I've been seeing the collateral damage of this kind of thinking in a lot of companies, lately. Well-meaning senior executives start one initiative after another, and roll them out to the masses for implementation.
But of course, the devil is always in the details. And there's the devil to pay as the middle managers add yet another ball to their juggling act. In the end, it's the employees who suffer. They don't get needed one-on-one time, coaching or feedback. The managers are tied up in meetings all day.
"Let's just finish one thing so we feel like we actually accomplished something!" a production manager suggested as we prepared to work on the dynamics among the senior team. So much had rolled down from the corporate office, they couldn't focus on priorities. The bureaucracy was bad enough but the new mandates were killing them…and destroying their team. Quality issues, assembly problems and a host of broken processes had consumed the team with firefighting and finger-pointing.
So what can leaders do? It takes both a corporate stance on managing new initiatives and a personal stance on how you spend your own time.
Stop expecting instant response time.
"I expect my managers to respond 24/7. I don't care if it's the weekend or they are on vacation," a senior leader told me recently. Oh really? And how much are you willing to pay for that round-the-clock slavery? Don't you ever want them to feel relaxed and refreshed? Or do you want them to be Pavlovian hounds, who respond to every electronic doggy biscuit? Be careful what you wish for…next you'll be complaining about your managers never taking any proactive action. How could they when you have them reacting to every stick you throw?
Finish one project before beginning another.
Not only will the team stay energized, they will be motivated to create a solution that will really work and be embraced by everyone who is impacted. When there is no time to effectively implement something new, the piece that gets shortchanged is the buy-in component. Over time, the troops get worn out and cynical. It will be just one more program du jour.
Stop running/attending meetings that are a waste of time. And don't put up with meetings that are simply inserted into your calendar.
Stop dancing like a trained monkey. If you don't get value out of a meeting, first raise the issue with the leader (or if you are the leader, raise the issue with the group). If the purpose of the meeting is unclear, or you find you discuss the same issues over and over, stop going. If a meeting is inserted into your calendar, insist on knowing what the purpose is and if there is another way to reach the same outcome. Seventy-five percent of the time, a phone call will resolve it.
Stop punishing your good employees with more to do than anyone else.
Yes, I know: busy people get things done…blah, blah, blah. But if you are killing your best people with all the heavy lifting, excuse me, but how long will they be your "best" people? Start looking to your B players to step it up.
Stop doing work that isn't worth it.
When I started my business, I was excited to get a large, multi-year contract with a large city agency. That excitement wilted when I began to experience the slow, tedious bureaucracy, and the endless administrative and political complexities. When it ended, I vowed never to get sucked into a revenue-draining project like that again. I got another lesson some years later, when I thought I could take on a project, even though the CEO was indifferent and disengaged. Now I don't take work that looks like it's more trouble than it's worth. Do you have a "problem customer" or a contract that sucks the energy and efficiency out of your employees? Maybe it's time to cut your losses.
Stop making things more difficult than they need to be.
"I hate doing business with that company," my client grumbled. "It takes them a month to make a decision and every step of the project takes a committee to sign off on." Are you that company? If you're decision-making style has gone from involvement to death-by-consensus, it's time to take a step back. Where did the rules get re-written that everyone has to weigh in on everything? Strip down the layers of entanglement and your company may end up being exciting to do business with again.
Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee-based executive coach, organizational and leadership development strategist. She has a proven track record spanning more than 20 years, and is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.JoanLloyd.com.