The Five-Minute Manager

Become one yet? It should be easy. Just ask all the people that have absolutely no idea what you do or what it takes to get it done. To them, it should only take YOU five minutes to do anything.

So what if you right in the middle of doing something tedious or that requires deep concentration. They barge right in to ask a question or request information that takes you completely off guard. The answer requires research or the information isn’t handy. Your concentration is broken and you have to shift gears. You politely ask them if it can wait. “Oh come on! It should only take you five minutes.” Sound familiar?

You want to be helpful and a good team player. You drop what you’re doing and begin the research. Twenty minutes later, you’ve gotten their answer. During the entire time you worked on it, they just sat there and watched in nervous anticipation. Worse yet, as you begin to plow through your files for the requested information, they become impatient, leave and ask you to E-mail the data to them. It sure must have been an important and time sensitive request!

How about the incessant phone calls and E-mails needing immediate attention? You never believed that you were that popular. Just don’t ignore them or decide to deal with them later when you have time. If you do, you’ll find out just how unpopular you become.

The result of all of this is that THEY get their information and YOU get behind in what you’re doing. I have noticed a distinct increase in this irritating rude behavior and presumptive attitude. I asked around about this phenomenon. Other managers have noticed it a well

Just how do these characters seem to know the amount of time that it will take YOU to do anything? Did they perform a secret time study? Is there a new operations manual for managers that breaks every task down into five-minute increments? The answers to these satirical questions are obvious: they don’t, they didn’t and there isn’t one.

Why has everything become such an emergency? It seems that a lot of these requests are of the “last minute” nature. Are they perhaps just some immediate whim? What ever happened to planning and prioritizing?

A Human Resources type mentioned that the real trick to becoming a good Five-Minute Manager is exercising “Flexibility.” “Flexibility” seems to be the new code word for increasing one’s working hours to accommodate all of these requests as well as fulfill one’s regular responsibilities. But not to worry, those Ad-Hoc requests only take five minutes each. You have lots of time.

I believe that this attitude is trickling down from higher echelons that are so far removed (both organizationally and in many cases geographically) from the day-to-day operations that they really have no idea what it takes to accomplish anything. Instant gratification seems to be trumping professional courtesy and an acknowledgement of managers’ schedules, priorities and other organizational requirements.

I remember a mantra that my children used to sing when they were small: “I want it and I want it now!” Rather than encouraging managers to exercise “Flexibility”, perhaps some others should be encouraged to exercise “Maturity.” It’s just a thought

By the way, it did take me more than five minutes to write this.

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