A recent dialogue with fellow coaches highlighted this somewhat obvious fact: Far too many managers and executives (the vast majority of my clients) have jobs that are simply too large to be done by one person. This seems to have become a “given” in most organizations, despite the ripple of negative effects that are perpetuated. Paradoxically, everyone seems to work at making this unsustainable arrangement sustainable — usually because they do not feel they have a choice. This is an enormous issue, but I’ll comment now on just one aspect of it, down at the personal level. (Other angles will be covered in future postings.)
The executives I know who are able to stay the most grounded — most productive and least burnt out — in their “too big” jobs are those who very consistently, very completely accept that they will never get everything done, and more importantly, they keep the downside of that fact in perspective. As one client explained it to me, “After experiencing a life threatening illness in one of my children for several weeks, I will never again view the pressures of my job and the importance of it the same way.” Falling short on (some) deadlines and plans and disappointing (some) people and doing “B” work (sometimes, on less important things) instead of “A+” work is part of any “too big” job. These compromises are not life-threatening and, with the right judgment calls and communications, do not even threaten the organization or one’s reputation or job. They threaten your confidence and job satisfaction, to the extent that you let them. But life goes on.
So, pick one of your own unrealistic responsibilities. Pick one right now! See if you can visualize the negative consequences of something that you know you cannot get done (at least, not on time) and now reframe those consequences with a bit more emotional distance and with a lens that does not enlarge them out of proportion. Can you think about the disappointment without being disappointed in yourself? Let me know.