Leaders at every experience level struggle with feeling overwhelmed. They are balancing the workload of their projects/tasks and the time they have to spend with their people. It’s a tough balancing act. Whether it is a new project or a large company initiative, leaders get trapped into focusing on completing the project or task, and forget key points to help balance or put the situation into perspective. Let’s review those key points.

#1: Do not abandon your goals for an immediate win.

Another way of putting it: Do not sacrifice the future on the altar of the immediate.

Very often, our mission or goals seem distant and not as relevant to the current situation. You may find yourself making decisions to solve the immediate problem, but those decisions may be in total opposition of the goals set by the team.

There are many times decisions need to be made which take you off course for a period of time. When you make that type of decision, it needs to be done with intention and a clear connection of how the goal is still achieved. The team will see the diversion, and will not always make the connection of why that decision was made. It is critical you include the team in the decision-making process. They may not be the final decision maker, but it is important for the leader to communicate what is happening.

This leads me to the second thought.

#2: You will never be an effective leader until you include those you lead in what you do.

Leaders often want to make decisions in a vacuum and believe that until they have it all worked out, they should not say anything.

The truth is far from this assumption.

Each time a leader deviates from the current set of goals or plans, a communication plan is needed. It doesn’t always have to be formal communication in an email or a meeting. Impromptu discussions with team members while walking around are quite an advantage. Leaders can test their message and make adjustments based on the reaction they receive. This also helps the employees feel more engaged.

Engagement happens for employees when they feel they are a part of the changes and decisions. Most meetings or emails make employees feel like they are being talked “at” rather than “with” and often times think to themselves, “There they go again, changing things,” or, “See, they never follow-through.” A short discussion about the current situation and how to solve it engages each employee. If the decision has already been made it still helps to get buy-in before it is implemented.

What this looks like in real life

Here is a true story I witnessed of this in action.

A manager of the team, Bob, needs his team members to participate in quality reviews of phone calls.  A few members of the team are very much against allowing others to listen to their calls. Most of the pushback is from one very vocal informal leader.

Bob brings the situation to this employee in a one-on-one conversation.  He discusses the problem he has regarding the need to get these quality reviews completed and the value of them. He then asks the employee how they would suggest he get the team engaged.

The employee makes a suggestion of creating a document for everyone to share the times of their calls, and others can sign up to listen and provide feedback. That same vocal employee took ownership of the project, and the rest of the team saw that the biggest opponent was now engaged and driving it. As a result, the whole team engaged in the project.

Bob had tried to force this activity on his team for multiple weeks prior to this with no luck.  Had he included others, those weeks of frustration could have been avoided.

Ask yourself…

Here are a few self-reflective questions you should ask yourself when feeling overwhelmed.

  • What decisions have you made that do not seem to be in alignment with the goals you have not communicated?
  • Are you trying to do everything yourself and then tell people?
  • What decisions or changes could use your team’s perspective to help get them engaged?

Remember – Leadership is not about YOU.