Saturday, April 14, 2007

Are You Being Scheduled To Death?

My clients used to work 10...12 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. I had written about this in a Fast Company Experts article and when one of my clients picked it up, he looked at me and said "Were you on drugs when you wrote this?" (he was kidding of course). Then he went to tease me about "What do you mean when you're off your on?" I turned to him and asked him to refute that statement....that he wasn't in fact living just that. He couldn't. Another client who was walking down the hall started to laugh and said "Donna's naturally like that". Well at least I can get them laughing in the middle of utter chaos.

Actually even through the laughter, the truth of the situation hit home. We are right now looking at ways to take control of schedule and yes, there are ways to do that you know.

If my clients 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, why in the world would they want to stay in an organization with that kind of norm? And if you're part of the leadership, how can you lead an organization if you’re killing your people one jam-packed day at a time?

Forget work/life balance. It's a game of catching up. There can be no time for a private life. And rather than throw out the excuses such as “We have a responsibility to the shareholders” to “Competition in our market is fierce and we have stay 10 steps ahead of them”. etc, start figuring out another way of being so all the needs of the organization are met without killing its most valuable asset...its people.

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.

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.

Looking forward...
Donna Karlin

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