Let Go to Gain Control

Dear Springboard:

I recently got a promotion. I was really excited at first – more money and a better title. It was great. In my old job, I had people reporting to me and now there are people reporting to them. 

It sounds goods but the problem is my workload has exploded. I’m working really late, plus weekends and still missing deadlines. AND, I’m more than a little peeved that when I’m burning the midnight oil, I’m the only one here. The rest of my “team” is long gone.

Sign me,

Overwhelmed

 

Dear Overwhelmed:

First, congratulations on the new job! I’m sure it’s well deserved.

It sounds like a familiar scenario. You’ve taken on more responsibility on top of what you were already handling.

One of the toughest challenges of taking on a bigger role and thriving is the importance of shifting gears.

There are a few dynamics here. First, to keep all your current duties and add new ones is not sustainable.  There is only so much time (and energy) available. Keep in mind that every time we add something new to our plate, we must let go of something else.

Second, what made you successful in your previous job will not work in your new job in the same way. If you stay involved in the day to day operations of your direct reports or their staff, you can’t be available to do what is expected of you in your new role.

Let’s say in your old job you were very hands on; you worked alongside your staff, you checked details and ensured that deadlines were met. Now that you have broader responsibility, you cannot be in the weeds like you were before and still be available for your new duties.

What this comes down to is that you need to let go of your old role. Many people find that challenging.

One issue is that some of their identity is enmeshed in the old role.

Another issue is the skills they developed and came to rely on. They say, “You’re telling me to stop doing the things that worked so well and got me this far and start operating in a way that is new and, to me, untested? Do I have that right?” Well, yes.

As an example, now that you have both direct and indirect reports, you need to get out of the weeds (read: out of the way) and let your direct reports manage their staff.

First, by doing this, you will have the bandwidth to start leading: see the bigger picture, communicate a vision and set goals, engage key players (in multiple directions) for buy-in, and set the pace and direction for executing.

How to accomplish all this? The answer is delegation.

This means that instead of having the comfort and control of being hands on, you empower and trust others to do the work. It can be hard to let go when we think we could do it faster or better — OR, faster and better. But, if you hang on, you can’t be available for the requirements of the new role.

I would recommend that you start small and hand over some tasks that are lower risk. You might also target tasks that take a lot of time and don’t require much skill. Repetitive items are also a good choice.

You’ll need to hand over bigger projects, and soon, to get real impact.

You can make a list of activities and score them on a scale of 1 to 5: noting the time alleviated from your schedule; the time involved in training; and whatever specific competencies are needed such as being good with spreadsheets or strong interpersonal skills.

To delegate effectively, we can’t tell just anyone what to do, walk away and expect it to be accomplished as we wish.

It’s important to know the strengths of individual staff members and assign accordingly; give clear instructions and deadlines; provide the necessary tools and resources. It’s a plus to provide context for how the task fits into the bigger picture; it can make something mundane feel less so.

I’m a big believer in checking in along the way to inquire on progress, answer questions and offer encouragement.

Here’s a tip: delegate the outcome you want but not exactly how they need to get there. This is important because the other person might have a better way to accomplish the task. They will feel better about the task being their project and you can sidestep micromanaging.

It helps to anticipate that someone doing a task for the first time or two will take longer. So, prepare to be patient. When they’re finished, thank them and show appreciation. And, if the work is noticed by others, don’t claim credit for yourself, instead recognize the efforts of the people who actually did it.

So, the bottom line: take action and loosen your grip.

That means delegate and let your staff own the work. You’ll have less control over the details and how exactly things get done, and gain control over the bigger picture and setting the agenda — what your new job is really about.

Success is yours if you delegate.

Take the Wheel  from Your Saboteur

Sandy was walking down the hall to the office of his boss Jim.  He was ready to present his big idea. It could make a significant difference to the company and be a game changer to his career. He had worked late nights and weekends to polish it.

As he got closer, he thought: Jim might think my idea is off base…maybe way off base.  No way would the company take a chance like that.  Who am I to be upsetting the way we do things?  Jim isn’t going to be comfortable with the risk and will get mad — at me.  This could be bad for my career, even my job.  This is a mistake.

So . . .

Sandy stopped in his tracks and went back to his desk.  He put the carefully prepared document in a file and closed the drawer.  He never proposed the idea that might have catapulted the company over the competition and launched him to a new level of responsibility.

What happened in that hallway?

An internal voice, we call a saboteur, inner critic, gremlin or The Committee, whispered in Sandy’s ear and planted a big dose of doubt.

So, as Sandy made up a negative story that his next move was going to be dangerous, maybe even a career-killer, his dream crumpled.  Worst of all, his saboteur convinced him to do nothing, to not even try.

Who or what was that saboteur and where did it come from?

The saboteur is that inner voice that serves as an internal warning system to avoid danger.  It means well in trying to keep us safe but is woefully out of date and actually can do serious harm.

Some believe the source of this voice goes way back to when we were prehistoric hunters.  That rustle of leaves might have a large and dangerous animal behind it; an internal voice said don’t go investigate and so live another day.

Others believe we devise coping strategies when we are very young children and then continue to use them despite being adults in radically changed circumstances.

While not the first to expose the pernicious saboteur, Shirzad Chamine has written a very accessible book, Positive Intelligence, and offers a free assessment as well.

Noting that our mind can be our friend or our enemy, Chamine’s assessment determines one’s Positive Intelligence Quotient, a score represented as a percentage of how much of the time your mind is your friend or your enemy.

His research has determined that a score of 75 is a tipping point.  It means that your mind is serving you about 75% of the time and sabotaging you 25% of the time.  Above 75, we are uplifted by the internal self talk and below that, we are being dragged down.  He says that a dramatic 80% of individuals and teams score below this critical tipping point.

What are some strategies to deal with this saboteur?  Start with awareness.  When we notice an internal message holding us back, we have a choice to override it.  Without the awareness, the saboteur is driving the bus and making decisions for us.

Consider the difference between:  “I think I’m going to make a mess of this.” and  “My lying saboteur thinks I’m going to make a mess of this.”

The challenge and the opportunity?  Take the wheel from your inner critic.

Chamine offers his assessment for free at PositiveIntelligence.com.  The feedback is nuanced and worthwhile.  Your results are immediately available and will be followed up with a series of unobtrusive emails offering messages and brief exercises to reinforce the awareness and learning.

As we increase our awareness of that inner voice, we give ourselves a chance to restore choice.

Full disclosure:  I let my own saboteur be loud and bossy while writing this, causing the post to be delayed.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Self pity:  Resentment (resistance) about what is

Compassion:  Acceptance of what is

Success for you 

Mind the Gap: Your Path to Greater Fulfillment

Bob’s keynote at the conference went well.  As the clapping died down, the rush of elation felt like a victory.

By lunch, his mood had slumped and he was feeling alone and, actually, a little resentful.

Two days later, he noticed himself thinking, “I put a lot into that presentation and I didn’t get any help at all.”

When Bob contacted me about coaching, he was restless and irritable.  He said he was working as hard as ever and feeling discouraged.

The long hours at the office and time on his computer at night was taking a toll on his family life.  His wife felt slighted and his kids mumbled that he was grumpy all the time.

His routine felt like a grind.  All that effort at work and the results were good but there didn’t seem to be any teamwork or appreciation for what he saw as his sacrifices.

To get our coaching started I asked him to complete an exercise called the Wheel of Life, which offers a simple and effective way to gauge someone’s current level of satisfaction.

Think of a pie cut into eight wedges, where each wedge represents a major domain of your life.  The categories include:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Friends & Family
  • Significant Other/Romance
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Health
  • Physical Environment
  • Personal Growth/Spirituality

Then rate your current fulfillment for each one on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s quick, easy and provides a “snapshot” of today’s level of satisfaction.

Bob reported moderate to low satisfaction with his job (5), his relationship with his wife (6), his family time (5), and even with fun and recreation (3-4).

For the second part of the exercise, I noted to Bob the rating of 5 that he gave to Career and asked him to imagine what a 10 for him would look like.

This is a basic coach technique; we invite a client to imagine an ideal outcome and then hold that vision as a goal. Next, after acknowledging where we are now, we collaborate and devise a strategic action plan to close the gap and make the vision a reality.

The Wheel exercise helped Bob get in touch with his current level of discontent and start the process of identifying solutions.

We quickly pinpointed the focal point as time.  Bob had been promoted into a bigger job with more responsibility and he hadn’t fully embraced his new role.

We worked together on establishing priorities, improving time management; and then, delegating and coaching his direct reports to take on more ownership.

The transition took some time.  As Bob’s staff members took on more responsibility, they developed new competencies.

Bob got out of the weeds and began to lead more and manage less.  He felt less stressed out and was able to enjoy his family again.  He also stopped bringing the ghost of an unhappy home life to the office.

We know that simply completing the Wheel exercise will not turn around major issues.  It can be a useful tool, however, to highlight areas of dissatisfaction and facilitate the process of identifying paths to greater fulfillment.

The challenge is to mind the gap.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

Don’t be a prisoner of your past. 

Be a pioneer of your future. 

Lead for your success.

The Promise of Possibilities

Dogs…chased…the…gorillas…because…they…smelled…like…tangerines…that…cats…forgot…and…left…behind…at…the…party……period!

So plays out an exercise of improvisation among business colleagues.  That the sentence doesn’t make sense is beside the point.

Participating in groups of three, each member added one word at a time.  It meant that each of them had to listen to the others, be present to the exercise, and let go of where they wanted to take the story.

And, underlying the whole process, they all had to practice a Yes, And perspective.

Yes, And is the most basic building block of improvisation and stands in contrast to No or Yes, But.

With a Yes, And perspective one accepts what another offers and builds on it and never dismisses or denies.

The Yes, And perspective makes space for an idea to breathe before being shot down, sometimes just the moment that is needed for a new idea to develop into something worth pursuing.

Yes, And promotes the creation of a safe and courageous space and in turn supports risk taking and encourages innovation and creativity.

I’ve been leading groups to perform improv exercises on a regular basis this past year  The participants quickly get over any shyness.  They pay attention, focus and have fun.  Their energy goes up and they leave a little more open to possibilities and willing to engage with others.

Improvisation is an activity that allows participants to experience new concepts and in a visceral and lasting way.

The intent is not to try to be funny or to deliver a performance in front of their peers.  Instead, participating in a structured series of improv exercises can be a form of emotional intelligence in action and offers a creative learning experience.

Though the exercises may feel like play, improv promotes better listening, more spontaneity, increased confidence as well as flexibility and agility.

The benefits are not limited to just the individual experience.  Because the exercises are done in pairs, triads and larger groups, they can also build team cohesion and collaboration.

Another key part of what makes practicing improv effective is supporting our partners and helping them look good.  When we respond in the moment and build on the ideas that come up in the exercises, we’re not competing for credit.  This approach de-emphasizes ego and contributes to better teamwork.

Living in today’s period of unprecedented and accelerating change, it will be the people and institutions that are willing to adapt and consider new ways of doing things that will survive and thrive.  There are too many examples of institutions that have faded because they didn’t.

Contempt before investigation is a sure way to block progress and maintain the illusion of safety of the status quo.

Yes, And is positive, versatile and invites participation.

As we can lead from any chair, the opportunity in hand is to start noticing the negative impact of No and Yes, Butand replace it with

YES, that’s an interesting idea. . .AND. . .

 

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From the Water Cooler . . .

What we send out, we get back. 

Success for you now today

What’s All That Stress About, Anyway?  

In a world where . . .

the toe-tapping demands for your attention are non-stop and getting more insistent . . .just keeping up-to-date sometimes feels like you’re trying to get a drink but it’s from a whooshing fire hose.   In a world like this, survival is the order of the day.

In this world, changes pile up on one another and the pace keeps accelerating.

All this change generates stress.

Measuring the impact of stressful events, the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a list of 43 life events of varying magnitude–starting with Death of a Spouse (100 life change units), Divorce (73), and ending with Christmas (12) and a Minor Violation of the Law (11).  Nearly all of them hinge on change.  To get a sense of impact, review the events in your life in the last year; a cumulative score above 300 indicates risk of illness.

So what exactly about change is stressful?

The answer is likely complex, unique to you and situational.  In general, though, I think it is about a loss of control.

Double-clicking on that, stress manifests due to the fears of losing what we have and not getting what we want.  And, the worst fear of all: needing to let go of what we have to be available for something new, not getting it, and ending up with nothing.

 Imagine an iceberg:  the small part above water is the stressors we notice such as when we’re running late, stuck in rush hour traffic and then a truck blares its horn, starting a chain reaction of honking cars, kids fighting in the backseat and spilled coffee.

The much larger part of the iceberg below water is what really gets to us.  That would be the anxiety of the imagined consequences of . . . being late and not getting a critical report finished by tomorrow’s noon deadline; or, failing to persuade in next week’s presentation to senior management at your biggest client.

Drilling down, it’s always about fear.  Sometimes, just fear about fear.

The answer is to start with awareness.  Increasing our awareness of what the triggers are. This means that we can start by recognizing these stressors and be alert to their impact.  Forewarned is forearmed.  It also means we can take pre-emptive steps to cut out some of these stressors.

Accepting that some stress is inevitable, if we take an observant perspective, we can keep some remove from the fears and not get so pulled in.

Next month, we’ll look more in depth at motivations for coping with stress for increased wellness.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Every time I say Yes to something new,

 I am saying No to something else.

Success, enlightenment.