Companies evolve and grow (usually, and usually that’s what you want). People don’t always, and that sucks, but keeping somebody who is no longer good for the business is a stupid way to halt the growth of your company.
Drucker said there were two kinds of compromise. The first is the “Would you rather have half a loaf of bread or no bread?” Which doesn’t sound so bad if the alternative is no bread.
The second kind was “Would you rather have half a baby?”, which doesn’t sound so appealing at all.
Trying to compromise on your work life is not a “half a loaf” compromise. You cannot cut yourself in half, and even if you could, there is no way you could ever do it fairly and consistently over time.
When people ask me about achieving work/life balance, and we dig a little deeper (with some active listening and asking questions), what we usually figure out is that there’s a decision that they need to make that they’re avoiding. They say, for example, that their family is more important than work (and really, who would say otherwise?), but looking at their calendar and how they spend their time proves this is a lie.
So try big rocks first instead. Figure out what is (or what you think is) your highest priority, and schedule that first. Because how you spend your time really shows your priorities.
This means you have to make choices. Sometimes they are hard choices. Sometimes you can’t have it all, or the people you were counting on are letting you down, or something you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into turns out to be a dead end.
You’ll find balance when you are happy with your choices, even if there are some painful changes along the way.
…and if don’t want to make those decisions or changes, that’s a choice too.
Sixth in a series about communication and change management
We can’t manage time.
We can’t manage five minutes and turn it into six. We can’t manage information overload – if we tried our heads would explode every time we walked into a library. We don’t manage priorities, we have them.
We can decide what to focus on and how we spend our time.
Those things we choose to spend our time and attention on are more likely to be successful than those we don’t. Yet some of us seem determined to try to do everything that comes along, whether or not it aligns with our work and our lives. There may be many reasons for this behaviour. The result is often stress, failure, and shame.
You can’t create more time. You have to budget the time you we do have. Decide what you must, should, and want to do with your time. More importantly decide what you’re NOT going to do.
If your objective is to make a program or initiative fail, then you don’t need to make the sometimes difficult decisions about what other things you’re not going to spend your time and attention on. Just let it happen by default. Because you’re too busy.
Here’s the paradox. As managers we get things done through other people. Managing people take a lot of time and effort. Maybe even more than managing ourselves. Which can be a pain. If people did what they were supposed to, being a leader would be a lot easier.
One of things that can’t get ignored by default are the human relationship aspects of your job. I think it should be near the top, in fact. You can’t ignore the people part, building trust, and then get mad when the projects executed by those people fail.
There’s no point in being so busy that you don’t check in on a project, program, or initiative only to find out in the last two weeks of a three month effort that you’re two months away from finishing it. Now you’re going to be spending the next two weeks pulling that particular set of chestnuts out of the fire. While you ignore your other work. Tell me again why we’re so busy?
Fix #6 Have a Rhythm
Clear responsibilities, hysterical transparency, and regular reviews drive accountability. Getting things done doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. Getting things done means planning and delegating the work, keeping track of progress on a regular basis, and reporting on that progress.
Consider maintaining a”relationship” with the projects you’re accountable for, as well as the people you work with. Regular, habitual check-ins, meetings, or status updates are the best means of keeping a project on track.
Establish a rhythm lets you stay up-to-speed on what’s happening with all the work and your team. Ideally once a week. Once a day if that’s appropriate for a critical, complex, or large project.
If your check-ins are once a week, and the work is more than two weeks in duration, then break the work into two week chunks. With tangible, deliverable results at the end of each. This could be a report, a presentation, a manufactured good, a software release, a construction milestone, a signed contract, etc. Something real.
Two weeks is a nice way to break up the time. In the first week something should be started, and in the second they should have finished. Now you can verify progress. There is a report, a presentation, or other work product the shows progress. Not started? Okay – what’s the hold up? Finished now? Good – where’s the deliverable?
This is one example of how to design a project to provide the clear responsibilities and transparency.
You can deliberately build in the rhythm that allows you to manage, direct, and oversee the work. Or you can spend more time later cleaning up the mess. Your choice.
plan/do/review trick that will help you get better at your work, and as a bonus, give you a record of what you have accomplished
Which is all great, but shy people are shy. Which means marching into your bosses office with a year’s worth of accomplishments isn’t really in the cards. Not that I would suggest that you do that anyway.
Manage the Relationship
Relationships are funny things. They don’t just happen. At least, not usually. Some people seem to be able to walk into a crowded room of strangers and come out with a dozen new friends. They’re lots of fun to be around, for sure, but at least half of the world is not like that.
So what does this half of the world do? For us, relationships are a matter of trust built over time. The more time we spend with somebody, the more we trust them, the stronger the relationship.
Ideally you shouldn’t have to manage your relationship with your boss by yourself. You and she would be managing your relationship together. By which I mean you would be getting half-an-hour of face-time with them, one-on-one, every week. If that’s already happening for you, that’s fantastic. Stop reading here.
If not, and the thought of asking your boss for a half-hour commitment once a week scare the bejesus out of you, then start smaller. Take that summary you’re getting from your weekly plan/do/review exercise, and e-mail it to her.
Write a Weekly E-mail
It doesn’t have to, and really shouldn’t be, a long detailed e-mail. Just enough detail that you can recall what you were talking about a year from now. Hit the highlights:
what did you get done last week, and
what are you going to focus on this week.
End of story. If you have more than a three or four sentence paragraph consider editing it down.
First and most important, it ensures you are working on the right thing. No point in putting in all that effort if your boss needs you to be working on something else. And didn’t realize you weren’t working on it. Imagine that going on for weeks or even months and then them finding out you weren’t working on what they thought you were . . . Oh, you don’t have to imagine it? Oh dear.
Secondly, it keeps you top of mind with your boss and all the things you’ve accomplished in the last year. Especially when it comes time for that all important performance review and bonus and raise (or even, as I was discussing with a family friend this weekend, departmental budget discussions)
Third, it made it easier for your boss to write your performance review. All they need do is pull up all e-mails from you titled “Weekly Status Update” and start remember all the wonderful things you accomplished. With enough specifics and details to justify the high rating you now deserve.
When You Become the Boss
Ideally this conversation would be taking place face-to-face, one-on-one with just you and the boss every week. In half-an-hour or less you’d cover a lot of ground. But most bosses are very hard to convince that giving up a half-hour slot for every direct report they have every week to do a status update and maybe even some coaching and mentoring. What they don’t realize is that this is a viable alternative to spending their time running around with their hair on fire.
The hair-on-fire-dealing-with-the-latest-emergency-and-oh-my-god-I-have-500-e-mails-in-my-in-box happens in part because they don`t manage their employees. They think they do, but they don’t deal with setting priorities, reviewing work, assigning work, coaching, mentoring, and giving feedback in a one-on-one situation with each of their direct-reports every week, they`re not. If they did that, their hair wouldn’t be on fire in the first place.
So we’ll help them as best we can by keeping communications open.
Before Christmas I was working with a client who was feeling down because he was going to have let one of his key staff members go. It was bad timing, but it had to be done. The work product being produced was below standard and affecting the entire business.
The Courageous Conversation
I asked if anybody had laid out to the guy what exactly they expected of and what he needed to do to do well in his job. The answer was “No, but he has to know, right?” I asked what they thought would happen.
Then I suggested that they should have the talk first. The company at least owed it to him to let him fix it if he was willing and able. If he wasn’t interested or couldn’t change things, or didn’t think it was a problem, they could still let him go.
The next week I asked how it went. The response from the employee was one of gratitude, not hostility as expected. “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what.”, he said. He worked hard at fixing the short-comings in the work, the company was able to keep an employee that everybody liked and who fit in well. They didn’t have to go the pain of replacing somebody in a highly skilled and in-demand position.
Your Next Step
Have you ever wanted feedback and not gotten it? Have you ever assumed that somebody must know what they were missing in their work? What conversations have you been avoiding?