Do you feel you never have enough time in a day to do everything you want (or need) to do? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. Often, this feeling that you don’t have enough hours to work with comes about as a result of stress. When there are a million different things on your plate, or you feel everything is hitting at once, your stress levels go up and your perception of time starts to shift. You still have the same number of hours to work with, but it suddenly feels like a more limited resource than it did yesterday. This problem tends to be especially common for team leaders. As a boss or manager, you have a lot of responsibility. On the one hand, you have your own work: projects you need to finish; clients you need to call; paperwork you need to finish by a deadline. On the other hand, you have the added duty of managing other employees: leading meetings; delegating tasks; developing teams. Especially during busy times for your business, it can feel as if you don’t have time to do both sides of the equation well. That’s where prioritizing learning comes into the picture.
The Problem with Micromanagement
Often, the reason that team leaders feel so overwhelmed is that their teams are not self-sufficient enough. While every manager should take the time to sit down with employees, discuss goals and challenges, and strategize ways to meet targets, the truth is that these one-on-ones don’t need to happen very regularly. Ideally, you should only have to schedule one-on-one meetings once or twice a month. Even accounting for your whole team, these half-hour or hour-long meetings shouldn’t take that much time out of your work week.
So where are team leaders losing so much time? The answer is micromanaging. If you feel that your teams can’t do anything without your supervision—or without frequent meetings to discuss progress—that’s a big red flag. If your workers are constantly coming to you with questions or difficulties, that’s a red flag as well. It may sound counterintuitive, but the best managers are often the ones who do the least actual managing. As a manager, you should be steering the ship, not picking up the work of every crew member.
Harnessing Learning and Development to Build More Self-Sufficient Teams
Prioritizing learning is the best way to reduce your workload as a team leader while simultaneously increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your team. If you want to stop micromanaging and start putting more faith in your team, then learning and development is the way to get there.
When we say “prioritizing learning,” it means two different things. The first and more obvious meaning is that you should prioritize learning for your team. By focusing on creating or seeking out learning and development opportunities for your team, you are taking an active role in building their skill set and knowledge base. Your employees will appreciate this focus on learning, as they will feel they are getting more out of their jobs. You, meanwhile, will reap the benefits of a team that is more skilled, well-rounded, and capable of handling things without your help. Said another way, your team will reach the point of self-sufficiency that makes it possible for you to take a step back and stop micromanaging everything.
Also read: 4 Best Practices for Shared Team-Learning
However, “prioritizing learning” can also mean prioritizing yourself. Just because you are playing the role of team leader doesn’t mean you have mastered all the skills or learned all the knowledge relevant to your position. On the contrary, there could be gaps in your skill set where you are consistently having to turn around and ask your boss for help. Alternatively, you may be relatively new to the whole leadership thing and wondering what you can do to be more effective in your job. Either way, remembering to look for learning opportunities for yourself as well as your team members will ultimately yield benefits that are good for the entire business.
Making the Time Investment
Like anything else that’s worth something, prioritizing learning is going to take time. It will take you time to find learning opportunities that can benefit you and your team members. It will take time to collaborate with human resources and schedule those learning opportunities. It will probably even take time to justify the benefits of L&D learning opportunities to higher-ups worried about expense and bottom line. And if you choose to pursue courses or seminars for yourself, those will take time as well.
You need to be willing to make these time investments. It’s easy to shrug off learning as something that you are “too busy” to focus on right now. However, the considerable benefits of prioritizing learning in the workplace are worth the time. By upgrading a team member skills, keeping employees engaged, and driving growth within your department, you are creating positive change that will help improve performance, retain talent, and please customers.
Most of all, remember that prioritizing learning will save you time in the long run. Think of it this way: would you rather put in the time to research and arrange learning opportunities for your team right now, or continue micromanaging your team for the foreseeable future? Both in terms of time and effort, focusing on learning is the clear better choice.