I’m providing team coaching for a great executive team. They lead a healthcare organization that makes an important difference for those they serve. As people with great compassion, these leaders are always wanting to do more and be more to provide added value to the organization and those in need. One of the reasons they hired me was to facilitate their strategic planning retreat. The other was because when they keep looking around at all the need and opportunity, it is easy to lose focus of what’s most important. It’s easy to take on too much, to try and say “Yes” to everything. What they and many others are learning is that when you put too much on your plate, it’s hard to get things done. You can waste precious time just wondering what to do next. You spend inordinate amounts of time attending meetings that may not really need your attendance.
In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith discusses Habit #2, the common problem highly successful leaders face in adding too much value. They want to add their thoughts and opinions to whatever their employees and peers are working on. Even when they’ve hired the best, they may overstep their own areas of expertise to suggest or demand changes, rewrites, projects etc. that may not truly add value. Goldsmith states that when someone comes to you with an idea or project and you offer a suggestion that may make the project 5% better, the trade-off is that the person may lose 50% engagement in achieving the outcome. It went from being their project to yours. With unemployment running extremely low, high performers may jump ship to a place they feel will provide greater appreciation for the skills and talents they offer.
Think about that the next time you want to add what may not be a necessary recommendation to someone else’s work. Could you just say, “Great job” and leave it at that? This is not easy and may take partnering with a coach to help change long term behaviors.
Freeing yourself up from small decisions that don’t truly add value, enables you to spend more time on what truly matters to your organization. In The Wall Street Journal article, The Key to Success? Doing Less, Morten T. Hansen shares outcomes from a 5 year study of 5,000 managers and employees to learn what differentiates the top performers. One surprise finding was that top performers cut back, they worked an average of 50 hours a week. They said “No” to projects and tasks that would not move the lever toward their most important goals. They had lives outside work. Hansen’s advice, do less, to be a top performer. Stephen Covey called it “focusing on the vital few.” To be successful in your career as a leader, focus on doing the right things very well and learn to say “No” or “not now” to work outside your top priorities.