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You don't have enough to do

Jan 25, 2024

“You don’t have enough to do.”

Most leaders would find it hard to hear those words without reacting in disbelief. “Are you for real, Simon??”

So you can imagine the looks on the faces of one leadership team when I made that observation at the outset of a workshop late last year.

But here’s the thing. While each individual sitting in that room had a to-do list longer than a Rybakina/Blinkova tiebreaker*, as a team they had no idea what they wanted to achieve by working together.

And so, when they did meet as a team, they’d spend their time sharing updates, progress reports and other such scintillating things that bore no resemblance to the untapped value of bringing that particular group of people together in a room. 

In the absence of anything better to do, they had started to interrogate each other’s decisions, which in turn meant they had become increasingly defensive with one another. A slow descent into dysfunction... 

What I’m describing here could actually be any one of many leadership teams I’ve worked with over recent years. 

Luckily, it’s an easy problem to overcome. But it does take some discipline. 

Leadership teams need to answer the question “why does this team exist?”, identifying the unique value that that particular group of leaders can co-create by working together.  

The word “co-create” is important here, because it challenges leadership teams to think about the questions and opportunities that are waiting for their collective attention.  

Here’s a few examples I’ve seen teams identify recently:

  • We need to come up with a way of articulating our strategy that will connect with all parts of the business.
  • We want to shift the conversation from “retaining staff is hard right now” to “we are building the workplace of choice”.
  • Let’s work together to make it the norm across our business for our teams to share customer insights with each other and find ways to solve new problems. 

When you identify these opportunities clearly - in concrete terms - leadership teams actually get excited about their collective role and start prioritising the time they spend together. They reduce the amount of time spent in business updates and operational issues, in favour of doing the stuff that a group of leaders is uniquely positioned to do.

Suddenly, you’ve got a team with plenty of (the right!) stuff to do.


* I’m referring here to the tie-breaker in the recent match between Elena Rybakina and Anna Blinkova in the second round of the Australian Open 2024. 42 points, 31 minutes… phenomenal! 


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