By Michael Holland     

A few years ago I joined a men’s lacrosse league.  I hadn’t played lacrosse in a “few” years, I but yearned to be back in a competitive game, expending all that stressful energy and feeling the rush of natural adrenaline.  To prepare, I went out for a run, just to work the kinks out and begin to get my body ready.  About a mile into a nice easy jog I convinced myself that I was ready for some sprint intervals: I needed to get my lungs and legs ready, and I didn’t want to take it slow.  But in my haste to make up for years of non-game-ready physical activity, I crammed several sprints together and boom, quickly pulled the quadriceps in my right leg.  So much for cramming with my get-healthy plan.

Too often, leaders “cram” for employee-related work.  They tend to put off the simple, everyday activities which enable employees and teams to perform well.  A slow, steady, consistent approach creates a very healthy “people asset” which is the asset a leader is charged with not only sustaining but (more importantly) growing.

Here are 3 leadership crams which all too often fail leaders and reveal their laziness.

The “11:00 PM Performance Review Form” Cram:  Throughout the year you’ve had a sum total of 2 conversations with your employee regarding their performance.  And here you are at 11:00 pm the night before all the forms are due and you are scrambling to fill in (or copy and paste from a Google search) whatever text might sound good enough to appear as if you have your act together.  In your haste to complete the form, you fail to recognize the heartache awaiting your employee when they read the review and realize you have no clue what’s going on.

Leaders leading well spend their time carving out comments from their accumulated notes, and worry about how to add an addendum to the form to make sure the employee gets the full picture.

The “Non-Impromptu Impromptu Stop By the Cubicle” Cram:  You’ve been told that you need to spend more time with your employees.  So you block off all Wednesday morning to invest time with your employees.  You strategically move from cubicle to cubicle acting nonchalant at each stop, like you just happened to be walking by and wanted to chat. You employees are gracious and engage in pleasant conversation, but all the while they are thinking to themselves “why is he wasting my time, and why is he asking me the exact same questions he just asked the guys next to me?”

Leaders leading well chat with employees because that is part of their jobs as leaders: engaging with their employees allows them to gain tremendous insight and ideas on how to lead the team forward.

The “Employee Resignation Sprint for a Counter Offer” Cram:  You’ve left your employee alone for so long without encouragement or show of care that they’ve made the ultimate decision to move on.  You now rush into a full sprint to maneuver through the organizational bureaucracy, seeking approval for a counter offer.  You look as desperate as the guy who was out buying 6 pieces of workout equipment the day after his physical when he runs into his doctor.  You can’t salvage a broken relationship with a quick fix.

Leaders leading well make relationship deposits each week (and ideally every day), creating trusted relationships and honest conversations.

Cramming for that multiple choice exam in Marketing 101 might have worked successfully.  Cramming as a leader with the stuff that matters most, simply reveals how seriously you do (or do not) take the role you’ve been granted to care for the lives and careers of your employees.

Coaching Thoughts- For You and Your Peers

  • Which of the three leadership crams strikes a chord with you most? Is it because you’ve experienced a leader like this? Or because you see some of your own “cram sessions” in it?
  • What do you think of this statement: “Cramming as a leader with the stuff that matters most simply reveals how seriously you do (or do not) take the role you’ve been granted to care for the lives and careers of your employees.”
    • How might seeing your role as a leader in this way change your actions?