How can you tell if you're too far down "in the weeds?"

"They spend too much time in the weeds."

"They don't let their people take ownership of the work."

"They don't seem to trust that we've got things well in hand."

The feedback takes a variety of specific forms but the theme is clear - too many senior leaders are spending too much time in the details and tasks of the business.


You're carrying it all with you

There used to be a saying about executives along the lines of "the more senior the role, the smaller the briefcase." I'm dating myself of course - who carries a briefcase any more? - but I actually wonder whether that's part of the collective problem with high level leaders spending too much time in the details. After all, every bit of information about the business (and all of its related activities and projects) can be accessed from anyone's laptop and phone - meaning everyone at every level has the ability to dig into minutiae 24/7. But that's only part of the problem.

Just because you can doesn't mean you ought to.

Leadership is hard. Frequently uncomfortable. The high level thinking you're supposed to be doing doesn't show tangible results any time soon, so how can you feel useful and productive? And you've always been rewarded for being the person who "gets results" - how can you (and anyone else) measure your value if you're not "doing things?"

Plus, delegation requires trust and patience. What if your people don't do the thing the way you'd do it? Or maybe you're "just curious." But really, you just love solving problems and moving things forward. After all, checking things off a to-do list is very gratifying.

The questions to ask yourself

Before you "do" anything ask yourself the following questions:

1) MUST this be done at all? (there is a ton of unnecessary reporting and make-work in every organization),

2) MUST I be the one to do it? (meaning are you truly the only person with the necessary skills and experience to attempt the thing in question? or are you just the one who can do it most easily and quickly? in which case, who might benefit from attempting it?), and

3) Do I trust that I've got the right people with the right skills to do what's required?

Leadership is about building capacity and capability. It's about balancing teaching and trust. It's about encouraging stretch and growth in others and ensuring that mistakes (and even failures) are safe, supported learning opportunities. And it's about setting vision and establishing clear priorities commensurate with the organization's real strengths and resources.

So before you dig too far down into work that others really ought to be doing, take a look at what's motivating you. Some short term discomfort will help you - and everyone else - grow.

For more on this, check out this podcast interview with author Jonathan Fields.