“I always seem to be fire-fighting!”
“There is always more to do than there is time to do so!”
“I wish my team members were more competent. I seem to be doing half their work!”
“I seem to be working so hard. But I seem to be stuck in my career”
These are some of the commonest gripes we’ve heard from leaders. You’ve probably heard them too. Perhaps, these, or something similar, are true of you too.
Now, the reason leaders find themselves in similar situations – and you, especially as a leader, would do well to pay heed to this – is because they are focused on *doing things*, rather than on making things happen*.
Take some time to ponder upon that statement.
Doing things vs. making things happen
‘Doing things’ refers to a task or activity execution focus. Now, the appraisal system at work most often – as it should – rates us on how many of our goals we have achieved. This, consequently calls for an intense execution focus.
However, as desirable as a focus on execution is, adopting task execution as one’s *primary* focus is the reason behind the complaints leaders make.
Why a ‘Doing Things’ focus alone is inadequate
An execution focus is a preoccupation with what must be done now; on what must be accomplished in the short term. And that means focusing on the immediate deadline confronting oneself in that moment or dousing the fires and responding to exigencies that crop up.
Yes, the tasks that we must perform in the present might be distilled from a well-formulated and thorough project planning exercise, which you may have been actively involved in, or have performed yourself. Yet, the challenge with having a ’doing things’ or task execution focus alone remains two-fold:
1. When one is focussed intensely on executing today’s tasks, one’s fails to take full cognizance of or plan adequately for the longer term. And failure to plan means that one does pre-empt those things that can derail the future, when it finally arrives. The future, when it arrives, often does so as an emergency
2. An execution focus is a focus on the transaction or deliverable. And even though it need not, it often precludes a leader’s focus on those which will ensure timely execution, consistent quality and goal achievement: people and processes.
Consequently, processes fail to get optimized and/ or automated, and people fail to develop into independent and consistent performers. The fallout of this is a ton of manual work and leaders having to personally perform those tasks that the team members should have been handling in the first place.
The leaders become the proverbial hamster on the wheel that we had explored earlier.
It’s addictive, though
Fixing issues and successfully dousing fires can be intensely satisfying, though. For many a leader, being in the thick of challenges is intrinsically enjoyable. Researchers have found that for such individuals, handling tough or challenging situation leads to the secretion of dopamine, the neurochemical associated with pleasure and the subsequent formation of addictions, in their brains. Soon, these leaders begin to crave the high they receive from managing such situations and will seek to continue working in an ad-hoc and unplanned manner, which leads to the generation of the last-minute deadline rush and fire-fighting situations; situations, which provide them with the highs they so enjoy.
Like all addictions though, such an approach ultimately backfires. The resultant overwork and decrease in productivity being one fallout. Work crowding out other ‘spheres’ of one’s life and preventing one from experiencing fullness of life, another.
What’s the antidote, then?
The antidote to this predicament is ‘Making Things Happen’, which we will explore at length in the next lesson. For now, please take the Quiz below and then move on to learning how to escape being the hamster on the wheel.