Posted by: Timm J. Esque | Posted on: April 9th, 2012 | 1 Comments
The economy has been picking up in a variety of consumer sectors for awhile now. Even hiring (and indicators of more hiring) is ticking up. But as is always the case, actually getting new people in the door and productive will take time. We are seeing strong signs of another common phenomenon which is the people already on board being expected to hold things together until the hiring catches up, which will probably take longer after such a deep recession.
When human resources have been properly loaded at about 80% of capacity, it is quite feasible for everyone to take on a little heavier load for a reasonable transition period. But that does not seem to be what is occurring in this cycle. People in many organizations have been carrying the extra load for too long already, and as opportunities for growth pop up, organizations are expecting people to figure out a way to take on even more, but may be asking too much.
To be a bit more specific, we keep hearing from client managers that they are booked in meetings 6-9 hours per day, often double or triple booked. They, and everyone else, are trying to multitask in each of these meetings — stay aware of the meeting topic, but also get some email done and keep information flowing, because there is no “office time” for getting to email. Meanwhile, everyone is being asked to represent their function in more and more projects, all on top of their “day job.”
In our opinion, there is no manager (not even the most talented micro-managers) and there is no software that can keep track of everything people are being asked to do, keep all the competing and changing priorities clear, and give people the sense that they are in control of their own time and their own success. Each individual has to take responsibility for managing themselves in alignment with those changing priorities. This requires managing what and how much is committed to, and it requires the ability for individuals to safely say “No, I can’t commit to do that in that timeframe and meet the commitments I’ve already made.” Because without these signals of overload flowing up to the decision makers, they will have no reason to consider pushing out that exciting opportunity until next quarter, or choosing a project to take off the list, if a better one needs to be added.
Being willing to say “No” rather than over-commit, taking the initiative to create a climate where it is safe to say “No”, this is the leadership that is going to be needed to get things back into balance. Another solution is for everyone to “get creative” and figure out how to accomplish more with less, but this type of creativity does not occur when everyone is over-committed. Organizations are going to need the following to come out of this current business cycle and stay on top of their game: operating from commitments; each individual managing commitments really well; team members holding each other accountable for their commitments; and creative solutions to breakdowns. Who is going to lead?