Can’t Do It All? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

A couple of months ago I received a promotion I was really hoping for. Now I have fifteen direct reports where I used to have seven. Everything I am reading says I should be doing regular one-on-one meetings with each person, but my own workload has doubled and I have no idea how to fit everything in.

I’m already working twelve-hour days and checking email from home on nights and weekends. My employees constantly email and text me with questions or requests for feedback. My spouse is beginning to get annoyed with me.

I wanted this promotion and am happy for the extra money, but I am starting to really regret it. How on earth am I supposed to give everyone what they need and still get my job done? It all feels like…

Too Much

Dear Too Much,

Fifteen employees is a lot, especially when they need constant input from you. Even if they didn’t, that’s a lot of souls to support and get to know as human beings.

Is this the norm in your organization? If it isn’t, you might think about lobbying to promote one of your people and having some folks report to that person. If it is the norm, there might be an expectation about how to manage such a large team. Ask your boss if there are any classes/resources you might be able to tap into to help you handle things without feeling so swamped.

Until then, though, you need to set some standards for your team that will keep them on an even keel and lower your stress level. For someone who has as large a team as yours, the first step is to make sure everyone knows what their tasks and goals are and has what they need to do their job. You might focus on the areas where people are asking for the most feedback to help them become more comfortable using their own judgment. You can read a little more on that here.

About one on ones: yes, regular one on ones are ideal—but there is no law that says you have to do them every week or that they need to last an hour. Here are some tips that may help you.

• Start with 15 minutes every other week for each employee. You can probably work that into the calendar—that would add up to two to three hours a week.

• In an all-team meeting, announce that you expect each of your team members to be active participants in how they are managed, and that you expect them to meet you halfway. You can share this article about Self Leadership if you like. It describes leadership as a partnership.

• Let each employee know that their one-on-one meeting is their time to use any way they want. Once they get the hang of it, this will be their best opportunity to ask questions and get feedback. Let them manage the scheduling of it, or get a regular time on the calendar for each person.

• Let each employee drive the agenda for their one-on-one. Insist that each person emails an agenda for the meeting before their appointed time. This will force them to think about what they need from you in advance and use their time efficiently.

You can’t do it all. You are going to have to get your people to step up. But once you get the ball rolling, you might be surprised at how it eases the pressure.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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