Modern leaders have become reactive under the constant pressure to do more and more, with less and less. Employees are rewarded based on efficiency and effectiveness of their performance by demonstrating they can do more with less (cost savings sent to the bottom line). Staff are expected to work more hours for the same pay. Organizations are asked to provide the same or better level of service by their funders (or investors), while increasing innovations, expanding services and increasing outcomes (e.g., access to services or profitability). The pressures are real and the phenomenon affects both for-profit and non-profit organizations.
The problem at the center of this phenomenon is scarcity mentality. But, don’t believe the hype, because scarcity mentality is a choice. You can learn to do more with more, and here are four strategies to help you get started.
Strategy #1: The Power of Rebuilding, Recycling & Renewing
Kids understand this principle, no problem. For example, when I watch my kids playing Lego, they will build a tower, tear it down, build it again, tear it down again (you get the picture), all without any hesitation.
The difference between adults and children in this example is that kids have no problem tearing apart their creations. Children have the belief and understanding that they can build a new tower with the same resources available. In fact the successive towers they build become even better than the first because they’ve had the opportunity to refine their vision and process often leaving them with extra pieces left over. In this sense they figure out how to do more with less. Somehow as adults we lose this faith. Instead we decide that once we’ve built something great, it’s impossible to build something better with the same resources.
One of the keys to doing more with more is letting go. Letting go of what no longer serves, what is no longer a priority, what is no longer effective or efficient. When you discover the value in tearing things down you will notice that renewing and rebuilding frees up energy and resources so you can do more with more.
Strategy #2: Link It or Let It Go
You can’t reach for something new when your hands are full. Every organization has competing, evolving, and emerging priorities, responding to their ever-changing environment. As new priorities emerge (or change) organizations have two choices: link it or let it go.
It’s unrealistic to expect organizations and their leaders to continually take on an infinite number of high priorities. You can only hold so many apples in your hands, until you need your arms or a bag to be able to carry more. When new priorities arise, you must determine how they align with the original priorities, and if they don’t you must be able to let it go. Ask yourself, “Does this new (or changing priority) help me fulfill my existing priorities? Does this new priority compete with my existing priorities?”
Adding priorities, without pruning the priority tree increases the stress, anxiety and frustration for everyone. The organization’s resources become taxed, diluted and disorganized; pulling the organization in too many directions causing it to plateau.
Strategy #3: Say No to Say Yes
Leaders tend to become excited by the opportunities to say yes to new creations or innovations in their organization, shying away from the much less sexy and exciting work of dissolving or disassembling the old. The problem this creates is that leaders are habituated to saying yes, while not being able to manage saying no.
It is important to realize that by default every “yes” is a “no” to something else, and vice versa. When you agree to a meeting, you are saying no to another competing meeting at the same time. When you agree to a budget allocation, those resources won’t be available for other purposes. Conversely, saying no to a meeting request frees up that time for something that is a higher priority. Declining a budget request means that those funds can be re-purposed for better use.
It is critical that leaders understand what their highest priorities are, and to have clear decision criteria in order to make it easier to say no to low priorities, and yes to high priorities.
Here are some ideas of where you can practice saying no, in order to free up more resources (so you can say yes to something of greater value):
- Requests that waste time, energy, money or resources
- Requests that don’t provide a clear ROI
- Requests that you think you have to accept, but don’t really want to
- Activities that are unfulfilling
- Tasks that can be delegated to someone more inspired to complete the task, or someone who can do it more effectively than you
- To meetings that don’t have a pre-circulated agenda
Strategy #4: Stop It, Then Start It
We all live in a 24-hour a day cycle. If you filled up the entire 24 hours in your day with a defined set of activities (your daily routine), and then decided that you want to add something new – say an online certification program or a yoga class – you either have to multitask (do yoga while on a teleconference for work), or make a trade (take something out to add in the new activity).
One of the strategies we encourage leaders to employ is the habit of stopping one thing every time they are about to start something new. For example, when I realized we were accumulating toys and clothes that we didn’t need in our home, we implemented the ‘one toy in – one toy out’ policy. We went through a prioritization process and the kids had to decide: of the toys they currently owned which did they value most?
The illusion in organizations is that we can just keep adding more and more to our days, without having to make significant adjustments over time. Teach your team, staff, and stakeholders the habit of stopping one thing before they decide to start something new. It helps create the space needed for the new thing to grow.
It’s important to realize as leaders that the priorities we have today are not necessarily the same priorities we’ll have tomorrow. It is possible to do more with more for and with your partners. Start focusing on what is most important, instead of what is most available, learn to free up resources that can be better re-purposed, and you’ll be considered a visionary who does more with more.
- Posted by Enette Pauzé
- On November 8, 2016