I’ve been testing out an intuitive feeling regarding resource utilization in organizations –the feeling that most people are underutilized. I can hear the rumblings already from those who are feeling both overworked and overwhelmed, but that’s the point. While some people seem to get rewarded for good work with more work, there are many in our organizations that are not pitching in at the same levels. And to my surprise, many of the leaders I shared this perspective with agree.

When it comes to those in organizations who are overutilized, overtaxed, and in some cases overwhelmed, I believe the fault lay with the leadership – lazy leadership, to be exact.

The easiest thing for me to do as a leader is to over-rely on my “go to” players. Basketball coaches have been doing it for years – not developing a deep enough bench and consequently having few viable options when someone is tired, hurt, or just needs a breather. And then to their surprise, the player that has not been developed or utilized in key situations often disappoints.

Failing to have as many people as possible in the pipeline, ready to step further into their potential, is a failure of leadership. Most leaders, myself included, would love to have everyone fully developed, self-motivated, ready to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, this has never been the case in organizations – and never will be, as pace, complexity, and change require more and more adaptability and agility.

One of our core responsibilities as leaders is to see and develop the potential of everyone in our stewardship. We must be less conservative and more willing to take risks with more people – providing opportunities for them to learn and grow, empowering them to develop as they experience both successes and challenges.

We must communicate more authentically and transparently regarding vision and goals, and we need to make it clear that we are ready and willing to totally engage everyone who works with us in the execution of our mission and objective. This requires a commitment to development and the ability to strike a healthy and productive balance between relating and achieving. Our unhealthy emphasis on competing and consuming leads us to lean on the people who can get it done the fastest, failing to recognize both the short- and long-term implications on engagement, utilization, and scale.

This week, take a curious and honest look at how well you are utilizing all your valuable resources. If you’d like some direction or need a place to start, contact me at ralph@getemergent.com.

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