I don’t know about you, but it seems like every second business client I talk to complains about not having enough time, needing to do everything themselves or feeling that they are overworked. Often in small teams that is real for the whole team. In our August webinar episode, we asked the Business Advisers about their experience and it seemed to echo mine. 80% of attendees indicated that more than 50% of their clients complain about being stressed and overworked, with “not having enough time in the day to get all things done” and their “email inbox always overflowing” as the most common complains.
For this episode, we were fortunate to have two experts offering practical advice on how business advisors can help entrepreneurs preventing overload and burnout, how to delegate and stay more productive. Nomase Sonqishe, previously from the banking industry, is a coach,
speaker, facilitator. Her business is called CourageCoach. Jürgen Banda-Hansmann is a professional Business Photographer, current Area Director for BNI Cape Town and a Certified Trainer GTD® (Getting Things Done) for ActionCo.
Nomase confirmed from her own life experience the time pressures of being a small business entrepreneur. “It’s about time management. As business advisors, I think what would help is if we could assist the clients to prioritize better”, she says.
The Time Management Matrix
She stresses that this involves developing new habits (it has to be a heartbeat). Coaching many people that say they don’t have enough time, she encourages people to use the time management matrix by Covey to prioritize their time use. The application thereof is discussed in his book called First Things First.
The matrix talks about the four quadrants of prioritization of time management which are pretty self-explanatory.
Nomase says that the first step is to plot your normal daily activities. Just make a list. What are the dominant things that I do in my business? She stresses the importance to start with yourself as business adviser before trying to assist your client with this process.
Ask yourself what are the roles that are important in my business and try to prioritise them in an order of importance using this tool.
She says the next step is to ask yourself how much time you spend doing things in quadrant one, for instance deadlines that are critical, things that are people related and require immediate action.
Next you select the things from your daily list and check how much time do you spend on quadrant three (like urgent calls, text messages, last minute scheduling of meetings, cancellations, etc.). She says that you have hopefully not more than 5% of your activities in quadrant four, because these are not important or urgent. These are the time thieves, like social media.
Only once you done this for yourself, can you help your client to do this as well.
Nomase says you will notice that most of the people who are operating in quadrant one has no control. They are always doing things at the last minute. The reason is that they have no process in place. She recommends that you should encourage them to really check what are the things on this quadrant that caused a crisis that could have been avoided and should be in quadrant two because it is important, but it is not urgent.
Quadrant two is where you create strategies. This is where your plan. This is where family time should be. As a coach she emphasises the importance of family time for business owners, recommending advisers to encourage them to ensure their clients prioritise and spend a lot of time there. She says the practical challenge of this quadrant is that it doesn’t call upon you. You have to prioritise it, you have to make that time to sit and plan.
As your clients are at different stages of their business development cycle, you as a business advisor need to be able to assess and help them to prioritise properly.
Nomase says that many things that land in quadrant three are caused by a lack of proper planning. Hopefully, by the time you have assessed the grid realistically, you have captured their realities to such an extent that they will be able to determine which of these items they can delegate partially or fully or could even outsource if the skills are not internally available for those roles. Sometimes people will complain that they do not even have time to delegate, but as their adviser you have to encourage them to make that time. They will thank you later, she says.
This process of prioritization helps them to assess what they absolutely have to do by themselves, and what are the things that they could delegate to their teams. “But, warns Nomase, delegation can be tricky”. She found business owners are often struggling with it, stressing that sometimes people want to hand over responsibility with no real delegation. Delegation is about assigning responsibilities to the people, making sure they can account for them, but it also means you give them authority or the mandate to be fully responsible for those items. The process is also important.
She advises that you start by determining which assignments can be delegated and to whom. The process can be gradual, depending on the knowledge levels and how important they are. Important also is that your clients train their staff for the allocated roles. Once you have assigned the person, you need to communicate the assignment, what exactly is their responsibility to produce (outcome) and the timelines against which they need to account. Important also is to ensure that they have the resources needed to deliver. Agreeing on a monitoring / feedback process and schedule, reduces the stress of when they will complete.
Nomase emphasises that it is important for business advisors to ensure that their clients can develop those systems. Once the process is in place, it needs to be exercised till it becomes a habit.
She agrees that this is not straightforward, because the nature of the business, the time needed to understand the challenges and the fact that some things are going to be harder for your client to delegate. Business advisors need to aware of the client’s personality and attitudes toward delegation.
Making room for having ideas
Jürgen then took over with getting things done. And the premise of getting things done, is that you need to get a system.
He argues an interesting point that one needs to get the stuff out of your head, because your mind is really there for having ideas and not holding them. He says, what happens with lots of us is that we try to keep track of the stuff that are happening around us and we’re easily distracted. According to him, our brain is unfortunately not designed for this. We can monitor about four things at a time. If you add the fifth element, things get out of control.
He says that you need to have a system, out of your head, that you trust. It is really about principles, tools and techniques. It is not rocket science, but the way you do them, the sequence and how you implement it, is important.
Jürgen confirms the importance of having a full “inventory” of the items that that needs your attention. This needs to be always accessible to you. You need to know at all times what you have committed to. When people try to keep this list in their head, they start to simply forget. Even if on paper or the computer and you “misplace” the information, it means you don’t have a proper system set up. He says even with using to-do lists, writing things down with keywords, people forget what it was all about. It really then gets harder. Focussing on what they are committed to and ignoring the to-do list, works much better.
Make that decision
But he says, not deciding, is the real problem. If you haven’t made a decision about the things that you wrote down, it just becomes one of the list of issues you need to revisit. Using an example of an item that I have on my list or an email that I received, he illustrates the importance of having a systematic process of asking questions to help make the decisions:
- Is it something that I want to do something about? This is the most important question!
- Is it something I can take an action about? If I can take an action about it, is it something I can do in two minutes or less? If yes, I can just do it.
- Or is it something I can delegate?
- Or do I capture it somewhere where I can actually do it as soon as possible, but important is to capture it in a way I won’t lose track of it
Jürgen argues that we do not necessarily need more time. “Reality is that people whom are mismanaging their time, will even with 24 hours available, still fill it up very quickly by not focusing on what they really want to achieve, easily getting distracted by things like WhatsApp messages. Or the Facebook messages. Or the emails that comes through all the time” he says. He recommends people to switch off notifications. He shares research that has been done on focused work where someone is working on a project that requires great focus or concentration. After receiving just one interruption, it requires them about 21 minutes to get back to the point where they actually left it. That is an enormous productivity impact.
Considering how many WhatsApp messages are sent every day, every second, and that about 85% are responded to within five seconds, it is clear how disrupted our life is and how fast paced we are, while we have to cope with its ever-increasing pace.
He says this is directly related to the fact that people don’t think they have enough time, while in reality, it is about having the thinking space. If you don’t have the information in the back of your head all the time, but you have it written down, you can trust you are going pay attention to it when the right time is available, and you are in the right place to do it. Then you can focus on it, but now you can be here, in the moment. You can focus on what the other person is telling you and focus on your work without all those ongoing disruptions.
it’s all about creating different habits, he confirms. The challenge is to learn to our change of habits. If we are in a habit of doing things in a certain way, it will take a while to unlearn that. Jürgen illustrates with the example of a renting a car. The indicator stalk in your own car is on the right-hand side, but in the rental car on the left-hand side. You automatically will always go to the right-hand side (and often activate the wipers). It might take you a couple of windscreen wipes before the reality is intellectualised.
Use a trustworthy system and create the habit
Jürgen, talking about having a system, stresses the importance of having a system that you trust. And you only build trust by using it. If you just write things down and you put it in the system, and you never retrieve it, or never review what you actually wrote down, it will not build the trust. He emphasises the need to review actively on a daily basis and also on a weekly basis. Weekly reviews prove to be the most difficult habit to learn, but that is where you build the trust and habits, and also get the greatest reward. “You get this calm overview on what’s going on in your life. It is just wonderful when you are in that position”, he says.
Being asked by Christoff about which app provides an ideal system, Jürgen responds that the tool is not the system. “The tool is just a tool. It’s just like if you’re using electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush. It’s important that you use the right technique to brush your teeth. Whether you use an app (like Evernote), Outlook or a paper system, the aha moment is when people see the process of putting things in, review, and take it out of the system. Only then they realise they can process it and that trust themselves to actually do something about it when they write it down.
He argues that the best tool is the tool that you already use because you don’t want to start a new process, creating a new habit and then you also need to choose a new tool. The tool is not the answer. The app is not the answer. He stresses, it is the (new way of) thinking you need to implement, and it’s also the most difficult thing to do.
Addressing the issue of people being afraid or feeling overwhelmed to integrate a new system into their life, arguing for rather starting with a clean slate, Jürgen highlighted the reality that we all already have made commitments to our partners, children, bosses, and clients. Those things are not going to go away. He advises to build slowly, catch up and get it into a system that you trust.
And it’s an it’s a process. If you do a workshop and you think you are done and dusted. It’s not going to happen. It is a learning process and an adaptation process into a different way of thinking.
Find that one thing that will make a difference
Switching gears, Christoff asked Nomase to give some practical advice to business advisers on how to approach their clients with this difficult challenge.
Being a coach, she uses a lot of questioning because she believes most of the answers are usually within the entrepreneurs themselves. “One of the most important questions that you could ask them is, what is the one thing, if they do it consistently in their business or in their personal life, would create an impact in their life holistically. You will find they already know what they need to do”, she says. But to have somebody that they are telling it to, actually shift things because you are now committing them to something that they are looking forward to.
The next question she proposes is “what is the impact of what is going on right now, as a result of you not doing that which you’re supposed to do”? From there, you’ll be able to assess if it is something that you would be able to take them through or if you need to introduce them to a coach, especially if it is something in the head.
She says that sometimes it’s about embedded thinking processes from the past, certain attitudes. Feedback from the attendees indicated reasons for not delegating ranging from they don’t want to they don’t trust people. Reality is, if you are going to run a business and you’ve got issues of trust, this business will only be as big or as small as you are, she says.
The key is prompting them by asking just casual questions that they are not asking for themselves. From there you will be able to assess what support they need. But she says, if they can answer that one question, it’s always surprising what happens to them afterwards.
Christoff concludes; “So, don’t be intimidated by what seems to be a great challenge, identify that one thing that can make a big difference and start there”.
- To view a recording of the full webinar, << CLICK HERE >>.
- The next IBASA & EPI Webinar, scheduled for 6 September 2019, will cover the important subject:
Supporting your business clients to understand innovation as a growth strategy
- << CLICK HERE >> to register for the next episode in the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series (to be updated before publishing).
Carel Venter is the producer of the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series.