Taking a closer look at how managers get caught in a spiral of to-do lists and why so many teams fail to deliver on expectations.
You work between 10 and 18 hours a day. There are the client meetings, the catch up sessions with your direct reports, the networking events, reporting back to your boss (and your boss’s boss…), the endless list of mails in your inbox… And that’s just during office hours.
Does this sound familiar? It does to me. This is how I lived my life for years!
Let’s carry on…
You rush out of the office to pick up the kids from school (even manage to get on some conference calls whilst driving), give them dinner and put them to bed. You remember to check in with your wife/husband and ask how their day went. You try hard to pay attention to what their saying and listen with intent, but your mind is on overload.
Finally, the day is over. You walk into your office at home and lock the door. You breathe. Now you can focus on your “real work”. Those tasks that only you can do.
You are tired. Exhausted.
You feel like you’re working day in and day out on an autopilot. You’re not spending quality time with your family. You are not having fun in your job as you did before. That creativity, that drive and enthusiasm that got you this job in the first place, they’re long gone. And your team… well, sometimes it seems like everyone is working against you.
And yet you’re really trying hard to work things out. You have weekly team planning meetings and regular one-to-ones. You support them in their career development plans and try to get them a promotion or secure a full-time job for them.
You want to delegate more, you really do. They know what they are supposed to be doing. But, somehow, they’re not pulling their weight. The last thing that you want is to been seen as a micromanager. And, in any case, there’s just too much work on everyone’s plate anyway.
Let’s face it, at the end of the day you’re the one whose responsibility it is to keep the ball rolling. You need to pick up everything that has been left unfinished by your team during working hours and make sure that it gets done. Somebody has to do it. And that’s you. Right?
This approach will get you nowhere.
It took me a while to figure this one out. Years of working a full day in the office, getting home and working another 5-8 hours in the evening. Time spent getting frustrated with my team, feeling drained, and getting disconnected from my family and friends.
So, here’s the reason why the I’m-the-leader-of-this-team-and-therefore-ultimately-responsible-for-everything approach won’t get you anywhere (except a bit closer to burnout):
You didn’t get this job to “get things done”. Yes, that’s it. Simple.
You got this position to successfully lead a team that would accomplish great things. Focusing on “getting things done” is like slipping back into your first few years in the office when you were asked to perform tasks that required little or no work experience.
Your job now is to define a vision, develop a strategy and set objectives. You are here to create a common sense of purpose for your team so that everyone is aligned and working hard to achieve the desired outcomes. This is the real value that you bring to your business or organisation. This is what you get paid to do.
Strategy definition and goal setting will get you a lot of kudos in-house and with your clients. However, delivering results is just as important. Team alignment is critical here, and it is not an easy nut to crack. This is one of the key reasons why a large number of strategies go bust at the implementation phase.
Because they are implemented by a group of individuals and not a team.
What’s the difference?
A team acts as a single entity where there’s a real sense of collective responsibility. If someone fails to deliver, the whole team fails. There’s a place for exchanging ideas and plenty of room for disagreement. Diverging opinions don’t create stumbling blocks. They can help teams leap forward. With a caveat: there has to be a real sense of cohesion, interdependence and a shared vision.
If it feels like you’re dragging your team behind you, ask yourself this question:
“Are we a real team or just a group of individuals working together?”
If the answer is the latter, then things need to change. You can’t have a happy team with an unhappy manager. And you can’t have a happy manager with an unhappy team. Both options are unsustainable.
What 5 strategies could you use to install a sense of collective responsibility in your team? Let me know.
That’ll be the topic of my next post.
And, until then, get some rest!