I was meeting with a colleague the other day and he seemed utterly exhausted. There was just too much work to get done and not enough time to get in done in, or so he thought. Most of us are our own worst enemies when it comes to time management and setting work priorities. Everything is urgent or is on the verge of becoming so. We are also haunted by the old maxim, “if you want a job done right, you need to do it yourself.” While organizations and individuals can certainly benefit from planning their work better, this article is about the equally important issue of leveraging your people more effectively.
I would encourage you to think differently and embrace the whole concept of leverage. Leverage doesn’t just have to do with financial resources, but also other assets as well including your staff or colleagues. Take a step back before jumping into another work assignment and ask the question, “…given all my other work responsibilities, who is the best person to do this?” Assuming you are already pretty booked, there are only two answers. If the answer is you, then something else needs to be delegated or reprioritized. However, if the answer is someone else, then by all means, employ their help and let them do it. One person can only ever do so much.
Even in this economic climate, I rarely enter work environments where everyone is working too hard. Work distribution still seems to follow a bell curve pattern where the majority of work gets done by a minority of people. A reality that has never been fair or equitable and often costs top performers in their personal lives. These days, the CEO or owner, seems to be at the top of that list. There are many reasons for this, but I would list the following three as most critical: 1) a lack of thought and commitment; 2) a lack of trust; and 3) conflict avoidance.
A lack of thought and commitment is pretty self-explanatory and referenced above. At its core, it’s an inability to effectively map organizational resources against problems or opportunities. People are always our most valuable resources. Even if you are a one person shop, you typically have advisors, partners or colleagues in your network with specific expertise – use them. If something is too hard or time consuming for you grasp or is of complete disinterest to you, find someone where this isn’t the case. Take the time the time to actually think this through each and every day. Many leaders are “penny wise and pound foolish” in this regard. Surround yourself with bright, hard working people who have the right complementary skills and common values and let them do their job. Pay for talent now, rather than for cleaning up mistakes later. In addition, don’t make the cardinal mistake of hiring people who are just like you. Hire and promote people who can do what you can’t or shouldn’t do and in the process make you a better leader.
A lack of trust is a bit more complicated. Who would admit to knowingly hiring people they don’t trust (yet it happens every day)? Once we’ve gone through the hopefully rigorous and careful process of hiring someone, we should then trust them until proven otherwise. This doesn’t mean we throw them into the deep end of the pool and hope they can swim. You do need to ensure that all employees in your company have the direction, tools and required knowledge to do their respective work. However, once you’ve gotten these basics right, let them do their jobs. We should also always be on the lookout for expanded areas of responsibility for our people because any employee worth their investment wants to grow.
Unfortunately, many leaders and managers struggle with the trust issue. They dole out trust as a valuable commodity and instead prefer to bet on a sure thing: themselves or a select few. This means their organizations will inevitably hit a brick wall when it comes to growth and managing new opportunities. Good businesses require good people and the bigger the stakes the more good people are needed. You can’t attract and retain good people without trusting them.
Finally, there is conflict avoidance. The average leader/manager struggles with having direct and honest conversations about individual performance issues. As a result, we resort to passive-aggressive behaviors instead of dealing with issues early on before they become major problems. I’ve been in many organizations where there have been considerable work-arounds due to individual behaviors and actions. Unlike the stereotypical business owner or manager who is portrayed as the no conscience, quick to fire persona, in reality what we have is individuals who mostly exhaust every possible angle before addressing a difficult person or situation. Think of how much valuable time and energy is wasted every day because of this behavior. This doesn’t mean you fire every non-performer; however it does mean you own the responsibility of getting people to perform. When an individual is not performing let them know as soon as possible and also let them know they you genuinely care and want them to perform. A problem only resurfaces later with much worse consequences.
In summary, leverage is everything in business. You can’t grow or target new opportunities without the ability to leverage the talents of other people. It is a rare leader who is successful in spite of his/her employees, colleagues, or partners. I personally haven’t met him/her yet. To effectively leverage your people, make sure you take the time to actually think through how to maximize their talents/abilities including your own (and drive this mindset down through your organization). Once you’ve hired the people and taken care of the basics to get them up and running, trust them until proven otherwise. As they consistently perform, grow their responsibilities and trust them even more. Finally, address performance issues proactively and work in partnership with them to get things back on track.
Will your business bat 1000% when it comes to leveraging its people? Not very likely. However, I guarantee that you will have more time, feel less stressed, get better results and build better relationships. Who of us wouldn’t like to have these outcomes in our lives?
- Leadership and Time (customerthink.com)
- Strive To Operate at Your “Highest and Best” Use (edrobinson.wordpress.com)
- Apply Positive Workplace Behavior To Soar Greater Heights (brighthub.com)
- Why Every Business Should Leverage – the Power of Leveraging (noobpreneur.com)
- How to Source and Select the Best Hires (slideshare.net)
Filed under: Business, Personal, Your Actions, Your Leadership Role, Your Relationships | Tagged: business, delegation, help, Human resources, leadership, leverage, management, success, Time management, work |