30th August 2018

How often do we bite off more than we can chew?

Just Enough

Recently I have seen a number of examples of businesses and departments struggling because they have been under-managed and under-led. Consequently not only did the financial performance suffer but the general morale and the engagement of the team suffered. In one instance it was a staff engagement survey that helped the business leaders to spot what was happening. How grateful am I that we have started to do that survey and how necessary is it to carry out the same exercise on a regular basis?

It seems that the business leader had allowed himself to become spread too thinly and wasn’t doing justice to any of the numerous hats he had chosen to wear. Hats which the leadership team had allowed him to wear I must add.

Being a Leader can be a lonely place at the Top

I wonder just how often that happens. How often do we bite off more than we can chew? How often do we bite off more than anyone can chew? How often do we find someone who is a competent manager and we take advantage of the situation, giving her more people than she can be truly effective with? My guess is that we do it a lot.

I am currently reading a book about the military and the author comments that in his first leadership role he was responsible for 4 people. The next level of promotion would see him responsible for 8. My initial reaction was that that wasn’t very many people but I am sure that the military will have well researched and well-tried rules about how many others one person can lead and still be effective, an area I doubt that we have enough clarity over in business.

Over or under-managing can be costly  

I suspect that there is a significant cost to being under-led. A cost that isn’t always obvious but that counts on lots of different levels, revenue, profit, engagement, happiness, customer satisfaction etc. The proof of the pudding is always in the eating. Being overmanaged is also expensive and unsatisfactory and demotivating for all concerned. It wastes resources and devalues talent. Somewhere in the middle, there will be an optimum position. I sense that that position will vary from person to person, from team to team and even from circumstance to circumstance, so the precise number is less important than the awareness that a less than optimum position is an expensive waste.

So what is the optimum position in the various areas of your business and how far away from that optimum are you?

Come along to our next seminar ‘Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Business Books’ on 19th September at Emirates Riverside, Chester-Le-Street.