I’m focusing on elimination with my clients right now. Not elimination as in a nasty high-fibre elimination bikini diet.
I mean eliminating tasks that they shouldn’t be doing because they are too low level to meet their objectives, skillset and pay grade. Should elimination be top of your priority list too?
Most of us acquire more and more responsibilities as our roles expand. We end up squeezing in our original priorities around the sides of all this other stuff.
If you are changing the wheels on a Formula One car, you can’t top up the fuel as well just because someone asked you to help out. But that’s exactly what we do in the office: piling on unrealistic tasks and projects when we are already at full capacity. We’re doomed to fail.
Being a hero ends up with poor performance.
Successful people realise that being a hero like this ends up with poor performance. They resolve to restrict what they do instead. They focus on what really matters: to the business and to their careers.
The less tasks you have on your plate, the more effort and focus you can put in to them and therefore the better your output will be.
Say no to new projects until you’ve delivered what you have already committed to.
What needs to go?
Cutting back obviously means saying no to new projects until you’ve delivered what you have already committed to. It means delegating as much as possible and sticking to your highest and best use.
Being assertive is easier said than done. Managers know they should delegate more but I often catch my clients mired in non-critical activities.
This means they don’t have time to train and develop their teams, particularly the B-players who aren’t pulling their weight. Consequently the work flow is unevenly distributed and performance slips, giving managers an even bigger excuse to get back in the detail.
My clients say they feel guilty when they are ‘just’ planning or thinking strategically
It’s not easy to resist the siren song of the role that’s one down from yours. It remains our comfort zone – that’s why we were promoted when we did it.
We get a dopamine hit from being crazy busy too. Human beings are hard wired to be fully occupied and my clients say they feel guilty when they are ‘just’ planning or thinking strategically or directing operations. It seems indulgent to step away from the coal face, but you know you need to.
Here’s the question to unlock your reluctance to delegate. When you’re away from your desk ask yourself:
What is it that only I can do?
Make a list of these critical activities and map out the time in your diary when you can do them – during core working hours.
Then make a list of everything else you do now and ponder these questions:
– Who needs coaching or training to develop their skills?
– Who can you outsource to, delegate to, hand it back to?
– Who are your lowest performing team members who don’t pull their weight and what’s your plan to deal with them?
– Who is coasting at the top of their comfort zone and capable of taking on even more?
– Who are you covering for or mopping after and why do you do that?
– Do you need additional support or resources to achieve your targets and how will you make the business case to get them?
Start with a clean slate this week, with a clear intention of adding as much value as possible.
About the Author
Zena Everett is one of the UK’s leading careers experts, coaching and training professionals from a wide range of companies including Shire Pharmaceuticals, Bausch and Lomb, Gazprom, HSBC, Citigroup, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and several international law firms.
She is an Executive Coach on Oxford University’s global Executive MBA programme as well as the author of two books: MindFlip: Reinvent your Future, and Crazy Busy: How to Get More Done in a Day. Sign up to Zena’s mailing list at www.zenaeverett.com to get a free digital copy of Crazy Busy.