There are times in everyone’s career when you feel out of control; you’re spending more and more of your time reacting to events, you find yourself running late, trying to catch up, and it feels like you’re just bouncing from one emergency to another, struggling to catch your breath. The higher you get in an organisation, the harder it is to talk about, and the fewer people you have to talk about it with.
There’s an insidious temptation to think that it comes with the job; if you can’t handle it you don’t deserve to be there; you just need to battle through it, alone. Well you don’t. We’ve all been through it, and there are five specific steps you can take to regain control.
Strip your diary: Take your diary and strip out absolutely everything. Only leave something in if it’s a legal or governance requirement, or if it needs a level of authority that nobody else can provide.
Delegate hard: For everything else, challenge yourself to delegate it. There are only two reasons not to: either you enjoy it too much to give up, or you don’t trust someone else to do it. For the former, it’s only temporary until you’re back on top of things. For the latter you need to:
Make people a priority: Who’s job can you do better than they can? Who is sapping you when they should be supporting you? Where are your capability gaps? Re-jig the responsibilities: narrow the scope for those who are struggling; pass their responsibilities to others; promote new talent; bring in an interim; whatever you have to do to ensure that anything you can’t delegate now, you’ll be able to delegate next month.
Narrow your focus: Pick just two or three things to focus on over the next 30 days, and make one of them “fixing your people”. Everything else can wait until next month when you’re back in control. Block time in your diary; organise your team to fit in around you and your priorities; and demand that they use your time as efficiently as possible.
Keep the space: The key to staying focused is to schedule a short, regular thinking space with someone independent who you trust; whether a coach, a mentor or just a sounding-board. Make it someone who you won’t want to cancel when your other meetings over-run.
Bottom Line: There’s a reason airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first: you’re not much use to anyone else when you can’t get your breath. So stop. Breathe. Now take back some control.