“You can do anything, but not everything.”
You’ll get no argument from me, there’s a lot to do. There’s a lot to stay on top of, and ahead of. The weight of expectation to ‘do it all’ can be really overwhelming. It can all become too much and we start floundering in the feeling of failure rather than excelling on the adrenalin of challenge. This can have a huge impact on how successful we feel in our work and dent our confidence significantly. Leaders need to be acutely aware of this for not only their employees but for themselves.
According to a survey completed by TNS and Beyond Blue in 2014, one in five Australians have reported they have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unfit in the past 12 months. That’s an alarming statistic and one I think Leaders can assist with if they are connected to their teams.
Interestingly, I was having a conversation with someone you would call a young leader. He has just been appointed to his leadership role and wanted to discuss his feeling of complete overwhelm in our executive coaching session. I let him speak as he laid out on the table everything he had to do, what he wasn’t doing and how he felt he was letting his team and the business down. Needless to say he wasn’t in a good place. Between managing people and budgets, strategy, business development, training people and managing client expectations all he could see was a big muddy mess of failure.
His feelings were valid; they were very real for him. It was only through him ‘getting it all out there’ that I could identify a lot of the weight he was carrying was the expectation he was putting on himself. Sure there were expectations from the business, however he’s not expected to do everything at once, all the time.
The key to him finding a better place is to understand how to manage the extremely high expectations he had of himself. This is very common in business and first time leaders who believe they have something to prove. These leaders need to be supported and have open lines of communication with those who can help.
Once we had ‘filtered out the mud’ so to speak and identified clear priorities for him, he looked visibly relieved. He understood that he was in fact achieving, he was covering off on the top priorities for him right now. And once he moved forward with these and the amount of effort involved reduced, he could then bring in another and rework his priorities.
It’s so important to understand the added weight and pressure we put on ourselves that weights incredibly heavy when you add it to the expectations of the business results. We need to learn to manage our own expectations first in order to be more efficient, effective and happier. It’s important to enjoy what you’re doing and allowing yourself to experience success.
It won’t be the first or last time this gentleman will feel this way. Given the commonality of this situation I think there’s a lesson in it for all of us to be aware of the expectations we place on ourselves. Are you being reasonable?
We also need to be very conscious as Leaders and ensure we are connected to our teams in order to be able to identify when people are feeling this way and help them through it. ‘Getting it out there’ in the open often helps and with some strategic guidance and support we can help people feel more empowered to cope with workload pressures and not get bogged down in the mud.