As I coach leaders at all levels, they have 1 thing in common: the potential for overwhelm.
Overwhelm and chaos can happen to the even the most experienced, organized or aware leader.
Three keys to Stop Overwhelm in it’s tracks:
A new client yesterday spoke in a cheerful and uplifting tone, “I’ve never had coaching before and am excited to learn how to have a new perspective to the issues I face”. I respond, “Terrific. Looking at the overall vision you have set out for yourself – what is the main shift in perspective you are most excited about?”
She explained, “Well…because more teams have been added to my role; I don’t have any time to develop my leadership; and that’s a concern.”
“What is your primary concern?”
And here came the bottom line, “I’m totally overwhelmed sometimes”. It was apparent that we couldn’t get to her leadership vision until we checked out how she handles time and priorities.
Checking that out, I respond, “It sounds like we better look at your actual time before we can discuss your vision, is that right?”
She responds, “Oh my gosh that would be helpful.”
“Alright, let’s look at your schedule for this week….would you be open to checking out your calendar with me right now?”
“Sure”, she said, opening her calendar shared with 3 departments in as many cities.
Tell me what Monday looks like. She says ruefully, “Well I am booked solid from 7am-5pm in meetings.”
“So let me get this straight, you are booked back to back in meetings?”
She says sadly, “Yeah, I usually don’t eat lunch either, and I actually work until 10pm getting through my work”. I ask, “How is that for you?” She says, “It’s exhausting and (this next sentence tells me what’s really important to them, things like:), my husband is complaining I’m never at dinner, or I can’t see what’s going on because I’m so ‘in it’, or I have no time to strategize my own goals for the teams, or I sometimes doubt why I took my job.
This is a common scenario with new leaders or leaders up for promotion in all levels. There are various reasons they describe why the schedule is happening like this. Those reasons are the coaching path, but truthfully we have to create some space for her to breathe before we can get to any strategy or behaviors. Many people who book others aren’t even checking her availability, just looping her in in case she’s available, or for oversight.
Here’s what we did and some variation of these can make a huge difference in any leaders schedule. Let’s face it, how covid-busy are you? How free do you want to be?
We look at her calendar and she omits herself from at least 3 meetings for the upcoming week. To overwhelmed leaders, this usually feels like a cross between freedom and blasphemy.
She deletes herself from a 7am meeting two times for this upcoming week and makes a note to email a co-worker. This allows her to block the time to work out on the peloton.
She finds two hours for looking at her own strategy.
She resolves to make her one-on-ones 30-45 minutes if her directs email their agenda and catch ups prior. This remaining time will aim to get her own work done, with the ideal of leaving work at 5 or 6pm, okay maybe 8pm at first…(it’s an improvement over 10pm).
She decides to communicate with her direct reports her plan to have blocked time and thinks they’d actually understand (some teams applaud their leaders for taking the time to be human, sensing the prospect of doing the same).
Last but not least, she has decided to get alignment and accountability on her priorities with her own manager.
In our following coaching meeting on Zoom she is excited that coaching made a difference for her in 1 week. She reports the metrics of her time plan, how she was fearful of push back yet proceeded anyway. The ultimate win to her was being at the dinner table with her husband and young sons. As her coach, I notice the absolute incredulous smile that a simple yet difficult task like scheduling could bring her closeness with her family.
Sarah is the Past President of the International Coach Federation, Los Angeles Chapter, and an ICF certified coach, with the designation of PCC (Professional Certified Coach).
She is the founder of Dreams Transform Reality Coaching, a company committed to clients getting massive results by expanding their behaviors and skills.
As a Leadership coach, Sarah specializes in empowering leaders to influence, innovate, and collaborate utilizing their own authentic style. Her Leadership Training at Accomplishment Coaching and ORSC (Organizational Relationships Systems Coaching) and many other programs created a strong foundation.
Sarah’s clients range from Executives and Managers to Creative Strategists at companies such as Google, Amazon, Deutsch Los Angeles, PMK•BNC, Vladimir Jones, Venables Bell & Partners, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, Astellas Pharma Cancer Research and Merck Animal Health.