I'm overwhelmed as a leader.

“I’m overwhelmed as a leader.” Now what?

“I’m overwhelmed as a leader.”

Emails are stacking up. Phone calls keep coming in. Demands on time and decisions pile on. Issues constantly pop up. There’s just not enough time.

Oh, yes. I know these scenarios only too well. At one point I would keep adding to my to-do list. The to-do list got out of control. Yes, I would get the phone calls, the demands, the requests for “absolutely must-have-right-now” projects. Any push back I did seemed ineffective.

I was running the US and international channels for a software company, responsible for the P&L, marketing, support, product management, and reported to a board of (demanding) directors. Everything was fine when profits were growing. “Money solves all kinds of woes in business,” my mentor was fond of saying.

When profits dipped, they weren’t even losses, the sideline advisors came of the woodwork with demands, “suggestions” that they would take to the board if not implemented immediately, deadlines tightened, and the pressure increased. And this was a relatively small profitable company.

I was in constant firefighting mode, crazy busy, to-do list was out of control and I seemed to be a step behind all the time.

So how do I handle all this and stop being overwhelmed as a leader?

A mentor of mine often said, “execution is where success is and the money is made.”
I’ve come to realize that is only part of the story. Execution does absolutely need to happen and happen well.
However, alignment is key for execution to be effective. In order to make decisions that are effective, to prioritize in a way that gets things to happen, I needed to guage everything on my to-do list against something that made sense rather than follow and fix the squeaks.
It’s so simple it is almost ridiculous to write it down or say it out loud.

I needed values, vision, goals that were aligned.

That’s it. No big secret.

Ah, to get this alignment is where the trick lies.

The alignment rests in alignment of values with the team members including myself. That means I need to understand team members’ values and honor them even if they are different than mine. It also means I have to set a vision that is vivid, clear, inspiring, about something bigger than just me, and communicate it so often people know it before I even say it. And it means I know my job. I set goals. I communicate the vision and goals often.

Once the alignment is in place, it is time to delegate. I let the team members do their part. I track progress, ask questions and make adjustments. This works well for direct reports and colleagues where you have no direct authority.
Okay, I know all this. This is well and good. I’m still overwhelmed as a leader!
When I’m overwhelmed as a leader I seek out the mis-alignment, find where the issues lie, and straighten them.
New requests that come in follow a process. As you follow this process you find you stop saying, “I’m overwhelmed as a leader” and stop chasing the loudest squeak. It is truly a skill and a process. Skills and processes take time to get right. If you say, “I tried it and it doesn’t work,” you haven’t developed sufficient skill.

5 steps to get control when you say, “I’m overwhelmed as a leader.”

Take your time to answer these questions.

  1. Is the request clearly articulated? Is there a business case with it?
  2. Does this request honor the organization’s values?
  3. Does request move the team closer to the vision?
  4. Does this request help achieve the goals that support the vision?
  5. Does the team have the tools, skills, resources to successfully achieve it in the time frame requested?

If the answer is “Yes” to all of them you have a project to tackle. Execution then becomes key.
If there is “No” on one or more, it probably needs shelving. Now you have some objective reasons why “No” is the answer.

Following this process takes discipline.

The process takes a tremendous amount of ground work up front to get the foundation in place. There are times when it is still not easy, however you have a fighting chance when you are intentional about your decisions.
Following a process like this will certainly ease the “I’m overwhelmed as a leader”
If you want help to nail down your foundation to get out the I’m overwhelmed as a leader state contact me and let’s talk about options. Phil@PhilBride.com

Helping Leaders Breakthrough

“Dominate your life with Focus, Decision and Execution.”