The Path of Least Resistance

“The Path of Least Resistance”

As humans, we are wired to take the path of least resistance.

A question that I get asked frequently by leaders is,

“Can we prevent our team members being burnt-out and if so what can we do to prevent this”?

It’s a great question!

Whilst it is a very broad question with a list of variables, I ask leaders whether workload is shared as equally as practical across their teams. It’s a question that has many leaders reflect on how well they distribute tasks. A common theme that is raised in these discussions is that each leader has a “Star Employee” within their team that they rely on heavily.

As leaders, we tend to hit the default button when deciding who we can assign key projects or time critical tasks to. In most conversations I’ve had with leaders, their default button is their “star employee” when assigning important tasks. They describe their “star employee” as the one person within the team the leader can always depend on, the one that is consistent at getting the job done and is usually the person that is competent at doing the task.

When asked, the reasoning for choosing the “star employee” over other team members is because this is the person that has a proven track record at performing a specific task which other employees within the team are not quite up to the proficiency level required to execute the task.

When we deep dive further into this discussion, it is established that in many work scenarios most team members are in fact capable of executing the tasks but it is the leaders that just need the job done without any headaches.

So here lies the problem. Consistently assigning all key projects or time critical tasks to your “Star Employee” can potentially be loading their backpack up to the point where the “Star Employee” progressively gets overwhelmed by this. Over time, your “Star Employee” is emotionally exhausted along with the feeling of being frustrated knowing that they are part of a team but feel they are doing most of the work. This employee is usually a hard worker, proficient and loyal to their leader and business so it is likely this employee won’t openly speak-up about their feelings. These are the employees that tend to fall under a leader’s radar.

Leaders can have either a positive or negative impact on lives of their team members and I’m sure most of us want that legacy of leaving a positive impact.

Consistently overloading an individual (Star Employee) with work such as key projects and/or time critical tasks can have a negative impact on that person. It is very easy to have a default setting that is hard wired allowing you to assign additional work only to your “Star Employee”, repetitively believing that you have made the best decision. You need to reflect on whether it is the best decision for the team and the business or simply the easiest path for you personally.

Developing your team through further education, on-job training, coaching and mentoring will provide a positive impact on the team members. This decision whilst not the easiest path to travel, it can provide the following benefits;

  • Supports team’s development
  • Ability to share workloads evenly across the team
  • Releases some of the workload from “Star Employees”
  • Raises efficiencies / productivity
  • Supports succession plans
  • Supports teams Mental Health
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