Yes, it is true extra effort achieves more in the short term; that’s one of the reasons why you do it. But the long-term cost can be much higher than you think.
After one or more big pushes to achieve critical deadlines, you’ll become increasingly exhausted and so will many of your team. The big problem is that the last deadline, the one that seemed so critical, wasn’t the end of the challenges or the program.
What is the Truth?
The truth is that working harder only solves very short-term issues. The harsh truth is that working harder will neither address vulnerabilities in your leadership nor underlying issues in the program.
Logic decrees that if all parts of an equation are fixed, nothing can change. To translate this to the world of transformation programs: to achieve a fixed deadline with the same resources means the outcome will change. If the outcome can’t change, the resources or timing have to.
Being able to clearly articulate options that recognise this reality, while still offering choice, is essential to managing the often-conflicting priorities of your executives, yourself, and your team.
What Needs To Be Understood To Work With This Truth?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This statement was made by Reinhold Niebuhr, a highly respected American theologian who lived in the 20th century. Mr Niebuhr was an intellectual and public commentator who argued for realism with both the political and religious communities.
For me, his words hold especially true for leaders of transformation programs! The organisation you work for will have things that you will not be able to change, and recognising those, rather than expending energy fighting or complaining about them, will save time and effort better spent elsewhere.
Remember, systems have inertia; they don’t easily change. Friction is created when change is initiated. Courage and energy are required for you to challenge the things you can and need to change in order to deliver a successful program.
Changing Your Approach
If you find yourself working harder and longer, the first question is whether you’re working on the right things. Consider the following to help you arrive at an answer:
- Why do you think you have to work even harder?
- What is currently causing you to use this approach?
- Are you avoiding someone or something?
- And, importantly, what are your other options?
The third point above will challenge you to consider whether you are using your courage in the right way for the right reasons.
In the same way that a major storm will find the parts of your roof that leak, a major transformation program will highlight the areas of your leadership and support structure that are the most vulnerable. Identifying these vulnerabilities will allow you to seek the support and techniques that are going to be the most helpful to you in overcoming the challenges you will face.
Working harder, rather than taking time to consider a broader set of options, can be driven by the desire to avoid taking certain actions – especially in areas of leadership that you find challenging.
Identifying the root cause of your tendency to rely on working extra hours is the first step to changing your approach.
Support and coaching to assist with this identification process, as well as exploring alternative ways of working, are likely to have major benefits for your health and well-being. You will also be setting a powerful example to your team, with flow-on benefits for the whole program.