The Possibility of Doing Less

Sue was the vice president of a subsidiary of an international parent company. She had responsibilities for five direct reports and indirectly, of another 30 employees. She served on the executive leadership team of her company and several committees. Additionally, her role required that she served on a key committee for the parent company. This required frequent travel to Germany. Sue was dedicated, determined and of high integrity yet she often worried that she was leaving something undone or not done well.

In her Personal life, she was the single mother of two elementary school children and the sole caretaker for elderly parents who lived 30 minutes away. Sue reached out to me at Ascend Consulting for coaching, because the holidays were coming up and the added stress made her realize something had to change! It is often said, “if you want something done, ask a busy woman.” While this may be true, as my grandmother used to say, “there is a limit to all things!”

Sue and I began our coaching conversation with assessment. We explored her current vision of leadership, when & how she delegated to direct reports and the amount and nature of feedback she gave them. We also got clear about her definition of what it meant to be a “good mom.” Sue realized that more often than not, she didn’t ask for help, she didn’t delegate enough, and she held herself to unrealistic standards without checking out her expectations with her boss, her parents, or her children.

Through coaching, I shared with her the concept of creating a “we” mindset rather than an “I” mentality. This meant having open fact-finding and brainstorming conversations with her team and her kids about what really needed to happen and how. She stopped making assumptions about what her performance should be. Rather, she learned to check out with her boss what his top priorities actually were and what the definition of done “well enough” really was in each case.

As a result, Sue began to see many opportunities to do things with a little less angst and with a lot more empowerment of others. Most of all, she began to enjoy what she was doing and to allow others to create an atmosphere of ownership and collaboration. The result was greater enjoyment of everyone’s accomplishments- both at work and at home.

As Sue did less & was choosy about her definition of achievement, she had more time to listen to colleagues and spend quality time with her children. Turned out when they talked about what mattered most to them, her children chose playing board games with Sue rather spending her weekends on creating a perfectly decorated home.

So, as each of you go into the holiday season this might be a great time to reconsider some of you own definitions of leadership delegation, achievement, and perfection. It may just turn out that less really is more!

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