Don't Overwork Your Horses

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Don't Overwork Your Horses

New supervisors quickly learn that it’s to their advantage to know at all times who the most willing and productive people are on their team, who the ‘work horses’ are. These are the people with seemingly endless capacity to reach for and find another gear, and crunch their way thru whatever pile of work is in front of them. On too frequent a basis, we rely on and take too much advantage of that extra capacity.

And what’s the matter with that, you say? It’s what we do. It’s how we stay afloat. No disagreement there. We’re using a tool, an asset that is available to us to get the daily wash out. But here’s the danger: Not unlike the pain medicine, Oxycodone, there is nothing wrong with using that tool on a limited, specific basis to accomplish a purpose. Yet, it is a risky, potentially dangerous tool. It is extremely habit forming, for you and the people around you. It can mask other symptoms, like poor planning on your part and poor performance on the part of other team members. It creates an indebtedness that we’re not especially well equipped to repay. It’s the reason we often see managers looking the other way when a strong performer commits infractions that would get others penalized, or preferable treatment that isn’t available to others.

Some suggestions:

  1. Be more mindful of how often you’re dipping into your reserves. If you find yourself regularly asking strong performers to compensate for the failings of others, to include yourself, ask yourself why. What is the root cause, and how might that be better addressed?
  2. Consider the possibility that there might be some systemic defect in your work process. Is your team fully staffed? Competent? Equipped for success? Do you have any chronic weak links that haven’t been mitigated? Make sure these items are being addressed.
  3. Sometime in the next week, ask yourself the questions, “Who are my three best people, and why do they stay?” Then, have a conversation with each of them individually to let them know that you appreciate them, and that they are special (but not privileged). Find out what keeps them on your team so that you can make sure they’re getting enough of what matters to them.

Make it a great day!

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