As deadlines near, there is something in the air – panic! While this isn’t always the case, it frequently is. A big project or deal has hit do-or-die time, and suddenly leaders within the organization worry about whether the company will meet with success. What can often be seen in that moment is more involvement from upper-level leaders and a lot more oversight, with a little bit of micromanaging thrown in for good measure.
Critical projects and deals warrant involvement from key leadership. If a lot is at stake, it’s understandable why upper management should be asking the right questions; these people often can bring the right perspective to avoid unnecessary hiccups. But, if you are a leader in this position, pause and ask yourself these questions before jumping in:
Do I have a trust issue? If a lot on the line, it’s hard to let people have room to breathe (and heaven forbid, even make mistakes). Wanting more control and even micromanaging are common responses. As a leader, you are there for a reason (hopefully because you are good at your job). It’s normal to feel you are the only one you can trust. However, if you have trusted your team this long, a looming deadline shouldn’t change that trust! If you haven’t trusted your team, see Question #2.
Do I have the right people in the right place? If you have the right people in place, step back and let them perform! Increased oversight by you will not improve their performance. Most likely it will shake their confidence because they sense the lack of trust. If you don’t have the right person, why was he or she there to begin with? At this point it may not be ideal to move them out of the position, so it’s best to see how you can minimize their performance gaps. As soon as the project or deal is complete, it’s time to transition them to a new position.
Am I offering value or creating unnecessary work? At critical junctures it’s easy to start creating new processes, checklists, risk assessments, etc. in order to ease your mind regarding the deadline. At times this can add value. You can help take some of the load from your team if you are able to oversee something or put a process in place that makes their job easier. However, if you pile on busy work that really doesn’t add substantial value, then you are taking your team’s attention away from more critical tasks. Remember, every time you have your team work on something, it means they are not working on something else. What is the opportunity cost of your task?
Am I checking in with my people for their perspective? As leaders it’s easy to think we are God’s greatest gift to our teams, but do our teams think we are? Check in and ask them what is working and what could be improved. Often a “start, stop, continue” exercise is valuable. What can we start doing? What should we stop doing? What should we continue doing? Make sure you have an environment where your team can give you honest feedback and not just feed you what they think you want to hear.
If ten months out of the year you trust your team, but suddenly a deadline approaches, and you feel an anxiety attack, stop and understand if you are reacting appropriately to the situation. Should you continue to stay at a distance and let your team do what they were trained to do, or should you really intervene? Intervening unnecessarily can add more risk to your project and can create an unfavorable culture on the team. Think before you jump in.
Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.