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Scheduled to Death?

My clients used to work 10 hour days. They left work at the end of a very long day exhausted, with the feeling they hadn’t accomplished a fraction of what they’d set out to do. And that was before the era of handheld devices. Now, many of them are working a minimum of 12 – 14 hour days, when you take into consideration the hours they put in at home weekdays and weekends. Now incorporate handhelds, i.e. BlackBerries, and even when they are off, they’re ‘on’. They are scheduled to death and when they aren’t scheduled for a meeting, they are interrupted more times than one can count.

My clients used to work 10 hour days. They left work at the end of a very long day exhausted, with the feeling they hadn’t accomplished a fraction of what they’d set out to do. And that was before the era of handheld devices. Now, many of them are working a minimum of 12 – 14 hour days, when you take into consideration the hours they put in at home weekdays and weekends. Now incorporate handhelds, i.e. BlackBerries, and even when they are off, they’re ‘on’. They are scheduled to death and when they aren’t scheduled for a meeting, they are interrupted more times than one can count.

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They feel they have absolutely no control of their days, are scheduled beyond what’s humanly possible to sustain, and the powers that be expect them to maintain that lifestyle (or lack of) indefinitely. How can you lead an organization if you’re killing your people one jam-packed day at a time?

A question for organizational leadership, what in the world do you think would motivate your staff to want to sustain a life like that? Or should I say lack of private life altogether? I hear all the excuses in the book from “We have a responsibility to the shareholders” to “Competition in our market is fierce and we have stay 10 steps ahead of them”. etc

One has to set personal boundaries. If you’re in an organization that won’t let you, time to rethink the kind of life you’re buying into. The point of building a career used to be to create a life you love, a day that challenged yet energized and let you build a lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. This scenario describes a life with no lifestyle, no personal time….no life. Money without time (or subsequently health) to spend it isn’t a life.

If you’re a leader that promotes this, stop for a moment and take stock of just how many rising stars are staying and how many are running out the door, screaming “Enough!” and if everyone in your organization is working more than 10 hours a day, that’s a red flag that should be waved in your face. Time to consider resources, whether or not the right people are in the right places. Are your priorities clearly articulated or is the staff doing 10 things at once, not getting much of anything completed on deadline?

There are many factors. Bottom line is, many studies show you will retain your people…your best people if you value them as human beings, care for them, their health, intellect, ways of being. If you become known as the “Chew them up and spit them out” kind of organization, that will always come back to haunt you and you’ll be getting the bottom of the barrel when it comes to talent…not the cream of the crop.

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Don’t fool yourself by thinking you can cram more into a day and be the most effective person there. You’re not benefiting your organization when you show others their health and well being is secondary to everything else.

De-schedule. De-commit. Focus on the top 3 priorities you have right now. That’s the first step towards creating a successful, enthused environment. When mentoring your new rising stars, show them how to do that first, and it will be the most valuable lesson they will ever learn, how to create a sustainable work/lifestyle within which to grow.

Donna Karlin • Executive and Political Shadow Coach™ • Ottawa, Canada • donnakarlin@abetterperspective.comwww.abetterperspective.com

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About the author

Donna Karlin CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder and principal of A Better Perspective® & The School of Shadow Coaching, has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching® with global political, government, business and senior organizational leaders in the public and private sectors. Donna capitalizes on almost 30 years of experience in coaching, consulting and training to help clients and their organizations evolve into their level of excellence

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