Leading Blog






07.24.15

You Can’t Lead If You’re in the Weeds

Leading Forum
Leaders work on a spectrum of effectiveness and the continuum varies with the ups and downs of your work’s natural rhythms. When you are in a good place, with available margin to deal with your load, you take a balanced approach to meeting your demands, use your strengths wisely, and sustain the capacity to manage well against the challenges of the day. Let’s call this the Performance Zone, which is the place you need to be.

As you confront our day-to-day demands from this place, you are more likely to be: response-driven, multidimensional, flexible, proactive, and engaged. However, when your margin runs low and the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands stresses our capacity to the breaking point, the strain can tilt you away from the Performance Zone and push you out into the weeds toward the Danger Zone. In this overwhelmed place, it’s easy to get into a reactionary mode where priorities get blurred by the fatigue of doing more with less.

The bottom line is that you can’t lead if you’re lost. To know whether your demands are pushing you out of the Performance Zone, consider each of the following questions and answer with either “Yes” or “No” depending on whether the statement is true for you:
  1. Have the demands on you increased over the past several months?
  2. Are they likely to stay elevated and/or continue rising?
  3. If your demands have increased, have you gained enough additional time, energy, resources, and focus to adequately address them?
If you answered “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No” to these questions then you are tilting toward the Danger Zone and at risk of getting stuck in what I call The Manager’s Dilemma. To know if you’re already stuck in the dilemma's grip, listen to the way you talk about your own work. The emergence of paradoxical statements like the following is the first sign that the manager’s dilemma is settling into your atmosphere:
  • "I can’t afford to relax because things are too busy right now."
  • "With so many deadlines and demands, some priorities will have to be sacrificed."
  • "It’s too crazy now; I’ll focus better once things settle down."
From the outside looking in, you can see how backward statements like these actually are. If a friend said something like this to you, it would be easy to point out the flaw in their logic and show them how the undoubtedly counterproductive behaviors stemming from these attitudes will leave them more deeply entrenched in their dilemma. However, when it comes to our own situations, we’re too close to and too tangled up in them to maintain this level of objectivity.

When we are stuck in our own dilemmas, we somehow start believing that this is how work has to be. Over time, the cumulative effect of this way of thinking and working leaves us feeling like there is truly no way out. What was easy is now difficult. What was enjoyable is now unsatisfying. What used to give us a sense of purpose now seems unimportant.

The good news is that you can get yourself out of the weeds and back on track – even when you cannot change the responsibilities you face. It turns out that the dilemma’s triggers are swinging doors and within each one there is an alternative path that acts as an escape hatch. To exit the dilemma, you have to go out the way you came in:
  1. It turns us around and distorts our values and goals, so determine your line of sight to focus on the right priorities.
  2. It spins our wheels, causing extra effort with less effectiveness, so distinguish your contribution to make a deeper impact.
  3. It punctures leaks in our already fragile time, energy, resources, and focus, so plug the leaks to restore your capacity.
  4. It limits our ability to use everyday obstacles for good, so convert your challenges to fuel and turn the tables on the dilemma.
Together, these four drivers and related responses can change the way you work.

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Manage’s Dilemma
Jesse Sostrin is the author of The Manager’s Dilemma. He writes and speaks at the intersection of individual and organizational success. Follow him @jessesostrin.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:57 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Personal Development



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