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But I’m sooooooo busy… Characteristics of the Ineffective Leader

You know the person.  The one jogging around the office like they have been separated from their class at an elementary school fire drill.  They are always shuffling around looking very stressed and overwhelmed.  All the while they have that face on them that seems to be saying, “look how hard I work, everybody! I work so much harder than you… because no one else could possibly do what I do.” They move like they have a purpose, but the truth of the matter is they’re not really going anywhere or getting anything done. 

Don’t get me wrong, their heart is in the right place, but they are overloaded, overwhelmed and way, way out of their depth.   They are trying to do the job of ten people, and the reason for that is they have somehow convinced themselves one or more of the following.

  • They can’t afford to hire more help.
  • They don’t trust the team they already have in place to do work
  • They enjoy being the theatrical martyr; constantly demonstrating to everyone at nauseum how unbelievably busy and overworked they are.

Let’s dissect these philosophies.

#1 They can’t afford help.

In my experience I find it interesting that the Managers who constantly say they can’t afford to hire help don’t seem to understand the concept of “working smart”.   Generally, in a business environment if someone is wearing multiple job hats, chances are that one or more of the hats they are wearing don’t fit so well.  By this I mean someone is probably doing a job they really are not qualified to be doing in the first place.  For example, Bookkeepers; unless they have had the appropriate formal training, generally do not make the best Human Resource Specialists.  By the same token Doctors perhaps should not be acting in an accounting capacity for their practice.  CPA’s should maybe not be doing their company’s marketing. Sure, in a pinch some one might be able to “Fill in” but job roles that take 2-10 years of post-high school education for one to be considered “proficient” in  are not positions that someone can just “step” into, regardless of how smart the person is.  For example, CPA’s generally have a 4-year college degree, have passed a CPA exam and attend continuing education yearly.  These are the professionals who are equipped to make decisions regarding your taxes, and financials not Suzy, the business owner and self-proclaimed accountant who while ambitious and has well intentions could be making decisions that will have serious tax ramifications for years down the road.   

Usually, somewhere in the natural eb and flow of job and work experience, skills and insight are gained that are invaluable to performing a certain role.  Someone merely “Stepping in” won’t necessarily know what all they need to do as it literally takes years to learn it.    The scary part is that the people who are simply “filling in” do not necessarily know what they don’t know. 

Working Smart means knowing if you applied the hours that someone who was just “Filling in” spent on projects that are outside of their scope, and had them instead refocus on billable work that they are in fact experts in, that increase in revenue and productivity would most likely pay for a new employee or service to do the job well, in half the time.    

#2-They don’t trust the team they have in place. 

 If there is no one in your office who has the intelligence or skills set to do most of the tasks the Manager or Owner does, that is a problem.  Realize that it is also a problem that the Manager or Owner created for themselves by not taking the time to hire the right people or train them well once they did.  Every President should have a Vice President, every Manager should have an Assistant Manager, Captains on boats have First Mates and so on.  There is a reason these hierarchies exist and not having a trusted #2 in place is a major failure.  At the end of the day, one person cannot be working 24 hours a day, every day and realistically get everything done.    It becomes a significant issue on days when the Manager or Owner simply wants to take a vacation. It’s a full- blown catastrophe if they get in a car wreck, get sick, become hospitalized or God forbid, die.   Therein lies the heart of business succession planning.  A good Manager or Business Owner always has their team cross trained.  No one in the office should perform a function that is a mystery to everyone else in the office.  If your work place is not cross trained, expect chaos on the days certain folks don’t come in to work; be ready for the customer complaints and for sales to nose dive.   So, make the time to make the most of the team you have in place.

If you are a Manager or Owner and you do not have a current employee who you feel is smart enough or trusted enough to be your back up, that’s an even bigger problem.  You need to hire someone and train them—immediately! The goal should always be to surround yourself with the smartest employees you can find.  Not cross training a team and over working yourself is just plain selfish.  This short sidedness is simultaneously costing your business growth potential while cheating employees out of reaching their potential.  Manager and Owners who know they have not cross trained their teams and have no “first mate” in the wings are guaranteeing failure for their business in the long run. 

[Read: Who Inherits Your Business? Think About Succession Planning …]

#3- They like being a Martyr.

 If the Manager or Business Owner falls into this group, speaking common business sense wont help.  These folks are filling some deep seeded emotional void by demonstrating to others just how very, very busy they are.   The help these folks need unfortunately is in therapy and not at the end of at 18-hour work day.  Here is some insight to business owners out there who are self-aware and honest enough with themselves to admit they fall into this category.   Your team doesn’t look at you and see a dedicated, hard worker, they see someone working ineffectively, for the wrong reasons, to the detriment of the company.   Know that before you make your next high-speed lap around the office ringing your hands and mumbling to yourself about how busy you are… everyone you are trying to impress, thinks your nuts.


In Summary know this-

On the first day of business school, Management 101, the Professor will generally approach the front of the lecture hall and the definition of “Management” will be scrawled out on the board for future tycoons of business and industry to digest.

Management- The act of effectively getting things done through other people.

So, if you are a “Manager” or an “Owner”, understand your primary role is to delegate tasks to competent workers. Not to be a “worker bee” doing 15 jobs at once when realistically, your only qualified to do a couple of them well.  Do yourself, your employees and your clients the favor of knowing the difference and act appropriately. 

If you want to speak to a Lawyer about your business, Contact us.

Good Luck and Long Live Your Business!

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