Focus: People Management - Coaching session with Stephen Bubb

Q: I receive emails from people at all hours. Do I need to be working and in contact 24/7?

My senior management team and I have new toys - Blackberrys. The first night we had them, we were in communication. I was at an awards dinner and they were, respectively, hosting a dinner party and at the theatre. Sad? No, we were all thrilled.

Our new chief executive remuneration survey shows that these demands are having an effect on the way we manage ourselves. More and more of us have email access away from the office, and who doesn't have a mobile phone? Even my most resistant friends have slowly got into them.

How does your chair work, and how does he or she think you should? Have a discussion with them about it. They might love your 4am emails, and their Sunday-night note might be the most helpful communication you've ever received. Maybe not.

When is your best time of day? When are you most creative, thoughtful and inspired? Organise yourself to make the most of your energy peaks - even if they are at 6am or during Sunday lunchtime.

Consider the effect on your team. Do they assume they are also expected to be thinking 24/7 and respond immediately to your outpourings? Maybe they do. Let them know what you want from them.

New chief executives and directors worry about attending evening receptions, especially the plethora in the lead-up to Christmas. As you'd expect, I hold little truck with this argument - get out there and network.

Organise time for domestic chores and maintaining contacts. Consider carefully the most effective way of handling this.

For example:

- Avoid having a working breakfast and working dinner on the same day

- Take time in the day to go to the dry cleaners or hairdressers

- Do you need to be at the whole event to get the most from it?

- Pass on invitations - get your team out there networking for the business too.

As a chief executive, you never stop pondering. No one would dispute that we have to be there in a crisis, but the most effective chief executives I know embrace their 7am inspirations. Seize on it there and then - then clear the mind and return to the kids, gardening or Newsnight.

If something is on your mind, deal with it. Some years ago, a member of staff came into the office after a huge row with her partner. She was distraught and useless for work. I told her to take the time to deal with it, and one phone call later I had an effective member of staff back for the day.

So why not give ourselves this permission too? What is our hang-up about taking time to indulge ourselves or working 'out of hours'? Be bold; go for it. I'll wager you'll be happier for it.

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

Send your questions to stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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