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How new leaders can reduce overwhelm and create greater clarity

When you step into a management role, you often act by default. It is assumed that when you move from a ‘doing’ role to a ‘managing’ role, you will know what you need to do. Little thought is given to training or supporting you to learn how to lead. 

This means you stay doing the technical work that your team should be doing. Your attention is still focused on tasks you are working on, and you are probably holding on to work you used to do and still probably enjoy, and have a range of reasons why you can’t hand it over. 

This means you become overwhelmed with the amount of work you are doing. You are in the moment and reacting to everything. You expect the team to get on with their work, but that may not have been made clear to them. They are not sure what they should be doing, as you don’t have time to show or explain it to them. 

This technical work should be done by your team. When you’re busy doing, your team will struggle to tap into your expertise, and they will be pushed down to a lower level of detail. Mid-level managers are often accused of being control freaks or micromanagers by their staff. There is so much to do, and it is often quicker and easier to do it yourself than ask your team to do it. And so the feeling of overwhelm grows. 

The skills you developed over time to become the expert you are, are not the ones that will help you succeed in a management role. It’s assumed that when people are promoted to management roles, they will ‘pick up’ how to lead as they go along. However, leading a team requires a whole new set of skills that are difficult to just ‘pick up’. 

Already overwhelmed with the amount of work they have, there is no time to be adding people management to the mix. Yet you must. 

There are key skills to learn and develop for effective people management. For example: changing how you listen, so you really understand what your team are saying; building your curiosity muscle to discover more about your team and what they are capable of; changing how you communicate so your message is clear and understood; giving clear instructions so everyone understands what they are doing; learning how to effectively delegate, means confidence and trust in your team will grow. 

As your management skills increase, your team will become engaged, collaborate with you and each other more, and become better in overall team performance. 

Here are some things to try: 

  • Do a Task Audit and note down everything that is taking up space in your brain, that is on your ‘to do/doing/must do’ list, that you are worrying and stressing about. You will be surprised by how much on this list may never need to be done, or how much you can delegate to someone else. 
  • Let go of the need for perfectionism – sometimes things don’t need to be done to your exact standards. 
  • Get to know your team, step into their shoes. What are they good at, what do they like to do, and how can you help them achieve that? 

I’ve worked with leaders and watched them go from a zero (ineffective) out of ten in managing and leading to a ten (awesome) out of ten. This is inspiring. They now love what they do, and their team loves working together. Watching their overwhelm diminish and their thinking change is inspiring. 

When you are a ten out of ten, you are extremely effective and understand what you should be doing and what the team should be doing.  

You focus on meaningful, well-defined goals and outcomes that align with organisational purpose and strategy. You are doing the work you should be paying attention to and appropriate for your level of seniority while doing less of the work that your team should be doing. 

You have more clarity as managing becomes effortless, and you even have time to look up and out, and strategically focus on the future for your team. 

Identify the skills and behaviours you need to develop to level up and lead at the level appropriate for your pay grade – and achieve success with more clarity and less overwhelm. 

This is leading, which requires new skills, so be prepared to become a learner again. 

About the author 

Maree Burgess, author of Level Up ($29.95), is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author and speaker whose practicality supports leaders and teams to create cultures that people want to be part of and perform at their best for, to greatly improve overall performance. Obsessed with building environments of excellence where staff collaborate and work well together, she is renowned for bringing out the best in teams and individuals alike. Find out more at www.mareeburgess.com 


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