One of the reasons that it can cause so much extra work, this overwhelm, this load balancing conversation, when a team member comes to us with it is because we solve it in the wrong way. We diagnose it based on how we would be feeling. By asking this open ended question, what does this look like for you?
What does that mean? How is that showing up? Now we know what next step to take.
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The best thing is there's no long term commitment and you can hop in and out anytime. Sign up today at liagarvin.com/hub and I cannot wait to see you in our next live Q& A session. Welcome back to the show. Today we are going to talk about load balancing. So this means a team member comes to you feeling like, ah, I got too much work and I need help figuring it out.
And I got to say, we all know this is going to happen when we're managers. We're all expecting this. And yet when a team member comes to you and you're really busy and you got your own stuff going on and someone comes to you like, Hey, I need help. I can't get all this done. Let's call it. It's the worst because it's like, ah, now I have to figure this out.
And now I might have to take some of this on or do new extra work to get support for this person. And in this conversation today, I want to turn this in from being the worst, what I've just described to something that you totally feel like you can handle. Because actually by taking somewhat of a coaching approach and by making a few little shifts, you can figure out exactly how to solve the problem.
All right, ready to do this? Let's reframe this into something that's not so terrible. The first way to approach this is putting on your coaching hat. And this means asking some open ended questions. So your team member comes to you and they say, I'm feeling really overwhelmed. Instead of just jumping in with, uh, okay, I overwhelmed.
This means they have too much going on. Or this means that. We ask them, Oh, overwhelmed. What do you mean by that? How does that feel to you? What does that look like? So asking these open ended questions, this is going to give you more data around how to solve the problem. Because there have been times when someone has come to me and said, I'm feeling really overwhelmed.
And I assumed overwhelmed meant what I think it does, which means you have too many projects on your plate. You have too many things going on. But when I asked them, okay, what do you mean by that? How does that show for you? They said, you know, I actually, I don't know how to do this thing and I'm really feeling stuck and I've been, I've been like doing all this research on the internet and asking all these questions.
And I'm like, Oh, overwhelmed to them means there's a skill gap. It wasn't about quantity. It was about making sure that they feel like they actually know how to do this thing. So by asking open ended questions, we then know how to solve the problem. One of the reasons that it can cause so much extra work, this overwhelm, this load balancing conversation, when a team member comes to us with it is because we solve it in the wrong way.
We diagnose it based on how we would be feeling. By asking this open ended question, what does this look like for you? What does that mean? How is that showing up? Now we know what next step to take, which is figuring out, Okay. Is it a skill gap like it was in that example I just shared? Is it a timing thing?
Is it that requirements have changed? Once we kind of figure that out, so we say, what does this mean to you? And in the first example I said, they said it was a skill gap. Another example could be someone says, Hey, you know, the, the requirements keep changing from the client or from the product manager or whoever it is every single week.
And I don't really know how to keep up with it. Okay. So now this is more of a scope issue. Or maybe it's, Hey, I don't know how to be successful here. I gave this to the client and this change and then, or, or I shared this with the VP and they had different expectations. Uh, now it's an expectation conversation.
You see what I mean by understanding what the overwhelm is about and what's driving that load balancing conversation. Now we know which route to take. Let's say it's a skill gap. This is a great opportunity to get someone some mentorship or some coaching, even offering, hey, you have total permission to go find a course or a class that'll help you build the skill.
Sometimes people just need permission and they'll jump on it. It also could be that someone needs someone to partner up on that project with them. Maybe it's a skill gap that requires not just learning something quickly, but actually shadowing someone. So is there someone that you could partner up with them, maybe saying, hey, can you go attend Sarah's meetings and watch how she runs this kind of thing?
Or can you go see how John handled this problem or kind of pick their brain for some information. Then you can figure out how you can better leverage other folks in your team or in your company that can support that person. What I see show up the most with the bandwidth conversation is that someone feels like Hey, I know how to do it.
I just have way too much work to do based on the timeline. And this is happening more and more and more. I see it with folks in the small business space, certainly in the corporate space where you're just packing in stuff more and more and more. And people keep saying yes or I guess so. And we're not really listening when they've hit capacity.
So then our team members come to us like, Hey, I'm throwing in the towel. I actually cannot do this. And that's when it becomes really a difficult thing for us managers, because we have to figure out, okay, well, the deadline's next week. We got to get this done. What are we going to do? And that's, I think, where it can cause that panic.
Now, there's a number of ways to address this before you get to this point. And ideally, this is the route we take, is that when we are setting priorities, when we are talking about what work has to get done, when we are figuring out goals, planning, we really take stock in all the things that take up time for our team members.
It's not just about getting that task done. There's meetings, there's stakeholder reviews, there's having lunch, not sitting in front of your computer. There's all sorts of things. And so when you think about someone's overall capacity, it's really important not to pack in every single second of the day with meetings or reviews or, or work items because we're never going to get it done if we haven't met a hundred percent.
In fact, many of the engineering teams I worked with in the past used to use a 60% capacity. So take the number of hours across a week or month or quarter, and then map out people's work at what would 60% of that be understanding that the rest of the 40% might be sick days, team events, taking a day off, a dentist appointment, again, lunch, right?
These things that come up during the day and people can then over deliver. But if we are mapping people out at a hundred percent, and then we're surprised why they only got 70% of it done, it's because we never set them up for success. And really that means the first thing to do to prevent someone being from overcapacity is to do better and more diligent capacity planning, be more realistic, set the targets around a 60, 70% capacity, understanding that's really all that's reasonable given life and, and a meeting running over, right?
If you're literally planning every minute of the day, you can't account for anything. I've also seen that planning over capacity chips away at trust between you and your team members because they kind of think well I guess I have to agree to this plan that I completely know is unrealistic and not achievable But my manager says I should so I guess I will and it it creates a sense of both of you agreeing to a plan That you know is never gonna be met and that doesn't create engagement on a team That's not motivating that just knows we're kicking the can down the field until we get to this point where we're gonna say Oh wait, I can't get all that done And then that conversation is uncomfortable and hard.
So let's prevent that in the first place. But let's say you get there, let's say you do really great capacity planning and still someone comes to you and says, Hey, there was all these unforeseen things and I can't get this done. I'm really, really feeling over capacity. What do you do in this situation?
You have three levers, the timeline, the deliverables, and the people that are working on it. First thing question to ask is, is this timeline fixed? What another week help you? What another few days help you? What really is the constraint timing wise? And if it's possible, potentially moving that timeline out, we'll actually solve the problem.
Second one is the deliverables themselves. Maybe you can launch a minimum viable product or an MVP that has a lesser version that's still really useful. Where you can get this thing done. You can still get feedback. You can still test it out. You can still, you know, share it with customers, whatever it looks like, but it doesn't have to be fully finished.
That's an option too. And then talking with your team about, okay, well, if we scope this down, we, we made this a little simpler. Would it be possible to get this done in time? And then the third is, can you add more people to it? And listen, I know right now, literally no companies have a surplus of people waiting around to be tapped on the shoulder to help someone else on a project.
Okay, I get it. But this might mean asking someone to help out with something for a few hours just to get it unblocked. This might mean swapping some people for a week or two on what they're focusing on. So it doesn't mean you have to go out and hire new team members right away, but maybe you can get creative with who's working on what.
For example, when I worked in design, folks would have to prepare slide decks, talking points, get stakeholders on board in the back end. There was a lot of different things that had to happen in order to review things with executives. So folks would often feel like, I don't have any bandwidth. We need to push out this review.
And if we push out the review, what would happen was then it jeopardized the thing releasing on time and shipping the customers on time. It changed the engineering schedule. We didn't want to push out those reviews. So this is a moment where I would grab someone and say, Hey, you are a powerhouse on slide design.
Can you jump on this project for one hour a day, crank out some slides, help this person keep moving forward. Okay, so that person's one hour was able to take this huge piece off someone's plate where they weren't that great at slides and that could have taken them all day. So think about what are the skill sets on your team and if someone is feeling squeezed, if someone's feeling overwhelmed, like they don't have bandwidth, can you shift things around even in a little kind of quick way that you make more space for folks?
By doing these things, first understanding what is the nature of the overwhelm? What does it mean? What is it? Where is this person feeling stuck and out of bandwidth? When we start there, we understand which route to take. And then we can figure out again, is it a skill gap? Is it something that that person needs support or is it something around the deliverables themselves?
The timeline, the scope, needing more people, all that good stuff. Quick PSA because I was a program manager many, many years and saw this come up over and over and over. Sometimes we have those team members that continually say, yes, they can get it all done. You talk about it, you did the capacity planning and they keep coming back to you and not being able to get it done on time.
And this is a place to bring back those open ended questions. What's getting in the way? Was it XYZ thing, right? Was it that you got stuck on the skill side? Was it scope changing? Was the timeline being too aggressive? Was whatever. Knowing how long things will take us is something not all of us are good at.
In fact, most of us are pretty terrible at it. So we want to cut some folks some slack, but if they're, if it's happening again and again and again, then I think it's helpful to break things down into smaller increments. Like, okay, we didn't know how long it would take to plan this whole campaign, but what about creating individual assets?
Or we didn't know how long it would take to create this whole project strategy, but what about just creating a project plan? Sometimes breaking things into these mini milestones will help someone better understand how long things take so they can better estimate it in the future. And with that said, get out there and happy load balancing.
See you next time. That's all I have for today. Thank you so much for tuning in to the managing made simple podcast, where my goal is to demystify the job of people management so that together we can make the workplace somewhere everyone can thrive. I always love to hear from you. So please reach out at LiaGarvin.com or message me on LinkedIn. See you next time.