Overcoming the Full Plate Syndrome Part 2: Tools to Create More Time

June 7, 2007

In my last blog, I talked about ways that organizations can reduce conflicting priorities for leaders and give them the skills they need to succeed for higher job satisfaction and better outcomes. Specifically, I recommended integrating measurable, objective goals into the organization’s evaluation system; weighting the goals to create clear priorities; and committing to leadership skill development. If you missed this blog, you can read it here.
In Part 2 on this topic, I’d like to urge leaders to proactively take charge of their own time by working smarter, not harder.

Not New, Better
Sometimes when Studer Group begins coaching an organization and introduces new leadership tools, leaders will tell us they don’t have time to do so many new things. We find that they feel more comfortable—and are even energized—once they understand that they are not being asked to do additional activities, but rather, to use a more efficient approach for current practices to get more satisfying outcomes.
Consider this list of practices most leaders already do and what works better to achieve outcomes:

Current Practices More Effective Approaches
1. Hold department meetings 1. Use Pillar Agendas at meetings
2. Talk to employees 2. Round for Outcomes
3. Employee reward and recognition 3. Write thank you notes
4. Employee selection and orientation 4. Use peer interviews and 30/90 day      meetings
5. Retain employees 5. Hold individual employee meetings
6. Talk to patients 6. Use key words at key times
7. Pre- and post-calls to patients 7. Pre- and post-calls to patients
8. Evaluations 8. Leader evaluations
9. Conduct leadership training

As you can see, the only new item on the list is leadership training. This is critical and necessary to ensure that leaders are growing the skills that move organizational performance and can manage their full plates. Aside from that, we recommend hardwiring more efficient tools that get better results for things leaders are already spending time on.

“Not New, but Better” also means that things leaders currently do on an occasional basis—say, holding a department meeting only when it seems urgent—now get done on a scheduled basis to ensure strong communication with an outcomes-oriented agenda that impacts organizational goals. Likewise, while some nurses may talk to some patients sometimes, we recommend standardizing the use of key words at key times.  Remember—CMS will soon be publicly reporting on whether your patients say you “always, sometimes, or never” are responsive to their needs. When every nurse every time uses the key words, “Is there anything else I can do for you? I have time,” patients answer “always” on their surveys. Read my blog on always here if you missed it.

So, not new but better. Studer Group coach Tonia Breckenridge recently presented some excellent suggestions on how to manage the full plate at the third Leadership Development Institute of a Studer Group partner organization and received excellent feedback from leaders. So I wanted to share her suggestions with you:

  1. Regularly evaluate your activity versus your outcomes. Meet with your supervisor on a scheduled basis to review your annual goals and 90-day plan. Discuss what you are doing that does not contribute to your outcomes and whether to continue these activities.
  2. Develop people.  When you delegate, you give others the opportunity to grow while opening up space on your own plate to take on key projects that will accelerate outcomes. Tonia cites a personal mentor who is masterful at identifying and capitalizing on the best strengths and skill sets of those he supervises, instead of trying to fix their weaknesses. As a result, his own capacity to achieve more is always increasing.
  3. Deal with low performers. Low performers eat up your time. Nobody ever wishes they waited longer to fire a low performer. Move their performance up or move them out of the organization quickly. It will save you time—and much pain—in the long run.
  4. Round for Outcomes. Even if you have as many as 60 direct reports, you can accomplish this in 30 minutes a day and connect with each individual at least once monthly. (This assumes you round on 3 individuals daily, spending five minutes with each person and allowing 15 minutes for follow-up on identified issues.) Hardwiring rounding will boost your employee retention and create a culture of problem-solving and recognition. You will get an unbelievable return on investment from this time spent with employees, physicians, and better patient outcomes.

Please add your comments to this blog and share your thoughts with our readers. We can all benefit from each other’s experiences.

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2 Responses to “Overcoming the Full Plate Syndrome Part 2: Tools to Create More Time”


  1. You said:
    “Deal with low performers. Low performers eat up your time. Nobody ever wishes they waited longer to fire a low performer.”

    Amen! I believe that 90% of managers avoid conflict. Therefore, poor performance goes undealt with because it is viewed as a conflict.

  2. Jen Borgia Says:

    I am new to Leadership. I deal with the “Low Performers” everyday. I really need more information and insight to the people that suck the life out of you. I honestly believe in The Studer Group and what it stands for and all it’s advice. I would like to learn how to impliment these strategies and learn how to handle conflict. Can anyone help with this? I agree with Dianne Nelson Mott. I see it. I just need to learn how to apply what is being said. Thanks for this opportunity to voice my concerns and needs.


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