If I made the assertion that eventually the gains of working longer and harder eventually cap out would you agree? I ask this question to business owners all the time and it seems universal that we all get that at a certain point, working longer and harder has a degrading rate of return in terms of the value you can create for your company. It just caps out.
But why then are so many business leaders working so hard? Could it be that as you’ve grown incredibly competent at what you do, sometimes it feels like the pressure has only increased, because now your company relies more than ever on your daily presence and production to succeed.
Have you ever felt like each day you start with even higher expectations about what you can get done, which in the past you managed by working more “efficiently.” But at a certain point, you maxed out what efficiency was able to do for you, so you turned to the temporary fix of longer hours and working from home or over the weekend.
But soon that temporary expediency—never intended to be permanent—became a fixture in your life. It doesn’t matter whether you run your own business or professional practice, or play a key leadership role at a large corporation—the pressure and frustrations are universal.
So what’s the way out?
In my newest book, The Freedom Formula: How to Succeed in Business Without Sacrificing Your Family, Health, and Life, I share the best synthesis of everything I’ve learned about creating and sustaining breakthrough business success without sacrificing family, well-being, and all the other things that offer personal fulfillment beyond the bottom line.
In this article I wanted to share with you what I call, The Five “Time and Effort” Chains. These are essentially the five factors that trap you and so many of your business peers into working longer and harder – far past the point where those extra hours are actually healthy for your business or for your life.
- Chain #1: Faulty Model
Somehow we have fooled ourselves into thinking that if we only work harder, longer, faster, that we can work our way out of the hole. But that’s like someone stuck at the bottom of a deep pit shoveling away. When you ask them how they plan on getting out, they shout up, “I’ll just dig faster!”
There have been many times in my business career where, if you had observed my behaviors, you’d have to conclude that my strategy was one of “digging faster.” I’ve felt, as you’ve probably felt that I was dying a death of a thousand cuts, overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s one thing to know this cognitively, but quite another to consistently behave this way.
- Chain #2: Chasing After Control
I know that at various times I’ve found myself saying, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”
I’m a control freak, and I know that in the business world, I am NOT alone.
I hate the anxiety of wondering if someone else will do the job right. I regularly feel pulled back into assuming control and more closely directing my team. I like the feeling of coming up with the idea or solving the problem. I feel important. Needed. In control.
But I’ve come to recognize the high price we all pay, and our companies pay, for this urge to control every detail of your business and team.
I’m not suggesting that you just abdicate responsibility; rather, I urge you to build on a stable base of sound business systems, a talented and well-trained team, and a culture that helps ensure that your team properly handles any ambiguous situation that arises.
- Chain #3: Lack of Clarity
Without clear priorities and objectives that every member on your staff understands, efforts get scattered and poor decisions get made. This leads to underperformance, which pushes you to chase after more control to set things back on the right path, which further robs the business of depth because you’re not prioritizing time to develop your team so that they can take on more responsibilities. It’s a negative reinforcement loop.
This also impacts your team. The lack of strategic structure for how priorities get established, goals set, and plans made causes your team to flounder and struggle. Of course, you’re always there to pick up the pieces and take back more control, but by this point you understand where that leads.
- Chain #4: Lack of Depth
When you have a team that lacks the experience or talent to accomplish the goals you’ve set, you often find yourself pulled back into more closely doing and managing the functions of your department, division, or business.
It becomes a chicken and egg scenario: if you had the right people on the team, you could let go of more.
But because you have to handle so much of the work volume, you don’t have the time and attention to hire or develop the right people who could take off much of the load currently on your shoulders.
Round and round you go.
- Chain #5: Outdated Time Habits
The world today is fundamentally different than the world we evolved to thrive in. Our time sense evolved in a business world where time and effort were once the things we were paid for.
But that has shifted over time. In fact, with the transformation of modern communication and technology, work no longer has to take place in an office or factory; you literally can work from anywhere.
Yet the geographical freedom we experience and which our ancestors couldn’t have imagined has a dark side.
More and more of us feel compelled to always be on, checking our devices, responding to messages. The changing, 24/7, interconnected world has completely altered the way we live and work, but many of us simply haven’t updated our time habits to design the structure and systems we need to effectively and sustainably produce today.
If you see yourself in any of what I shared here today, then I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of my newest book, The Freedom Formula.
Have you read?