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 March 18, 2011
Sue Hays BarrDear  :
My husband Charlie was checking into the hospital for surgery a couple of years ago. There were four intake offices in the area; two of them unoccupied. In the one on the left end, the hospital employee was busy helping someone complete the process. On the other end, which was where we and several other people were waiting, there was a hospital employee sitting in her office. Someone had left her office and the admissions area just as we entered.
A third hospital employee - identified by her name badge - came to the door of the hospital employee with no one in her office and said those fateful words:  
Do you have a minute?
In case you don't have a minute, here are 5 questions you can use to maintain control of your time and deflect the emotional load, problem, or situation the interruptor may try to give to you. 
Their topic? Cable vs. satellite TV
We could all hear their discussion on which is better, cable or satellite. Had the person in the office used these questions (or others similar in nature) to deflect the interruptor, the conversation could have been shorter.
  1. What's important about what I think?
  2. What really matters?
  3. What do you need in order to move forward?
  4. Is this action consistant with...?
  5. How do you want to wrap up this discussion?

If the interruptor insists on pulling you into discussion, suggest an appointment for a conversation be scheduled at some point in the future, perhaps several days into the future.


Other interruption deflecting techniques

Here are a couple other things you can try to discourage people from interrupting you:

  • Remove extra chairs from your office. That way, interruptors don't have any place to sit down
  • When someone interrupts you, stand up. If necessary, start moving away from your desk. Chances are, your interruptor doesn't want everyone to hear your conversation.

Your time = Money

As the leader, manager, or executive, your time may be the most valuable at your company. Your goal is to spend 80% of your time working ON the business and 20% of your time working IN the business.


Every time you are interrupted, it takes you 20 minutes to get back on task with what you were doing. Do the math.

  • How many times per day are you interrupted with time wasters?
  • What is your hourly rate? Take that x 20 minutes x the number of interruptions

Then you've got the cost to you and your company for those interruptions.


So the question becomes:

 What are you going to do about it?

Identifying the root cause
If you manage people, you are going to have conflicts. Teaching your people how to manage conflict generates a positive ROI in in a short amount of time. I encounter these situations and work with you and your people to change behaviors:
  • Supervisor or manager promoted or hired that doesn't get along with the people in the work area
  • Conflict resolution (it may not be competition) between people, groups, or departments
  • Sales person hired or promoted who doesn't mesh well with the group, i.e. the Lone Ranger, or who can't seem to get any traction after what you consider to be a reasonable amount of time

All these situations and more impact your company's productivity and your bottom line. The benefits to both far exceed the investment. You should contact me now to begin addressing these situations. The risk of maintaining the status quo is not positive for your bottom line, and at the end of the day, that's why you are in business.


We work with business owners and professionals to accelerate your business results especially in times when you are facing difficult strategic problems in your market. You deserve all the good things you want, but you have to take control of your situation.

Don't delay any longer.  

Sue Hays Barr                                                      
Barr Associates                                          
Sioux Falls SD 57110
Phone: 605-275-6696
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