Thursday, July 31, 2008

Executive Career Blocker: 24/7 Workweeks

Most executives are strapped for time, working well into the night and on weekends.

One of the chief complaints I hear is that there aren’t enough hours available to get everything done. While their days are spent leading and troubleshooting business operations, nights and weekends are spent catching up on reports, emails, etc.

In many cases, working 24/7 is self-inflicted … many execs proclaim they can’t delegate certain responsibilities to their staffs. They admit to a fear that it won’t be done correctly or completed on schedule, claiming it’s faster to do it on their own rather than correct others’ errors.

Many don’t see it for what it is … an improper use of their valuable time and an injustice to their staff.

“Delegation phobia”

Doing work that can be delegated to others doesn’t help your team and it certainly doesn’t give you enough time to focus on the bigger picture … strategizing, planning, innovating and leading. Those are the activities imperative to success. By diverting your time, you can derail your career.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the day in a coaching session with a top marketing leader at a Connecticut-based consumer products company. This executive is clearly a star in the making. Her boss and the CEO both respect and admire her. However, she’s frustrated by her daily regimen and having mild panic attacks every time she checks her over-laden “in box.”

It soon became clear that she’s not getting the most out of her staff or utilizing her time wisely. She’s holding on to assignments, attending meetings and dealing with people and situations that could just as easily be handled by members of her team. She’s reluctant to entrust her staff with these tasks, consequently neglecting their development as well as facing personal burnout.

Successful leaders have successful staffs

Distributing assignments is a straightforward process I advise overworked executives to follow:

1. Review the current projects on your desk as well as those of the last quarter.

2. Be critical. Examine that workload and decide what could have been eliminated, what could have been done more efficiently and what could have been passed on in the first place.

3. Figure out what you, and only you, can do. Remove that portion from the workload.

4. From the pile that’s left, determine who on your team could have done that work. If the answer is nobody, think about making staff changes. One of the overriding reasons executives lose their jobs is that they "cover" for under-performers until it’s too late.

5. Assess your team. Evaluate strengths and opportunity areas for each member. Determine who is working at maximum and who would benefit from “stretching.” Guiding and developing your team is a smarter utilization of your time and effort than spending 24/7 on assignments they could and should be doing.

Delegate the work … monitor the output … and take some time for yourself. Leave 24/7 to the Internet.

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