If you have any hope for sanity in running your business or department, read this article and implement it. If you want to continue to be overworked, underpaid and resentful of those who work for you who sneak out the door at 5:01 pm while you burn the midnight oil, then ignore this message at your peril.

There is one cause and ONLY one cause of overwork in an executive. Before revealing what that one cause is, we will first define executive. An EXECUTIVE is one who gets others to get the work completed. The root of the word “executive” is from the words for “follow through completely”. So an executive in an organization is the one who is making sure the organization is running effectively by getting others to get the work done. The information would apply equally to managers. If this is you, then it will behoove you to know the reason why you are overworked.

The root cause of overwork is NOT letting others get the work done or NOT helping them to do so. You would be amazed at the number of ways executives invent to impede others from doing their jobs. Sometimes the intention of the executive is to “help” the person, but he ends up getting in the way. Read the examples below to see if they seem familiar to you:

1. The executive asks someone to complete a task, then interrupts and changes the task to be done.


Executive: “Bob, go research the market for motorized bikes.”

Bob does.

Executive: “Bob, we need you to find out about the market for mopeds. I need it by Thursday.”

Bob: “So, don’t do the motorized bike research?”

Executive: “No! I need the moped market research! Try to keep up!”

2. The executive does the job of the person for him.

Example #1:

Executive: “Bob, go research the market for motorized bikes.”

Bob does.

Executive: “Bob, let me see what you are doing there. No, no, no, let me show you. You actually have to prepare the data first, then scrub the data. Move over and let me sit at your computer and show you.”

Example #2:

Executive: “Bob, go research the market for motorized bikes.”

Bob does.

The Executive, up at midnight, seeing no email that day from Bob, starts researching motorized bikes. When Bob comes in to present his data, the executive has already done the work and dismisses Bob.

3. The executive tells three (or five or seven) people to do the same task “just to make sure”.


Executive: “Bob, go research the market for motorized bikes.”

Executive: “Jim, I need some research done on the market for motorized bikes.”

Executive: “Janet, can you make sure that Bob is researching motorized bikes correctly.”

Every example above results in two things. The first is an overworked executive and the second is an apathetic and irritated employee. Why? The executive ACTUALLY is not doing his own job which is to get others to get the work done. You fail as an executive to the degree that you fail to get others to get the work done.

You are very sharp if you are now asking yourself how you motivate your employees to do their jobs correctly. These are the key skills of an executive: motivation, influence, communication, follow-through and drive for results. You will see immediately that perhaps you could use some work in these areas. Most of us could.

Here are few short tips:

  1. Hire people with past production records. This means past production on a resume is more important than personality or experience. You want to know that person has produced what you want him to produce in the past. Then you have a good chance the person will be able to get things done at your company.

  2. Train people well and often. With no training plan or continuing education, you will have a hard time keeping people happy and keeping people at all. A competent person feels stable and stays in an organization. Unstable, non-productive people are unhappy and leave. An executive once told us he didn’t have time to send his people to training. He had a sky-high turnover rate. He was barking up the wrong tree.

  3. Set clear expectations. Explain exactly what you expect and when you expect it by. Otherwise, you will easily fall into one of the examples above.

  4. Follow through appropriately. If a person is not doing his or her job at all, it is appropriate to bypass him/her and get the job done. This should be a very temporary handling for a very unusual situation. If this is happening constantly, get a new person in the role. For the majority of the time, you as the executive should follow through by helping the person to overcome his own barriers. Don’t solve it for him, but help him talk through how HE could solve it. In this way, you are teaching him to independently solve problems.

  5. Don’t accept negative messages. For more about this, see our Biznik article “Don’t Take That Message”. In brief, do not accept communication which states how something cannot be done or which complains about doing it. Get the person trained, productive and solving his own problems.

In summary, as difficult as it may sound, there is no hope for your schedule and the bags under your eyes unless you get others in the organization doing their work. If you continue to run areas or tasks for them, you will continue to be overworked and underpaid and you will burn out like a cheap firework. There is hope. You can help your organization. Get them doing their jobs competently and you will all win.

About the Author:

–Jill Bromund


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