Two minute read.
I recently ran a survey for all the leaders and managers on my mailing list which provided some fascinating results.
Most notable was the fact that 83% of them listed ‘managing the volume of work and prioritisation’ as one of their most significant leadership challenges.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine from the Army several years ago. He had recently been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and taken over command of a Regiment. It consisted of around 600 soldiers and millions of pounds worth of vehicles and equipment… so equivalent to a fairly large SME.
I knew from my time in the military, and from other friends who had commanded Regiments, that it is a pretty stressful job at times. Commanding Officers (COs) are faced with countless conflicting priorities, more demands than resources and at that time, an extremely tired workforce.
I remember saying, “Tim (not his real name), how are you coping with the pressure of being a CO? Are you finding it stressful?”
I was struck by his response for a number of reasons… and it is something I often go back to when I’m feeling the pressure myself.
Tim recounted a conversation he had with his boss, a Brigadier, not long after he took up post.
He empathised with Tim and shared how he understood the fact that Tim and his soldiers would be stretched; often because of demands he would be making of him. He then said that it would only become stressful if Tim tried to do everything. Which he shouldn’t.
The Brigadier was effectively giving Tim a lesson not just in the art of prioritisation, but also in saying no.
More often than not teams and organisations will suffer from too many opportunities as opposed to too few.
As a result, there are three disciplines we need to pay attention to as leaders:
#1. We must maintain focus on the things that really matter – our mission and vision – and get ruthlessly effective at saying no to everything else. Because if we don’t do this, those that we lead certainly won’t.
#2. We must flag the concern when we know that we are too stretched, and things are about to start unravelling. But we must always do this in a solutions-focused manner, attempting to give our boss some potential solutions.
#3. We must cultivate the empathy to stop, supportively question and listen deeply when our people tell us they are also too stretched. If you’ve had the courage to act on discipline two yourself, you’ll know just how hard this step can feel.
Holdfast and #LeadOn
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