Failing to Set Priorities, Engage People, and Pull Teams Together
Brian’s head was starting to throb as he scrolled through the two-dozen new voice and e-mail messages on his phone while walking to his cubicle. Looks like another crazy day in the hamster cage he muttered to himself. Brian, age 41, was growing increasingly frustrated. Despite working 50 hours and more per week (with an increasing amount of weekend work to “catch up”), it felt like his career wasn’t going anywhere. Work that once energized him now left him drained. Brian felt that unreasonable customers, managers, and co-workers were speeding up his hamster wheel just to watch him run faster. He had little time with his family and no time left to look after his health and fitness.

Down the hall, Brian’s boss was meeting with the HR director to review staffing for new roles and projects emerging from the recent organizational restructuring. They really needed a professional with Brian’s technical skills to lead an important project team. “Brian’s strong technically, but he’s clearly not the person to lead this team,” his manager reflected. “His ability to set priorities, inspire and engage people, and pull a team together are weak.” “I agree,” the HR director nodded. “He works hard but doesn’t use his time well. I’ve also heard he’s becoming more negative and cynical about all our organizational changes and new services.”

Paradoxically, people who work harder, often get less done. As technology speeds up the flow of information and communications, less-effective people are swept away on a tidal wave of trivial urgencies and busyness. Failing to reflect and learn from their experiences before choosing their next course of action, they race around putting out multiple fires with little thought to fire prevention. They join the ranks of the stupid busy. Like painting a building with a toothbrush, they work very hard using the wrong approach.

Leaders with stunted growth often believe they are much more effective than others think they are. Their insecurity means they won’t seek critical feedback on their own performance or personal behavior. Their “circle of delusion” is maintained by being unapproachable with criticism or suggestions. This leads to a belief that they’re doing well because no one is telling them otherwise.

Tomorrow we publish my November blogs in the December edition of The Leader Letter. This issue provides you with ways to deal with key leadership issues such as those frustrating Brian. He’s stupid busy and not making tough choices about the strategic use of his time. He’s bringing this lack of discipline to any project team he leads.

Brian could pinpoint what’s stifling his effectiveness and career growth by getting unfiltered feedback through a 360 assessment. But that feedback can also hurt leaders when it focuses more on what’s wrong, gaps, and weaknesses. Most leaders don’t put together rigorous personal development plans and stick with them when centered on fixing weaknesses. And it’s hard to leverage weaknesses. In this issue, you’ll learn how another leader, Andy, pulled up a cluster of skills by lifting one of his key strengths.

Hope you take the time to reflect and refocus on how to be ‘smart’ busy.