The Great Resignation catalyzed by the pandemic has left many companies with fewer people or experienced people to tackle work. Additionally, the growing concerns over economic stability and slowing growth have prompted some companies, such as Microsoft, to start downsizing their workforce. However, the productivity demands of workforces are the same or even increasing. Although technology and past learnings contribute to greater efficiencies; many front-line workers, middle managers, and some leaders still feel there is too much work demanded upon too few people.

There is some truth around this story and no doubt, many employees would be able to quickly pull together some numbers around employee headcount and the expected hours of work by the end of this year versus prior years with different employee numbers. So what, though? As a leader or executive accountable for delivering results by a certain timeline, it may seem efficient to demand prioritization or extra hours for now. Mismanaged prioritization can lead to a lack of fulfillment or the appearance of a lack of leadership direction, whilst extra hours are often unsustainable and accompanied by negative long-term consequences. How can leaders achieve results and break away from being stuck by ‘not having enough people?’

Get the facts, reveal the stories, and listen

As an executive, getting these facts may seem trivial or appear to be a waste of time. However, when business units are given the time to figure out what the facts are around not having enough people, it will also start to reveal what interpretations and stories have manifested that are currently impacting conversations, actions, and therefore results. As a business leader, it would be unwise to underestimate the value that can be gained in the report outs of these facts and stories. One of the best gifts you can give to a person is the gift of being listened to. Most people don’t repeat themselves because they enjoy making the same point again, they do it because they don’t feel like they are being listened to; a perfect red flag for being stuck. Creating an opportunity for employees to get the facts and be heard on what the conversations around these facts are will create relationships and a clearing for new conversations and actions.

When you are stuck in Chinese handcuffs

Despite there being facts today about many organizations having a shortage of workers, it is even more detrimental that organizations are stuck on this. Conversations surrounding this are impacting businesses more than they need to and even becoming a rampant scapegoat for not delivering results. Creating the conditions and environment for getting the facts and revealing current conversations is the first step to getting unstuck. Following the success of this first step is a clearing for a new future to be created. Seizing the moment to do so means the operation of a business with people leveraging their teams as is. In our work, this is often one of the products of a business transformation.

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