Are You Working at a Strategic Level?

Jet - Are you operating - blog imageLeaders at all levels in all types of organizations face a common dilemma—not having the time to operate at a strategic level. When leaders are entrenched in the day to day, there are usually one or more sources that fuel the fires for burning time:

  • The leader himself or herself, for internal reasons, who will not or cannot delegate work to others.
  • Team members, who, for a variety of reasons, always need direction or permission no matter how skilled they are.
  • The amount of outside influences and requests compounded by those that come screaming in as high priorities for the leader’s immediate, undivided attention.

The obvious remedy, one might think, is to do a better job of time management. Unfortunately this does not address the issues—the root causes—of what’s creating this gravitational pull into daily morass of “stuff.”

Consider these remedies:

Delegation as a Survival Skill and Sanity Check

Let’s start with the issue of effective delegation. Delegation is both a skill and a mindset. As a skill, it is the ability to size up both the situation and the individual such that the person can perform effectively, learn something new, and potentially take it as an on-going responsibility.

If you think of yourself as a perfectionist or control freak, it’s time to sit down and have a good talk with yourself. Delegation is a mindset, the conscious decision to let go. It’s an acknowledgement that while you as the leader may know more or do a better job, your real job is to build the capability of the team and its members. Hanging on to work clogs the system and puts you in a competitive position with your own team for doing work. Your job as leader is to create organizational capacity. My recommendation: if you have young children, grab their DVD of Frozen, and, on your own, memorize the words to “let it go.”

Developing vs. Telling the Team Members

Are your team members coming to you because priorities have changed and they need guidance, because they are new and need direction, or because they know if they come with questions that you will give answers. This last one is a killer. If you see yourself as “the answer,” you may very well be “the problem.” And to compound the issue, team member problems are now your problems. Has your team trained you, or have you trained them? Your role as leader is to build the team’s capability, and in doing so, it creates an economy of scale across the greater organization.

Getting a handle on where, why, and from whom requests for your time are hitting your doorway or in-box

Handling the barrage of external requests requires an understanding of who is asking for your time and the reason behind the request. Let’s face it – some individuals with whom you interface are more important than others. It’s a matter of priority, not one of disrespecting someone’s request. Having a solid rationale for setting priorities creates focus and structure for where a leader needs to spend time and energy.

The bottom line for a higher level, more strategic perspective starts with a hard look in the mirror. Getting into the weeds, particularly when “in the weeds” is where a leader gets his satisfaction, is an enticement that is hard to resist. Operating at a higher level is a conscious choice, not a matter of time.

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