It was 1999, and I had just been promoted to the role of a global sales manager for a
software and services business of a Fortune 50 company. It was a new job for me with global scope and it was kicking my butt. I was feeling very overwhelmed.
My response was to power through and just work harder and work longer hours in order to get everything done.
The problem with that was that I was spending every bit of energy on climbing my learning curve, and doing all the new tasks. I was leaving nothing left for routine dialogue and check-ins with my team. I was starting to get feedback from my assistant that people were expressing frustration with my lack of availability to them. Even understanding that frustration, I still didn’t have time to get ahead of the curve and fill that gap in the development of my team.
While I was coming up the learning curve I was cheating my team of the ability to grow as they helped me come up that curve. It’s not that they weren’t willing. I just wasn’t letting them. I was missing the opportunity to reframe my dilemma into a development opportunity for my team.
In retrospect, when you’re scrambling, remember what it was that made this new exciting and fun, that ignited passion in you. Said another way, what it was that made this work important and meaningful to you and which you were uniquely qualified to do. Everything else could be delegated, hopefully to someone who would experience it as a development opportunity.
Most of us have heard the Stephen Covey metaphor about rocks, pebbles and sand. (Covey 1989) Big rocks are the most important things in our lives: core values, relationships, the activities which define us. Pebbles: the less important tasks. Sand: the trivial many, things that fill up our time and don’t add much value. Never heard it? There is a cute YouTube video below – just remember that “golf balls” are big rocks, and don’t miss the plot twist at the end… (Kay 2016)
Three tips to turn a situation where you are overwhelmed into a win-win:
Pay attention to what you felt were your unique qualifications for the new job. Those qualify as some of your “big rocks”. They are what got you here, and which will make you and your organization successful going forward.
Turn your attention to the developmental needs of your team. Are there connections between the work you are not getting to, and the development objectives you and your team have identified for themselves? Developing your team should always be one of your big rocks. There might very well be a win-win if you can connect some of the work you’re not getting to with the development needs of one of your team. Paying attention to developing your team is clearly a big rock, but the actual tasks you’re considering delegating are most likely gravel for you. That said, they could be a big rock or at least developmental for someone on your team. Win-win!
Finally, what are you doing that just doesn’t need doing? Stop doing it, now, and don’t give it to anyone else! That is a win-win for everyone! (Even if it is one of the things that you really like to do, it helps to realize that it’s just not that important!)
Reframe your time management dilemma into an opportunity to engage and develop your team by sharing the load and delegating important work that’s no longer strategic for you, and by ditching work that no one should do.
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Great Reads and Views:
Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, Simon and Schuster.
Kay, M. (2016). “A Valuable Lesson for a Happier Life.” from https://youtu.be/SqGRnlXplx0.