How to answer the dreaded question: “Got a minute?”
Got a minute?
The fact is, unless you are a great rarity today, you not only don’t have a minute, you have a yawning deficit of minutes. There is work unfinished on your desk. You have personal aspirations of all kinds that you never find time for and obligations you barely find time for. You’re already stretched for time, so no, you don’t have a minute.
Yet when almost anybody asks, “Got a minute?” you automatically answer, “Sure, how can I help?”
How do you stop doing that?
1. Name the problem
As they say in all the therapy circles, if you can’t name it, you can’t fix it. Here’s the name: It’s not a minute – it’s an interruption. A minute freely chosen and freely given is innocuous, but interruptions are thieving little intrusions that spoil our lives because of all the havoc and frustration they trail behind them. There’s the interruption that throws you off task. There’s loss of momentum due to the work stoppage. There’s the time wasted reassembling your thoughts and resources. There’s frustration at having to rebuild them, which dissipates the energy that work thrives on. There is the distress and fatigue of having to make up for time lost. All of these things can cause errors and the need to do the task over again, which of course takes even more time.
2. Recognize the cause
Why do you say yes when inside you’re going, “God grant me patience, how will I get everything done?” Because you’re afraid – not shaking in your boots afraid, but you have fears. If it’s your boss, you’re afraid he or she will think you’re not responsive to any needs but your own or you can’t handle your workload. If it’s a customer, you’re afraid they’ll take their business elsewhere. If it’s your colleagues, you’re afraid you won’t sound like a team player.
3. Know your facts
Facts are mother’s milk to good decisions. If you have a budget with X dollars a month to spend on eating out, then there’s no agonizing over should we or shouldn’t we. The dollars tell you yes or no; no argument, no drama.
You need the same facts about your time. You need to have a solid, walking awareness of your Critical Few – that handful of things that are so important that leaving them undone will cause serious problems. That means separating them from your Minor Many – that long list of things that should not, but often do, distract us from our Critical Few.
4. Don’t say “no”
That seems like unnecessary advice. You’ve already rejected “no” because you don’t want to sound like a selfish jerk. But the opposite of “yes” doesn’t have to be “no.”
“I would like to give you my full attention. May I let you know when I can do that?” Some version of those words needs to be custom-tailored to every got-a-minute interrupter, or “Time Bandit” on your list – customers, boss, colleagues, family, and friends. They let your interrupter know that his or her best interests aren’t served any better than yours are by this interruption. Most of all, they keep you from sounding like that selfish jerk you dread sounding like. Scripting your negotiation and rehearsing its delivery, tailored for each of your main “Time Bandits,” will banish any remaining fear.
5. Make it a gift
Even though you can’t give your time on the spot, you do have a valuable gift to offer your “Time Bandit”: your full concentration and interest at a time of mutual convenience. In this day and age, when it seems like all parties to every transaction are only about half there – the other half distracted by devices, alerts, the pressure of work undone, and the dismal prospect of ever catching up – it’s no small thing to offer your would-be Time Bandit your full attention to his or her needs. When you say, “I want to take care of that for you, and when I do, I want to be focused so that it will have the excellent quality both you and I expect,” they will not only be mollified about your current unavailability. They will be gratified, which is what you want. And you get to keep your “minute.”
Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and co-founder of the #1 firm in culture change management consulting and training for the financial services industry, Cohen Brown Management Group. For more information, please visit, www.timebanditsolution.com and connect with Mr. Brown on Twitter, @EdwardGBrown.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.