Blog Post 8-14-14

Are You Stuck in the Weeds?

Here at CI International we’ve been hearing the same repeated complaint from every agency we work with lately: that managers are so mired in daily, tactical duties there’s no time left to focus on the big picture.

“I feel like I’m running on a treadmill with my head down and can’t see where I’m going.”

“Every day is another losing battle…when will we have time to sit down and reconnect with our mission and vision?”

“I’m so busy every day, but what am I really accomplishing? Sometimes it’s hard to see how my work matters.”

One challenge lies in the way we groom future leaders. If supervisors are immersed in tactical work and get good at it, we promote them. The problem is that we’re promoting based on level of effort instead of the skill of strategic thinking, so we create a self-perpetuating problem. It’s not that hard work isn’t important, but rather that hard work without context is ineffective and eventually leads to an agency full of stressed, weary managers who will eventually burn out because they’ve lost their sense of purpose.

So, what can we do about the pace of daily work crowding out the vision? Managers will not learn to say “no” to busy work until they understand what to say “yes” to instead. Here are some ideas to help create that understanding:

• Revisit your current measures and make sure you’re measuring what matters.

• Consider a facilitated strategic planning session to help you embrace an emotional connection to your mission and vision. A good facilitator can ask questions to help you critique the time you’re spending in the weeds against your value proposition and ensure you’re deploying your resources strategically.

• Consider a business-focused team building session in which your entire team examines how they’re working together in the context of your higher purpose.

• Examine your employee engagement survey results and identify strategic opportunities to get where you want to go, rather than just “fixing” low-scoring items that may not have much impact.

• Executive coaching can be a great option for managers to individually identify where they are stuck and explore options for improving their strategic focus.

• Lastly, don’t forget that some basic skill building in time management and prioritizing can be helpful, especially for your newer supervisors. Getting those urgent and important “quadrant one” activities under better control can lessen the stress level and help create some breathing room for supervisors and managers to think about the bigger picture.

You can pull yourself back up where you belong, and if you need some help a CI International expert would be happy to guide you.