TIME is my excuse!
A few years back we were working with a business leader, let’s call him Tariq, who was struggling to juggle the demands of what was quite a technical job with his leadership responsibilities. To his credit he had sought some help and knew full well things needed to change, or he would burn himself out.
To protect his confidentiality it wouldn’t be right for us to reveal what he did, but suffice to say he did have a lot of tasks that only he could do because of their technical nature and the stakeholders he was dealing with. He did also have a small team of 3 people to call on and it was very much part of his role to lead and develop them, with a view to upskilling his successor.
During the course of our discussions it became very clear that it was the leadership part of the role he was struggling with the most. He was spending all his time completing the technical aspects of his role and pretty much no time with his team, which in turn was resulting in a demotivated and under-utilised bunch of people. Because this had gone on for quite some time, certain individuals in Tariq’s team had become bored and apathetic which was manifesting itself in their behaviour. They would be frequently late back from their lunch break, would spend long periods of time chatting to colleagues in the coffee area and had begun to miss work deadlines. At the point we started working with Tariq, he had only just begun to notice this behaviour. Naturally our first question was how had he started to tackle it? Unfortunately his answer was one we hear all too frequently from leaders: ‘I simply don’t have time to do anything about it, I’m too busy!’
It’s a perfectly normal reaction for people when faced with something they don’t want to do or feel uncomfortable about doing to look for an excuse as to why they can’t do it. Invariably the easiest of these excuses to use is time, as let’s face it life is busy these days and there always lots to do. Tariq was doing precisely this to justify why he hadn’t confronted the behaviour of his team, despite knowing it was part of his job to do so.
But we need to be clear – don’t kid yourself, time is an excuse!
Yes we do appreciate we are all busy, but in the case of Tariq all he needed to do was spend 30 seconds delivering a piece of feedback that would let his team members know how they were behaving was unacceptable. 30 seconds! We explained to Tariq that given he’d let them get away with it for a while, he might have to keep giving feedback to the team for a while, but each occasion would only take 30 seconds and the reward at the end would mean it was time he couldn’t afford not to spend. Naturally we shared some tools with Tariq that would enable him to deliver this feedback in the right way.
Don’t get us wrong this wasn’t the only thing we helped Tariq with and in fact we ended up working with him for quite a few months. However this part of his story is, we believe is relevant to many leaders.
Don’t be like Tariq and put excuses, like time, in the way of you doing something you know is the right thing to do for your people, whether that is delivering a difficult message, completing a particularly unpleasant task or simply not cancelling an individual’s one to one. By continuing to put these things off, you are only making the situation worse and causing yourself more grief further down the line. Tariq recognised this and sought help.
If you would like some help to get rid of these excuses and find the time to wear your leadership hat please get in touch, we promise we can help.