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Survive the Dangerous Culture of “Do More With Less”

It's Coming at a Price


I’m not a gambler. But if I were, I’d bet you’ve been asked to…say it with me…”Do more with less” I’m having a version of this conversation everywhere I turn – be it at executive offsites, or just chatting with friends on the soccer sidelines. We are all being asked to do more with less. And yes – there’s a case to be made for this mindset. Absolutely we should challenge ourselves to maximize our efficiency and output. But there have to be limits in place. Because – people, it’s starting to get dangerous. Burnout’s on the rise. And there are real costs – emotional and financial – associated with that bump. So, whose responsibility is it to fix the situation? Why, it’s yours. And mine. It belongs to each of us. There is no silver bullet – no switch to flip. There are only actions you can take, whether you’re in a leadership role or your contributions are individual. So what can we do to manage the “more” and maintain our relative sanity and health? Here are some of the wise (I hope!) bits I’ve shared of late…some simpler than others. Will you let me know of other strategies that have served you?


If you're in a leadership role...

Do basic math. We’re living in a time requiring change agility.  You may need something today you didn’t need yesterday. It’s all good. But if you add something to someone’s list – take something else off.  Asking your team to “do more with less” must come with limits.


Assess your recognition strategy. What gets rewarded gets repeated, so they say (or at least, so I say).  So, pay attention to what behaviors you’re recognizing and rewarding as a leader. If you’re praising those who are coming early and staying late, being online at all hours, churning out the greatest quantity, then these are the behaviors your team will strive for. So, try focusing your recognition on collaboration, ingenuity – things that drive efficiency over churn.


Mind your musings. I see it all the time during Thrive Checks. Sometimes a leader explicitly requests a deliverable. But other times, a leader is simply wondering or imagining… saying things like “I wonder what would happen if we tested…” or “I wish we could deliver…” – and while the leader may simply be musing, the team takes the wish as a direction. Sometimes leaders are inadvertently overloading their teams – so just be mindful of what you utter.


If you're an individual contributor...

I recently posted an episode of the Modern Mentor podcast called “Set Boundaries at Work With the Awesome Power of No.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed and can carve out 9 minutes, give a listen. Otherwise, here are some strategies to keep in mind.


Know that sharing is caring. Let’s face it. You’re a perfectionist. You receive an assignment and you want the outcome to be your ideal creation. But sometimes that’s just not the most efficient or effective means of delivering something. So, before you pull out that blank sheet of paper, scan the “marketplace.” What’s already been created by a colleague that you can leverage? You can edit, polish, and put on your fancy finishes… but whenever possible, repurpose what’s already been created.


State the risks. If you have the capacity to do four things, yet nine have found their way to your plate – we all know you’re about to deliver nine things poorly. So, call it out. Talk to your leader and let them know what essential outcomes might be at risk if some reprioritizing doesn’t happen. But how you state your case matters. “I have too much work, woe is me” may not win you any accolades. But “I’m concerned that this customer-critical deliverable won’t hit the mark unless we postpone this other item by a week or two” demonstrates your ability to prioritize and focus effectively.


Cut corners. This one’s really about doing less with less.  Focus on impressing with impact over substance. Don’t author a poetic email when a few bullet points will do. Don’t host a meeting when a simple 10-minute call can get it done. A bunch of small efficiencies can really add up when you focus on the “what” over the “how.”

And there you have some strategies to play with. Whether or not any resonate with you…please, truly do pay attention to your plate and your health.

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