Are you managing your job or are you managed by your job?

If I ask leaders what’s in their way to become really successful at work or why they are not able to focus more properly on people management I always hear the same answer: “I don’t have enough time.”

I spoke to a lot of people over the past weeks and some managers were so exhausted by a lack of time and resources that they seriously considered quitting their job for good. They felt that they are not up to the needs of their team members and had the overall feeling of being bad leaders. Instead of teaching great leadership skills to establish a #radicallyHuman leadership style in companies I am convinced that managers first need to be enabled to free up the necessary capacity in their hearts and minds.

Man looking at his watch
Man looking at his watch

In my blog post about 9+2 habits to manage your energy I give you some concrete actions you can apply immediately to your daily routine to be more focused and productive without shouldering more tasks.

Changing your long-term approach

In this article, I will focus on a long-term strategic approach to developing a more fruitful and satisfying way of thinking and working.

The HBR article “Beware the Busy Manager” demonstrates that fully 90% of managers wasted time and productivity despite having well-defined projects, goals, and the knowledge necessary to get their jobs done. It turned out that these managers were inefficient because they assumed that they do not have enough personal discretion or control. Most managers complained about having too little freedom in their job, while their bosses complained about managers’ failure to seize opportunities.

I will ask a provocative question: If you are perfectly honest, do you really believe that you do not have enough time, resources, or empowerment, or is it rather something much more personal that gets in your way – a deep uncertainty about acting according to your own values and beliefs?

If you usually do what you presume others expect from you, you are very likely to be guided by adhoc tasks and last minute demands – you are in permanent fire-fighting mode.

Effective leaders proactively control their tasks and manage the expectations of bosses, peers and team members. This allows them to meet strategic goals rather than fight fires. Great, you think, but how am I supposed to do that?

To break the busy routine, you have to overcome the psychological belief and desire to be indispensable.

If you feel more valuable the busier you are, you probably want to please everyone, which typically ends up pleasing no one. If you think that a good leader has to make him/herself available any time you will not be able to pursue your own targets and you potentially fail despite putting in a lot of energy.

Steps to manage your job

1. Develop a vision of what you really want to achieve and define a clear mental picture of yourself in that role.

2. Set your values by defining the fundamental beliefs that will guide your decisions and action along the path to success. You can’t do what you say if you don’t believe in what you’re saying.

3. Define your long-term goals by switching from planning activities for the next three to nine months to thinking in time spans of one or several years.

4. Set your priorities and adapt your daily routines according to your long-term goals. Prioritize the time you spend with team members or customers and be accessible to those who really need you.

5. Have the courage to say “no”. To achieve the goals that matter to you, you have to slow down and take control. Present your own goals and ideas to influence what others expect from you. You will see that your stakeholders will react more positively than expected on you saying “no” as you will have a more focused approach on what’s really important.

6. Get the resources you need by a step-by-step approach. If your long-term goals require a significant amount of resources split them into digestible chunks. Defend your idea on that first chunk and build on the success you achieve to go for the next chunk.

7. Always consider alternatives. Be open to outside ideas including those that require you to do things you are not comfortable with. Don’t be defensive when it comes to more dramatic changes as these might be the ones that take you a big step further.

8. Be patient with yourself. This kind of behavior is not happening overnight, but if you are clear on your vision and stay true to your goals you have a good chance of having a more fulfilling job and being less subject to a lack of time, resources, and empowerment.

Nearly all corporate training programs and books on leadership are grounded in the assumption that we should study the behaviors of successful leaders. I believe leaders do their best work if they don’t copy anyone but have the courage to draw on their own fundamental vision, values and capabilities.

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