DILEMMA: I can't believe it, I just forgot my quarterly review meeting with the bank. I was so wrapped up in finishing the technical spec for our big pitch with the Americans that it slipped my mind. It wouldn't be so bad if it was the first time. My finance director and our venture capitalists will be furious. We'll need the bank onside whether we win the order or not.
ISSUES: Oh dear! Why is this really happening? Is it just a sticky patch and a symptom of overwork, or are you fundamentally out of your depth? If you don't ask yourself this question, you can be sure that the bank and the venture capitalists will. The reality for most chief executives in smaller growing businesses is that they don't have enough time to do everything. Their life is one of constant prioritising - especially now, when many have cut back so much.
A wonderful image to have in mind for these situations is the effectiveness-and-pressure curve. This curve is a bell shape with a vertical axis marked Effectiveness and a horizontal one marked Pressure. No pressure, no output; the right amount of pressure results in peak performance; and too much pressure leads to headless-chicken behaviour. So what can you do to relieve the pressure?
How good are you at delegating? What do you really spend your time on? Could your team do more?
If you've got the right team and you're not delegating, they will see this as a lack of trust and, more importantly, a lack of leadership and judgment. Remember that what you consider boring might be good development for someone else. The best delegators do so with clear parameters; they don't dump and they provide support when required.
How are you going to recover this situation? An apology is a way to start, winning the order a good second step, and then address the fundamental issue of what it is that you spend your time on.
- Find out what you really spend your time on.
- Figure out where you are with regard to the effectiveness-and-pressure chart.
- Recognise the reality of your stewardship - you can't possibly do everything.
- Delegate as much as you can with clear parameters.
- Finally, if you've screwed up, say you're sorry!