Updated: May 4, 2022
I have coached over 150 executives and leaders in the past eighteen months and several themes have emerged. Some are perennial like impostor syndrome, executive presence and career management. But in addition to those I am seeing a new set of themes emerge. Exhaustion, high (read off-the-charts) levels of stress and feelings of helplessness. Together we have been able to address each with discussion and then action on self care, self awareness and time management / delegation and saying "no".
And it is that last action - learning to say "no" that leaders find most challenging.
You are good at what you do. You have adapted and developed and learned and applied your learnings and insights over your career. And now you have arrived at a point where you have used every trick in your book, applied every technique you have learned, reprioritized, re assigned, begged borrowed and (re) appropriated talent to your team, and it's still not enough.
And ironically most of us blame ourselves for not being able to cope, we tell ourselves there must be something we are missing, some magic wand, hack or consulting insight that would solve for this situation.
And all too often it is NOT you, it is the expectation (an expectation sometimes that you place on yourself, sometimes that your leaders place on you) that you just keep doing more and more and more. Which isn't sustainable. And that is where the reluctance arises to say, "I can't get all this done with the resources I have."
Unless we say "no" and re contract on what "enough" is, on what "getting your work done" means we will burn ourselves out, and / or lose our relationships with our nearest and dearest.
Literally every leader I have coached on this topic has been able to go back to their manager and have a productive dialog about managing workload. I encourage you to do the same. And if you are feeling this what of your direct reports? Have you checked in with them?