It can be easier to stay in the small stuff than turn our attention to the big stuff.
Doing the small stuff means we get to put ticks in the boxes, cross things off the list, feel like we've achieved something today.
We know how to do the small stuff. Tasks related to our area of expertise, practical and tangible things our stressed brain gets a kick-along from achieving.
The small stuff can feel like relief, a sabbatical from the pressure of how to deal with the big stuff, especially when the big stuff is unclear or feels overwhelming - even though we know that staying in the small stuff is not the way to lead people into new levels of performance.
ARE YOU THE BOTTLENECK?
A leader recently shared with me her frustration with her team who were not owning their responsibilities. She felt she needed to constantly dive deep into the trenches and rescue them to ensure deliverables were met.
The result was that her team became expectant of her micro-managing tendencies and were no longer making decisions. Instead they brought problems to her for direction before they moved forward. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that left her stuck in the small stuff complaining about having no time, while being the cause of her own busy-ness.
This leader had become the bottleneck to her team performing to its greatest potential. Her small stuff habit was also a major contributor to why her department's strategy remained locked inside her head, rather than translated into clear, compelling, measurable goals that people could relate to, own and run with.
A SECRET OBSESSION
With new awareness she realised that while she complained about her team not 'stepping up', she quietly enjoyed being in the fast pace of the 'doing', firing off advice, fixing problems, "putting her mind to 'good use". This daily survivor approach was impacting the confidence of her people, causing them to question their ability and was eroding trust, resulting in her team becoming doers and reactors rather than thinkers and innovators.
This leader's need for the quick hit of adrenaline gained by ticking off tasks was achieving the exact opposite of what she intended - instead of speeding up performance and productivity, it was slowing it down.
THE SMALL STUFF IS ADDICTIVE
The pull to dive back into the small stuff is ever-present for leaders, especially with the demand on results and the need for speedy achievement.
We might convince ourselves that our people need us in the small stuff - deadlines are being missed, quality of work is being diluted, decisions aren't being made. But beyond training our people to the responsibilities of their roles, if we're spending more time in the small stuff than visiting for short stays to coach, redirect, support or define new standards, it's time to reassess our own mindset in relation to what is effective management and leadership.
VISIT BUT DON'T MOVE IN
Visiting the small stuff is essential to keeping people on track, supporting them when mistakes are made, guiding and growing skills, ability and mindsets and celebrating daily triumphs.
Left unchecked, however, our addiction to ticking off the small stuff can have the opposite impact to the reason for jumping in in the first place.
When the small stuff is addressed with intention and a bigger purpose than getting it done, a visit will be welcomed by your team.
But just like a family member you love but would never want to live with, an empowered team will be happy to see you go back to your big stuff.