Over the years, I’ve come to realize that in most organizations, most of the time, people tend to do what leaders check.
This doesn’t mean that team members believe it’s important. Nor, does it mean that they are excited about, energized from, or committed to the activity. It simply means they do it because they know that the leader will ask about it.
I invite you to consider if you have ever experienced this situation.
You are sitting in a meeting where team members are discussing work with their leader. The session starts with one person telling the leader about what he is working on and how busy he is.
The leader seems impressed, and offers a few words about the team member’s efforts. The team member feels validated because of his hard work and his busyness. It’s clear that his busyness is valued.
One-by-one, the attendees report on the activities they are performing. Each subsequent presenter goes a bit longer in an effort to demonstrate how busy she or he is.
The team members are very busy – they’ve got a lot going on.
The leader seems pleased. Praise is heaped upon the employees for how busy everyone is and all that they are doing.
The session ends with a motivational, “Let’s get back to work!”
People file out of the room…
Now, imagine that these questions are swirling around in their heads:
- Sure, we are busy, but what are we doing that truly matters?
- If we are so busy, why do I come home most days feeling like I didn’t get any real work done?
- I have heard the same person discuss the same things for the last month with no real progress. When is the leader going to hold him accountable?
Now, imagine this…
You are the team leader. You have fueled a culture where busyness is rewarded.
- Maybe all of it started from a good place. You wanted people to be involved, to get on board, to be recognized for their efforts. So, you started praising activity.
- Perhaps it occurred because you and the team are caught in a crazy environment and are trying to get some traction – any traction. Thus, praising busyness feels right.
- Or, maybe you simply haven’t taken the time to clarify what matters most, don’t like to hold people accountable, or thrive on activity yourself.
Keep in mind, your team doesn’t exist to simply do things. It exists to deliver results. Don’t get these two confused, as they aren’t necessarily the same things.
Take a quick look at this 1 minute video about measuring busyness
I invite you to take time to complete the activity I discussed in the video. It’s an easy three-step process that might prove very enlightening.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.