Learning What’s Important: Managing Time

Managing Time

By Pat Brans

Yasmin Jetha, CIO of Bupa, an $11 billion healthcare company headquartered in the U.K. with business in 190 countries, grew up in Tanzania. Her parents placed a high value on education, sending her to the U.K. to for school.

What’s Jetha’s success secret? “It takes more than just effort. Success rarely comes without courage, sacrifice and a lot of discipline. Clearly, building a satisfying career for yourself depends on more than the innate abilities you’re born with. It needs to be supplemented by skills and experiences that you pick up during your life.”

What are some examples? “In business, you have to participate in negotiations. Not just the obvious ones with external suppliers but also implicitly with your colleagues such as agreeing deadlines. Clearly, a negotiation is a successful one where you ‘win’ and achieve your objective. But if it is at the expense of the other party feeling exploited, it will not be a long lasting relationship.”

“One of the most difficult skills to develop is the ability to switch off from concerns relating to other issues and be able to give full attention to the people and subject matter in hand. To do this well requires an element of mastery over time.”

When she chairs a meeting at Bupa, Jetha “time boxes” certain parts of the discussion. That way, people know there is a start time and an end time. Some subjects require more discussion, so they’re not time boxed. A time box is usually between fifteen and thirty minutes, depending on the topic.

According to Jetha, “The key is more on doing preparation in advance and treating everyone’s time as precious. Meetings are more valuable when everyone is able to contribute. And if the meeting is meant to arrive at decisions, one approach is to focus on areas of disagreement.”

Jetha tends to focus on outcomes rather than on how things get done. “I want a single point of accountability for each action,” she says. “And I want to know a date. What needs to be done, by whom, and by when?”

Jetha considers dependability to be reciprocal. She’s careful to get back to people within a pre-determined amount of time. “It’s a sort of service level agreement to my team,” she says. “If somebody sends me a business case to make a decision on, I get them an answer within 48 hours.”

On the subject of Life/Work balance, like most working mothers, Jetha makes some tradeoffs along the way. But thanks to her organizational skills, and the application of ideas one might use in an IT department, things ran rather smoothly at home. “For example, a system we still use, even though my two sons have now grown up, is to have a big diary on our dining table. Each one of us in the house has to fill in where we are going to be the following week and the contact details. That way, if I got home early, I would know what time they would be back.”

“Every parent learns to juggle time and to prioritize and cope with it. It is also important to have the right attitude. I remember when I would take my sons to school. During the one-hour car journey we sang nursery rhymes and played games such as Ê»I spy.’ Somehow it became not only enjoyable but also fulfilling.”

Reflecting on how that period of her life shaped her, she said. “Being a working mother has given me a good grounding. It forced me to keep in the front of my mind what I’m trying to achieve – what’s most important to me.”

Pat Brans is a corporate trainer and author of Master The Moment: Fifty CEOs Teach You the Secrets of Time Management.

Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net and winnond
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