Confessions of Credit Manager 3

You can’t be in two places at the same time.  

It is a fact, a law of physics.  

And it is one of the things that they don’t teach you about in Credit Managers’ School.

People at work try to defy that law.  You see it all the time.  Someone is at a conference and trying to get office work done.  Someone is in a meeting and trying to deal with the latest thing to cross their desk, via email or text.  Someone is in a seminar or webinar and taking phone calls about a problem that has cropped up.  They do this and call it “Multitasking”, and many speak of it like it is an accomplishment.

I don’t think it is, although it took me quite a while to figure that out.  In fact, I think that most “multitaskers” have made more than one error leading to this situation and have put themselves in the position of not doing anything well.  I know because I have made these mistakes myself.

Four or five years ago, I attended some employer-sponsored training.  One of the things I learned in those sessions is that, in most cases, when you try to do two or more things at once, you do them less effectively and less efficiently than if you do each thing one at a time.  Try it for yourself.  List the letters of the alphabet and then list numbers 1 to 26.  Then try “multitasking” and do both lists at the same time alternating between the lists (one letter followed by one number).  The result for most people is that they perform these tasks better and faster if they do them one at a time.

Let’s go back to the mistakes that put the “multitasker” in the position of trying to be in two places at the same time.  The biggest mistake is about priorities.  Your time, as a Credit or Collections person, is valuable to you and to your employer.  It makes sense that you would spend your time in the most useful and productive way possible.  Should you be at a conference?  If you should, then be at the conference.  Focus on what is happening in the room.  Do not let yourself be distracted by events at the office.  I believe that the same is true for annual management meetings, business trips and customer visits.

How do you ensure coverage for what is happening at the office?  Train and delegate someone from your team to act with your authority on a temporary basis whenever you are away.  And by away, I mean meetings, conferences, customer visits, sick days, and vacations.  That way they will make the decisions that need to be made for you and contact you only if there is an emergency.  That means you can focus on being in a meeting, a conference, a customer visit, getting better and enjoying your vacation.

There is nothing more frustrating than trying to be on vacation or at a conference when demands from work are interrupting constantly.  I speak from experience.  It is no fun at all.  And having lived with this frustration and stress several times, I finally resolved to handle things differently.

In 2012, our family went on our first cruise, in the Mediterranean.  We were at sea for 10 days, starting at the port nearest Rome, Civitavecchia, and returning there at the end of the cruise.  Including travel time, I was away from the office for over 2 weeks.  We saw Rome, Pisa, Monaco, Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Tunis, Palermo and Naples.  2012 had been a busy, tough year at work and I will confess that one of the attractions of going on the cruise was there no internet available on the ship at that time.  To go, I had to delegate my authority to a trusted team member so that she could make decisions for me while I was away.  She did a great job that time and every other time I asked her to fill in for me.  (I also returned to find over 1000 emails in my inbox, but that’s a story for another time.)  

And I got to focus on being on vacation.  It was terrific.

And I had an epiphany.  After that experience, I made sure that if I had to be away from the office, there was someone there who could make decisions in my place.  I never again tried to be in two places at the same time.

What do you think?  Do you think you can be in two places at the same time?

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