Long Hours Lead to Short Gains

Bob Wiesner | August 22, 2017

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I’ve told this story several times because it says so much, and it’s absolutely true.

A coaching client was once considering leaving her agency job.  She had tons of experience, and was clearly on the verge of promotion.  Serving as her sounding board, I asked, “Don’t you want your boss’s job?”  The surprising answer – “Hell no!”

From what she could see, her boss worked crazy long hours yet was still frustrated that the client relationship was shaky.  More hours led to very little return.

Think about this: How many of your direct reports would covet your job?  Or that of your boss?

Leaders across professions have fallen into the workload trap.  As they’ve risen in their organizations, they’ve assumed more responsibility.  Maybe because they haven’t been trained, or maybe because they’ve had bad role models themselves, but many of them have set poor priorities.  They never learned to properly delegate.  And they’ve failed to see the subtle, perhaps unintentional communications they’ve been sending to their teams about their frustrations and exhaustion.

Don’t be proud of your long hours, or the extra work you’ve accepted, of how much you do yourself.  As this article in Inc. magazine says, anything more than a 48-hour work week leads to vastly diminishing returns.  And can lead to damaging effects.

Take a hard look at your priorities.  Learn to delegate.  Maybe most importantly, learn to say “no.”

This isn’t me advocating for more work-life balance.  This is an argument for better performance, higher retention rates and, yes, less stress.

Take a moment to ask your people: “Would you one day like to have my job?” If the truly honest answer isn’t an authentic “yes,” you’ve got a problem to address.

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