In this episode of the Sweet on Leadership Podcast, host Tim Sweet tackles the pressing issue of overcapacity among leaders and their teams. He highlights a significant gap in discussions surrounding employee engagement, with leaders often neglected in the conversation. Tim sheds light on the alarming statistics of burnout among engaged leaders, emphasizing the need for a sustainable approach to leadership. This episode is a must listen for any entrepreneur feeling overwhelmed, stuck, or stressed.
In this episode of the Sweet on Leadership Podcast, host Tim Sweet tackles the pressing issue of overcapacity among leaders and their teams. He highlights a significant gap in discussions surrounding employee engagement, with leaders often neglected in the conversation. Tim sheds light on the alarming statistics of burnout among engaged leaders, emphasizing the need for a sustainable approach to leadership.
Tim introduces the concept of "pull and push" leadership, drawing parallels from manufacturing practices. He explains how adopting a "pull" system, which focuses on actual needs and choices, can significantly enhance team fulfillment and efficiency. Drawing from his extensive experience as a coach and consultant, Tim provides valuable insights into the mindset shifts necessary for creating employee ownership.
The episode delves into actionable steps for leaders, including the importance of self-evaluation, the pitfalls of micromanagement, and the need for individualized leadership approaches. Tim emphasizes the significance of understanding each team member's work style and motivators, ultimately leading to a balanced and harmonious team dynamic. He concludes by urging leaders to grant themselves the same grace and understanding they extend to their teams, ultimately empowering them to transform their leadership style and improve team dynamics.
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We begin to see the short-term focus and short-term gratification give way to long-term gratification. We begin to see teams become interested in the hearts and the minds around them, it becomes a way to create a community that happens to be working on the same thing, to begin to care about each other, they begin to care more about the work, they begin to feel like it is, where they're meant to be. And when you see it happen, and when you're on one of those teams, you know it.
I'd like to ask you some questions. Do you consider yourself the kind of person that gets things done? Are you able to take a vision and transform that into action? Are you able to align others towards that vision and get them moving to create something truly remarkable? If any of these describe you, then you my friend, are a leader, and this show is all about an all for you. Welcome to the Sweet on Leadership Podcast, episode 19.
Hey, folks, welcome back to another episode of Sweet on Leadership. I'm your host, Tim. And today we're diving into an episode with a bit of a twist. Instead of having a guest, this conversation is an exclusive one-on-one with yours truly, why? Because of late, I'm seeing an increasing number of leaders that are coming to me with worries about overcapacity, their own and their employees. And this is about an engagement issue, but not in the way you might think. Numbers are up, Gallup just reported that 32% of all workers are engaged. This is only 2% down from a record high last year of 34%. But at the same time, an American Psychological Association study of leadership burnout shows a dramatic increase in numbers. It shows us that 35% of moderately engaged leaders and 20% of highly engaged leaders are exhausted. This engaged but exhausted group is still passionate about their work. But at record high levels of stress, they're caring up to the point of collapse, the most engaged groups also have the highest rate of turnover and retirement. And this study never offered a conclusion as to why this might be. But I'll offer one, from my experience, the even higher numbers of these most loyal leaders are explained because they're the ones that will care to the point of liquidating themselves. They'll do this out of dedication, personal purpose or values that they hold dear. They'll do this until it's too late, and they can't stay at the job. You see, the professional communities are still hyper-focused on employee engagement, but they're leaving the leaders out of the mix. And you may be wrecking yourself in the process. This isn't sustainable and the issue isn't being discussed enough. And I'm on the leading edge of it. So, I've decided to dedicate an entire episode based on my current experience as a coach and a consultant. So buckle up, because I'm going to go through what you need to do, what you need to stop, what you need to start, the mindset that you need to adopt, and the actions that are behind how you do it and do it well. First off, let's get our terminology straight, I'm going to be talking about the concept of pull and push in leadership and in particular, creating employee ownership. The way in which I'm using these terms comes from manufacturing, push refers to any time we produce something without taking into account what the demand is. And on the other hand, pull means that you're producing something based on actual needs. This approach has a huge impact on resource efficiency when we're creating something of value. An older study by Harvard, which attempted to tie manufacturing into a then emergent software market found that using poll systems could cut lead times and inventory costs by up to 50%. So, therefore, it makes sense to think if that's the kind of system capacity it can create for manufacturing, why wouldn't it create capacity for you? Let me shift this into a simpler context. Think about a buffet. Do you want a chef that stands at the end of a buffet line and randomly heaps food onto your plate without asking you what you like? No, you'd want to choose for yourself. This preference for choice was confirmed by Cornell psychologists who found that when we had choice as employees, it greatly increased job satisfaction. So, it's a no-brainer that when we create a poll system between leaders and employees, guess what? We end up with higher levels of fulfillment, not just efficiency. Why should you care? A Gallup study showed that highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability than those that aren't. So, for every dollar or minute, we can spend creating a poll environment, you're investing not just in your own capacity, but in a more profitable future for the company.
Well, before we get into what we need to do, let's talk about what we need to stop. So much of the advice we get when we're trying to develop leaders appear as new things we have to start doing. In my experience, if we're going to create capacity, we can't be adding on more things and more things to do. So, we have to become able to scrutinize what's working and what's not working. One of the most important places to look are in those guiding principles, those quotes, those values that we hold really dear. We may have picked these up over time, we may be responding to things that we see in a colourful quote on LinkedIn. Take, for example, Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, widely regarded as one of the top leaders in history. He said before you're a leader, success is all about growing yourself. And when you become a leader, success is about growing others. It's a lovely idea. But it's one of the ideas that when blindly followed can lead to burnout. First rule of thumb in my book is value yourself as much as you value your team. You have to balance their growth and your growth, their health and your health, their psychological safety, and your own. All of these things properly done are a virtuous cycle. They're a two-way street, you can't effectively lead if you're running on empty. You can't give away what you don't have. Be careful how much you're chastising yourself. My favourite fear is micromanagement, micromanagement is one of those things that we hold up as an example of an absolutely toxic leader. But we have to look beneath what is the cause of micromanagement, it could be the lack of trust that a leader has in a person's willingness, experience, ability, and knowledge to perform the task that they need to do. This could be making the leader nervous about whether or not a person is going to produce as expected. So, they get down there, they hover like a helicopter, and they really try to control the situation. Well, the issue with that is that the leader is there to make sure that the team can execute, it's their job to manage these things. This bumps up against words of people like Simon Sinek, he eloquently put it leadership is not about being in charge but taking care of those in your charge. When in actuality, in many cases, it's about both. And when shit hits the fan, sometimes you have to be in charge. So, we have to look at all of these sayings with a measure of salt. And that's not saying we aim to disarm them. No, they still are important concepts. But what we have to do is get down to the root cause. So, if we don't trust our teams to execute on something, we have to stop and look at the root cause of why we are not trusting the team, then we need to work on that. So, I spent enough time talking about don'ts. The fact of the matter is that your journey is going to be different than anyone else's. And so before you start layering on all the things you need to stop doing or start doing, you got to get really fluent in terms of where you are now? What that means for you as a leader? What are the elements of your personal style, your genius, your work preference, and really get an idea of what's the right path for you? Needless to say, there's lots of things to consider, but it is bespoke to each person. The important thing to realize here is before you start adding on any new expectations on yourself, especially when we're dealing with capacity, it's really important for you to try to cut away what's no longer working. It cuts down on the conflict we're going to experience when trying to adopt new things. But also, it just creates a little more space and levity and lightness to your management practice. But don't get in trouble by trying to follow a paint-by-number approach to this. This is not a hack-and-slash job, we have to understand you deeply and then go in and make precision moves. Every leader is going to be different. Every experience is going to be different. We have to take you as a person in context, and we have to take what your current situation is in context. What is the team that's serving you? What place in the organization do you hold? What are your personal goals? All of these factors and all of these lead to a very unique set of challenges. Once we understand that it's not terribly complex. Why? Because we've got good data. Because we've gone through and we've used tools that we know are reliable, we've had conversations that we know are leading us towards truth and suddenly everything becomes easy. We can cut away what we need to cut away and we can add.
So, what are some of the things that we need to think about adding? The first and perhaps most important thing that you need to have when it comes to your team, is a heavy dose of reality. You need to understand each of your people in context and if it's a multi-layer team, you need to make sure that each leader within those different layers understands their people. Only then can we truly appreciate what that person is experiencing. This isn't so we can serve them a carte blanche that has to be a balanced exercise, it's about making sure that everybody is there for the right reasons, and that all of their positive intentions, and 99.99% of staff are wanting to do the right thing, all of their positive intentions are working in harmony. Think of your team as an orchestra. If you're going to play a particular piece of music, you have to have the right balance of all the different instruments. Once you do, there is a part for everyone. So, it's not about being blindly inclusive to the parts that you've got. But understanding your team in context, how they work, what they're interested in doing, what the work requirements are for the team and the promises that you've made towards the business, and then marrying those things together. If you can give people on your team what they're best at, if you can give them what they care most about, then suddenly, you've got poll. People are going to want to feel better and better about the job they do. And the easiest way to do that is to know that they're valued, know that what they do matters. And oh, by the way, it's the stuff they find fun, and it's the stuff that they find interesting. And what's true about most work is that when a team is completely flushed out, there is no grinding, because even the stuff that you might find terrible, the stuff that you hate doing the most, somebody is probably enlivened, and excited to do that work, you just have to make sure that the jobs that you have to do are balanced with the people that you have that are willing to do it. Learn this term, willing capacity. And I'm coining this now because I don't hear anybody else saying it. It's all about willing capacity. Daniel Goleman, pioneer of emotional intelligence, pointed out that self-awareness is the cornerstone of all emotional intelligence. You need to know your work stop, your biases. Importantly, you need to know the same for your team. It's like playing chess, you need to not only understand how each piece moves, but how to use them in sync to protect your king, AKA your mission. And when we start this work, it's like a cascading reaction, it begins to speed up, we have even more space and comfort. We have more space and comfort to trust our teams so that we then can transform them. We can transform the work around them, and we see the command and control methods that we might be holding on too tightly begin to melt away. We begin to see short-term focus and short-term gratification give way to long-term gratification. We begin to see teams become interested in the hearts and the minds around them, it becomes a way to create a community that happens to be working on the same thing. They begin to care about each other, they begin to care more about the work, they begin to feel like it is where they're meant to be. And when you see it happen and when you're on one of those teams, you know it. And here's one of the conundrums with this approach, we can rarely make these changes if we don't start with the leader. We have to understand the team, but all of the mindset shift, all of the intent, all of the strategy really does start with the leader. And this is really impossible to get to, if the leadership is so busy doing everything for everyone else, that they don't take a breath, stop and actually do some things that make them feel good. They tune their own engine, and they don't just run it 150% constantly. So, we've talked about starting to see things in terms of willing capacity. And we've talked about realizing that everybody has a different work style, and we can tweak the team based on how those work styles interrelate.
The next thing to understand is about incentives and that incentives are colourful, and they're dynamic, and they're different from person to person. Have you identified what currency each one of the people in your team truly operate in? And I'm not talking about their wage and the dollar figure. For some people work is all about achievement, accomplishment, even a competition. They might be accomplishing the bigger mission, they might be seeing themselves as winning a game. For others, it’s all about relationship connection, approval and belonging. If we don't have these in place, if they're not there feeling like they're working amongst a group of friends, well guess what? They feel alone. For others, it's a brain game, it's conceptual, it's all about thinking and exploration, problem solving and coordination. For still others, it's all about improvement or growth. It's about exploration, it's about really venturing into these new areas, perhaps having a large measure of autonomy to do it. And for others, it really is about influence and control and competence, in the best possible way. They want to turn chaos into order. They want to build trust and abilities and capabilities within their team. They want to open dialogues and really have a measure of impact on the business and the people around them. All of these different motivators are valid. But if we're not careful, we broad-brush people. Next time you pick up a book or a leadership article, take a look and see if they're writing from a perspective of one motivator, of one incentive. If they are, they're likely missing a trick.
The last thing that I want to talk to you about is adopting the practice of giving yourself a little grace, cutting yourself a little slack. One of the hallmarks of a good leader is that you understand when people make mistakes. You give them time to develop and grow, and that you afford them some space, ensuring that they have some psychological safety. And when people are doing new and challenging things, of course, you expect them to fail a little bit before they achieve mastery. But leaders, perhaps you don't always afford themselves this same luxury, because whatever you're facing right now, whether it's a push or pull leadership situation, whether it's high or low capacity on your team, whether you feel wrung out or enlivened by the work, this is all a product of the design and the leadership processes that you're choosing to engage. And by understanding this design, and by becoming really, really fluent in your relationship and your staff's relationship to them, you have the power to change, you have the power to make your team and your work experience, whatever you want it to be. And I want you to feel that power in the same way you want feel that your team is empowered. Even by just attempting to do some of the tactics that I've shared with you today, you'll have great success, things will change. You're going to begin to see a whole bunch of benefits, you're gonna start to see increased accountability and team members are going to be feeling ownership. You're gonna start to see people empowered, where it's not a buzzword, but you can actually see and track, every investment of time and money you put into a person returned tenfold back on the business. You're gonna see a boost in morale. People will just be happier. You're gonna see enhanced innovation where people are not just bringing up problems, but solutions. You're gonna see stronger alignment with company goals and stronger alignment with outside teams. Why? Because they're not being defensive. You're gonna see improved communication, because things are easier to get a handle on, easier to put into words, and we're not scared about being transparent. Personal growth and team members is going to shoot up because they're growing in ways that matter to them. Operational efficiency will follow almost as a byproduct, staff will be retained, and the potential that people hold for the organization will go up. All of this will happen because you make a few key choices, right now. The coolest thing about all of this is that with understanding how you relate to your team and to the idea of work, you can begin to shift the flow of responsibility and ownership. You can actually share the idea of changing that system openly with your staff. You could share this episode with them and once they see that as beneficial, they'll be on board. And that cultural endeavour doesn't just rest on your shoulders but becomes everybody's responsibility.
I hope you've enjoyed today's episode and see the potential that lies behind focusing on willing capacity. That work for you and your team can become a whole lot more enjoyable when people are able to pull down responsibility and ownership. Better for them and it’s better for you. If there's any particular part of today's episode that you're interested in hearing more about, feel free to shoot me a DM. You can reach me at teamworkexcellence.com or find me on LinkedIn at Sweet Leadership. In two weeks time, I'm going to be back interviewing another influential leader with a unique leadership perspective. I hope you'll join us. In the meantime, keep on leading, and thanks for joining me.
Thank you so much for listening to Sweet on Leadership. If you found today's podcast valuable, consider visiting our website and signing up for the companion newsletter. You can find the link in the show notes. If like us, you think it's important to bring new ideas and skills into the practice of leadership. Please give us a positive rating and review on Apple Podcasts. This helps us spread the word to other committed leaders. And you can spread the word too, by sharing this with your friends, teams and colleagues. Thanks again for listening and be sure to tune in in two weeks time for another episode of Sweet on Leadership. In the meantime, I'm your host, Tim Sweet, encouraging you to keep on leading.
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