of being onsite with those nurses at least some of the time. When my shift is on the other end of the clock entirely, I'll come in during that nurse's shift, even if I'm not supposed to be working. With the four nurses that work at our other facility, I have a regularly scheduled phone call every week with each one and these calls are not to be missed."

Some people need more attention than others. Talking to every person every day is not always possible. You have to choose your targets, but don't make the mistake of choosing the same targets over and over again. Spread out your management time. Some employees may need you more than others, but everyone needs you.

As long as you conduct them on a regular basis, there is no reason to let management conversations become long and convoluted. The goal is to make these one-on-one meetings routine, brief, straight and simple. Once you've gotten into a routine with each person, 15 minutes should be all you need. Like everything else, it's a moving target. Over time, you'll have to gauge how much time you need to spend with each employee on one day as opposed to another, depending upon the person and the work that person is doing.

Making Meetings More Efficient

You'll be surprised at how much you can get done with an employee in just 15 minutes. Take an employee you have not spoken to in detail for a while. Spend 15 minutes with that person asking probing questions about his or her work. It is almost always the case that you will find some surprises. You will find things that require adjustment, and be darned glad you had that conversation. And you should be in a hurry to have another one, no more than 2 weeks thereafter.

At 15 minutes per meeting, you should be able to have four meetings a day in an hour! That's 20 meetings a week, at least. I bet that's a whole lot more management time than you've been giving yourself. Here are six steps to help get you started:

  1. Concentrate on four or five people a day.
  2. Make your meetings quick (no more than fifteen minutes).
  3. Consider holding meetings standing up, with clipboard in-hand, to keep them quick and focused.
  4. Don't let anybody go more than 2 weeks without a meeting.
  5. If you manage people working other shifts, stay late or come in early to meet with them.
  6. If you manage people in remote locations, communicate via telephone and email regularly and consistently in-between opportunities to meet one-on-one in person.

Dedicate the time to manage every day. Make it a rigorous habit, just like exercise. Put in that hour every day and it will start to payoff almost immediately. You'll start getting in shape, things will go better and managing 60 people won't seem like such an insurmountable task.

Bruce Tulgan is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. For more information about Tulgan, visit www.rainmakerthinking.com.

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