Why Your Staff Always Feel They Are In A Sprint

Last week I was engaged in an enthralling board meeting discussion.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’d pay money to be surrounded by some of the great business minds in San Francisco. This 4-hour discussion proved once again it would have been a great investment had I not already been required to be there as an officer of the company. Who you spend time with matters…

Two of the board members had performed a 360-degree performance review of the CEO. Over the last month they had interviewed the executive team (7 people in total).

The chairman interviewed me 3 weeks ago. He had done his homework as every question he posed me was open-ended and curiosity based, specific to the area he needed information on. This was a true coaching based interaction and I felt at ease delivering my feedback.

The discussion among the board last week was electrifying because the quality of the feedback they had received from the executive team derived from the excellent question they had asked.

Here was one of the most interesting topics we talked through…

The company had once again grown at 65% this year, which is the fourth year in a row.

It was in danger of falling prey to one of the traps of ‘scaling’ too quickly: Its employees felt all year that they were always in a sprint…

Two things were examined: employees’ perception and potential solutions.

Firstly, there is a perception to overcome…

If the team thinks it’s trying to do too much, then this must be resolved first.

Because maybe the team is not actually doing too much… maybe it just feels like it’s doing too much.

Being overwhelmed could emanate from two areas:

  1. I have a lot of work and some of it I don’t know how to do, which escalates my stress.
  2. I feel stuck having to do minutia someone else could and should be doing. I have too much work, some of which I want to delegate so I’m able to focus more on strategic matters and progress in my career. I’m frustrated by my situation.

However, if the team is in fact doing too much, what can be done to resolve this issue?

Secondly, whether staff perception is or is not correct, certain solutions must be implemented:

  • Step 1 is for staff to take breaks during off peak times. It’s important to understand when to work at 100% and when to slow down. Encourage staff to take vacations when things are quiet.

In the same vein, make sure the timing of offsite trainings and core product releases/upgrades coincide with slow periods.

  • Step 2 is to implement a coaching culture that is critical to success.Making sure the CEO and key decision makers are coached on the topic of ‘over promising’ to customers, will help staff feel confident they can finish their work on time and on budget.

A coach will also help to communicate decisions better: why a project was accepted and why not. It’s important that the staff believes the decisions are theirs, even if they are not.

Finally, celebrate those things the team said no to and those things the company did once this year, but will never do again.

There’s a saying: “If everything’s under control we’re not going fast enough.” But when a company scales too quickly losing control can be a big problem. Helping your staff through difficult times can be the difference between them staying or leaving, and hence between you reaching or failing to achieve your goals in the year ahead.


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