When I ask people about their biggest challenge at work, nearly a third respond with various productivity concerns. It makes perfect sense. Work creates more work. If you are one person responding to the needs of many, you will eventually become swamped.
But wait! There are multiple people in your group, in your company, and in your world. When you factor them into the equation, the challenge becomes sharing work, not adding time.
When the workload is too heavy
Your workload is a problem. But you can’t solve it until you frame it in a way that invites a solution. When you say, “I don’t have time” it does little to point you in the right direction. When productivity is a challenge, train yourself to ask a different set of questions.
Who can help me with my project?
Who knows about it more than I do?
What do other people need in order to help me?
These are more reasonable and motivating challenges. Unlike time, the amount of sharing you can do is unlimited. But here’s the problem: sharing work means sharing knowledge. And we don’t always know what we know, let alone how to communicate it to other people.
Lessen your load with connected technology
Here’s where technology can be a huge help. Is it any wonder that the most successful tech companies of our time: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. are all in the business of sharing knowledge? What do these companies understand that we don’t? And what do they practice that we forget?
For starters, all three have a passion for connecting the world. Notice something else. Their products allow us to communicate more by doing less. Facebook tells you what’s happening in your friends’ lives. There’s nothing to do, except to turn on your phone, which most people never turn off, anyway. LinkedIn brings you jobs and recruiters and lets others update your skills for you. Google Docs enables multiple users to work on the same document at the same time.
Social media is designed to reduce the number of steps between doing and communicating. Sometimes—when using shared workspace, for example—it takes no extra steps at all; you communicate by doing. There’s also social intranets and other types of social business software. This technology exists to get you the help you need when you need it.
Stop being the lone wolf
When your head is full of projects, the last thing you want to be is a lone wolf. Most top entrepreneurs and senior level executives recognize this. They involve other people at every step of their projects. Not just to delegate execution, but to brainstorm ideas, set priorities, allocate resources, monitor progress, and evaluate results.
Unfortunately, your team outside of top management roles can easily lose sight of the importance of getting support. Perhaps they don’t believe they are entitled to help. If you don’t see people reaching across business units and departments for quick advice, you might not think it’s okay for you to do it.
The more overwhelmed your team gets, the less likely they are to holler for help, because they’ll assume everyone is in the same boat as them. And then you’ll ask them to serve on the employee engagement council and come up with a bag of clever ideas. And they’ll say, “Gee-whiz, let me add that to my list…”
Whether or not you are managing a team of freelancers, employees or other direct reports, you are always entitled to the best resources to get the work done. To grow your business, you must share your agenda and stay connected with lots of people. Maybe the whole company and beyond.
Tim Eisenhauer is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He’s also the author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. You can download the first chapters for free here. Connect with @timeisenhauer on Twitter.