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Toolkit for a Successful Manager

Brief

Tools of Cooperation, which basically says that being a visionary manager isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s one thing to see into the foggy future with acuity and chart the course corrections that the company must make. But it’s quite another to persuade employees who might not see the changes ahead to line up and work cooperatively to take the company in that new direction. Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.

            To drive higher team productivity, managers need to reconsider how their own time is being spent and how it can be improved upon. According to McKinsey, high-skill knowledge workers, including managers spend 28% of their time reading and answering emails, 19% searching and gathering information, 14% communicating and collaborating internally and 39% with their role-specific tasks.

            In this article, we look to provide pragmatic knowledge on tools and practices that may assist managers and individuals to conduct their daily tasks more efficiently.

            As highly productive managers start to reconsider their time allocation, some may find a few advices to have a small impact on their time allocation. To challenge that assumption, it is important to note that changes to habits and approaches can enhance the quality of work and accumulate to countless saved hours after a few months. This will allow managers to repurpose their time towards other value-added areas such as coaching, networking or fine-tuning relevant projects and programs.

Manager Toolbox

            To help balance priorities while being effective, GPetrium has compiled a management toolkit that aims to cover major areas of managerial work.

E-mails

            Many institutions such as HBR, Forbes, and the NY Times, have reported on how to curb and control information overload caused by excessive emailing in organizations. As 28% of a manager’s time is spent on email (McKinsey), building a structure to prioritize and support e-mail processing can lead to greater productivity. Below are a few areas that should be considered to better manage emails:

  • E-mail settings are an often-overlooked part of the system that can help improve productivity. From smart composition/ reply, signature, vacation responder, connecting multiple e-mail accounts into one place, frequent messages template to enhanced label/ folder/ categorization are all activities that can assist curb the email overload. Tweaking the settings can help facilitate one’s e-mail usage greatly. It could be as simple as setting a rule that directs emails from a team into a specific folder or directs newsletters and other interesting emails into a lower priority folder. Such practice can facilitate one’s ability to prioritize incoming emails and reduce digression. Here’s a quick guide from Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail on how to set up rules in outlook and gmail.
  • Email Add-ins are extensions that can be added into the e-mail provider of choice to help augment activities – naturally, these options depend on the security policies of your company and your IT department. It is important to speak to your IT or cybersecurity team prior to using these services since there may be concerns over Terms of Use, vulnerabilities, data policy and others.
    • Grammarly helps individuals write clear e-mails with limited to no grammar or spelling mistakes. There is a free and a premium version available for use.
    • Text lightning allows for a one-click text snippet, common phrases and salutations. This helps to cut out a few minutes from email processing, especially for high volume, repetitive email users.
    • Evernote & OneNote are two of the most used digital notebooks that now have integration capabilities with major e-mail providers, helping to facilitate, tagging, organization, sharing and much more.
    • Dropbox, Google Drive and MS OneDrive are the three major filesharing competitors with some add-ins capability available to most email providers.
    • JIRA and Trello are two of the main providers of visual project and task management with add-ins capabilities.
    • Zoom, Skype and WebEx are video conference providers that can be found in most organizations today.
    • Boomerang supports scheduling of email for a later time, follow-up on messages without reply and many more.
    • Microsoft Teams & Slack are at the forefront of the instant messaging platform market.
  • Email Time Management is an under-appreciated ability of a productive manager. Savvy managers will often build a few rules to ensure that their time is optimized, below are some of the considered areas:
    • Schedule daily email time: Set-up a block of time, usually at the beginning and end of workday to tackle emails in the mailbox. A 30 to 60 minutes cycle is often enough to check for urgent emails.
    • 1-hour cycles: Build a habit of not checking emails constantly. There are cases where checking is necessary (emergencies), however, constantly checking emails can be very disruptive to the other tasks at hand.
    • Prioritize: One of the most powerful rules is to be able to prioritize. By building clear email label/ categorizations, it is possible to have a clearer picture of what needs to be read and responded to as soon as possible and what may be done later.
    • Quiet time: Set-up some time of the week where all communications systems are offline. This will allow you to spend time in areas that require focus. Encourage team/ department to follow similar rules to enhance their productivity.
    • 5 minutes, out: If an email requires less than 5 minutes to read and respond, it is often better to get it done with. Take into consideration all the other rules prior to following through with this one. (E.g. if there are 10 5minute emails, but none of them are high priority and 1 hour has been spent on email already, it may be better to leave the rest for later).
    • Block & Unsubscribe: The less email appears in one’s mailbox, the less reading and responding is necessary. Therefore, make sure to reconsider whether current subscriptions and email patterns remain relevant.

The Meeting World

            Estimates have shown that senior managers attend roughly 23 hours of meetings weekly, that is roughly 58% of a 40-hour week. To help managers and their departments/ teams with their meeting habits, GPetrium has written a 3-part series that covers steps prior to a meeting, at the meeting and what to do after the meeting. When good meeting habits are engrained into the organization’s culture, everyone stands to benefit.

Managerial Templates

  • Activity tracker: Most individuals don’t realize the amount and type of work that they have accomplished throughout the year. This can have a detrimental impact in their ability to succeed on their performance review. To help manage their activity, GPetrium created an excel-based activity tracker
  • Sprint Planning Tool: many organizations and teams have started to realize the benefit of becoming Agile. As part of the transition to agility, teams have found it beneficial to create Sprint Plans. To help in the process, GPetrium has created an excel-based Sprint Planning Tool.
  • Financial Management
    • CapEx [Tool in Development]: capital expenditure (CapEx) template helps managers and organizations calculate, model and project CapEx with the use of balance sheet, income statement and/ or cash flow statement. This can in turn help the organization better manage their capital expenditure.
    • OpEx [Tool in Development]: operational expenses (OpEx) template helps organizations calculate, model and project OpEx to ensure the business is optimized.
    • Zero-based budgeting [Tool in Development]: the zero-based budgeting template helps teams and organizations build a worksheet where every single budgeted dollar is assigned and justified.
    • Profit & Loss Statement [Paid Version]: is a template that helps organizations manage, assess and gain insight on their revenue and expenses during multiple P&L periods.
  • Organizational, Team & Individual Objectives & Key Results (OKR): helps organizations define, track objectives and its outcomes. Widely used in the market, OKRs are often viewed as a strategic framework to organizations, teams and individuals while KPI aims to measure the actions and steps accomplished within the OKR. Some organizations work with both, while others prefer to stick with one.
  • 30 60 90 Day Plan: helps managers to layout the expected groundwork for the upcoming period. Such tool is often used by new employees, although its value can be harnessed by new projects, programs, employees and managers.
  • Weekly Update: helps organizations collect and store short status updates from their teams and employees.
  • Monthly Status Report: Helps organizations collect monthly status updates from their teams and individuals. For teams that use weekly updates, it may be a compilation of all weekly updates that are expected to give the organization a bigger picture.
  • Quarterly Update [Tool in Development]: Helps organizations collect quarterly status updates from departments, teams and individuals. This can help organizations build stronger strategic plans for upcoming quarters.
  • Annual Update [Tool in Development]: Helps organizations collect quarterly status updates from departments, teams and individuals. It consolidates the key successes and challenges that has been faced and the expected “next steps” to ensure continuous success.

Measurement

            Metrics play an important role in assessing the performance in individuals, teams, and organizations. Measurements such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Customer Performance Indicators (CPIs) allow for managers to track organizational, team and individual achievements and goals with its results. What is considered important can often differ in each department and teams. Strong PIs frequently rely on a good understanding of the drivers of success. Although it can serve as a baseline to the health of an organization, managers should be cautious with regards to the veracity of the numbers at hand and the obsession over metrics. Fixation over KPIs may create the wrong incentives not only for the managers, but also for the team and individuals.

            Therefore, when introducing metrics programs, it is best to think of the incentives that it may create and continue to closely monitor behavior to look for outcomes created by such metrics. Organizations that fail to create and oversee their incentive mechanisms may risk regulatory, career and reputational damages similar to the Wells Fargo cross selling scandal.

Conclusion

            Managers have to balance competing priorities at all times and be mindful of the fact that they have direct impact on employee’s experience and organizational success. Continuous self-improvement in a managerial position is essential. There are several tools and practices that can assist managers to better manage their time and activities in order to ensure the success of their daily operations and that of its employees. GPetrium has shared a toolkit that can help current and future managers be better positioned for long-term success ranging from e-mail, meetings, financial to operational management.

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