I recently worked with a very high-performing team of government leaders, trying to hone their leadership edge and create an even better synergy within the team.

During the discussions, the team revealed the immensity of their challenges – they had a ton of money to manage and hundreds of pieces of legislation to track. But when would they have time to do leadership development or team building?

Their plates are overflowing and yet others keep putting more on it.

This is a challenge facing many government agencies – it is both a sign of their importance as well as a unique compliment of others’ trust in their ability to handle such a difficult workload. The question remains, however, how to manage such a workload?

This reminds me of the traveler who once asked the village chief how to eat an elephant? ‘One bite at a time’ was the reply.

Like the village chief, this high-performing team may want to look at how they can slowly take little bites and begin to make headway against the overloaded plate. There are a number of options to address overwork or over-tasking. Some include reviewing team roles, updating team priorities, creating efficient processes – and… yes, even making the time for leadership development and teamwork reflection.

I can hear the refrain – we don’t have time!

If we looked at time differently, a new perspective would enlighten us with an answer. Instead of looking at time as a boundary, let’s look at time as an investment. If you invest time now in team building, could it return more time later? Research shows that time spent in learning and reflection results in improved communication, efficiency, and trust within teams.

Thinking about time as an investment helps us to realize the return on its potential. Instead of looking at everything on the plate, let’s look at how we eat it, the time it takes to eat, and where we are investing that time at the current moment. Performing this quick analysis may reveal the amount of time being wasted, instead of invested in key priorities.

Using this temporal analysis is a wise investment that will help the team address that overloaded plate… one bite at a time.

Have you analyzed your overloaded “plate” recently? What actions did you take to improve or better your workload or team?

– Clemson Turregano

4 thoughts on “Eating Elephants as a Team

  1. Paul Slater says:

    Investing time in the team is always a great benefit but sometimes those teams and their leaders see themselves as just too busy to do even that. When challenged they say they ‘just have to get on and deliver’ when they know in their heart of hearts that the plate will continue to get overloaded. I often think that such behavior comes about because people subjectively believe they will be excused failure if they are seen to be doing their level best (as a group as well as individually) and it was obvious (to others) that there simply wasn’t the time anyway. Sometimes it has to be a brave leader who says that they will stop what they and their team are doing to make the essential investment of time in themselves.
    Paul Slater
    Mushcado Consulting

  2. Paul Slater says:

    Investing time in the team is always a great benefit but sometimes those teams and their leaders see themselves as just too busy to do even that. When challenged they say they ‘just have to get on and deliver’ when they know in their heart of hearts that the plate will continue to get overloaded. I often think that such behavior comes about because people subjectively believe they will be excused failure if they are seen to be doing their level best (as a group as well as individually) and it was obvious (to others) that there simply wasn’t the time anyway. Sometimes it has to be a brave leader who says that they will stop what they and their team are doing to make the essential investment of time in themselves.
    Paul Slater
    Mushcado Consulting

  3. Joe Denner says:

    Thanks for the article. I love this analogy. I run into this all the time. Because of the immense pressure on leaders to be producers as well as leaders/managers, they feel the constant press to be able to “show” what they’ve done. The great ones, however, clearly understand that if they don’t take the time to grow leaders around and behind them that they success will be short-lived at best.
    http://www.joedenner.blogspot.com

  4. Joe Denner says:

    Thanks for the article. I love this analogy. I run into this all the time. Because of the immense pressure on leaders to be producers as well as leaders/managers, they feel the constant press to be able to “show” what they’ve done. The great ones, however, clearly understand that if they don’t take the time to grow leaders around and behind them that they success will be short-lived at best.
    http://www.joedenner.blogspot.com

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