Am I spread too thin?

I keep getting called on to deal with problems that crop up as we try to deliver what’s been promised. Since I know more about how things work and have a broader view of where we are going, it’s a natural request. Besides, I like being in control of the decisions about how and when we commit resources to solve problems. And I’m good at juggling. But I’m sensing a limit to what I can get to. There are a lot of sales opportunities out there that I should focus on, for example, and I can’t be in two places at once.

Thoughts of the day: Unloading the things you know how to do best helps the company grow. Avoid burnout. Know that there will be failures and that while you strive for excellence, sometimes good enough is just that. Recognize that everyone in the company will benefit from gaining experience dealing with issues on the front line — so let them.

Expanding the number of people who know how to do what you do means you can cover more ground. While you want to keep overhead low, building a team to handle more incoming work means the company is prepared to grow. If you don’t have enough time in your day, focus on shedding tasks; start by getting rid of repetitive and non-revenue creating activities.

Avoid the temptation to try to be everywhere, do everything. Focus on what matters most — getting more customers and expanding relations with existing ones. It can be tempting to do something tangible in operations — you see things happen as a result. But working on more sales and marketing activities, where activities and results may be harder to correlate, will help you build a future for the company.

Want to free up space on your calendar? Pick one thing that you will focus on doing well. Then pick people to do the other things that you do now. Set up assignments to make it clear who is newly responsible. Set aside training time to get the new manager up to speed. Meet regularly to review assignments, results and next steps.

Operationally, know when it’s time to quit seeking perfection because the marginal return just isn’t worth it. Do a reality check on why you’re spending so much time in operations. It may be that you’re trying to accomplish something that just isn’t going to pay you back for the energy you’re putting into it.

Challenge yourself to step back and stay out of problems. Let your people make mistakes and learn from them. The best lessons come from fixing things that went wrong.

On the sales side, be careful not to over-promise and set the company up for under-delivering or having to take a hit in profit to meet customer expectations. As you expand your role in sales, your knowledge of what’s possible in operations will help you decide when to say, “yes” or “no” to a customer request.

Focus on taking on sales that are routine, as they often will be the easiest to deliver with the fewest questions and re-do’s. In other words, routine sales are great training for the people who are learning to take over from you in operations.

Develop patience. Allow people to expand their roles. Appreciate what people are doing and encourage them to pursue more. Avoid the temptation to criticize when it looks like things could go wrong. Instead ask questions that will make your replacement think and work things out: “Have you thought about…,” “When you try to do x, y and the z, what happens?”

The Art of Delegation: Maximize Your Time, Leverage Others, and Instantly Increase Profits” by Charles C. Malone.


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