Is Your Hustle Tank Over-flowing?

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A question from a friend and past colleague and key executive of a consumer products company.

“If my tank is too full, how do I keep it from bursting?”

Anyone asking this question probably has no shortage of energy, motivation, drive or desire to points on the board.  And having the benefit of knowing him, he belongs to the elite right hand corner of the business world’s bell curve, the top % of performers, thinkers and doers that companies are built around.  All questions should make you think.  But questions coming from someone you respect and admire are show stoppers.

So here goes…

First:  “Where I come from?” as I attempt to answer it:

  1. I FEEL this question often.  I’m a magnet for wanting to do too much, and actually acting on that desire.
  2. I have NEVER successfully conquered it!

My Hustle Tank has probably be on E < 10% of the time.  “BURSTING” 75% of the time.  And the remaining is probably “on balance.”

That’s why the question is intriguing.

My answer?

I’m not sure a Hustle Tank on the verge of bursting is an emergency.  I could probably create an argument that the tank bursting and the reasons behind it is what got you to this point in life.

Having said that, stress of all sorts can create a barrier to truly excellent performance, so dealing with it is important.  Also, it is possible to overplay one area of life (business), at the expense of the other.

First thought that comes to mind?

  • Take care of your life’s #1 partner:  Spouse/significant other.  I’ve been lucky.  I call my wife my life’s greatest SECRET WEAPON.  I’m FAR from a marital expert, but DO know that a rock solid partner in your Hustle endeavors is a tremendous asset that will keep the tank from bursting.  Enough said there…..

Second, WITHIN your business:

  • If you believe that a responsibility of LEADERSHIP is to create more LEADERS, than there is probably an opportunity to serve others, and in the process, have a “side benefit” of reducing one’s own stress.

  • Sometimes, great potential lies in hidden corners where leaders either have NOT looked, or haven’t successfully discovered them.  Finding them takes intentional effort, out of your office and getting to know where the fire is in the organization.  Finding that person within your organization is the golden opportunity….start now.

Make sure they have runway in front of them.  You are about to invest in someone, so you need a real return.  Get the right person, one with a Fire in the Belly.  To sum it up, they need the Killer B’s.

  • Carve out a meaningful portion of your role, (5 hours + per week).  
  • Look for some activity, you consistently do that consumes hours and try and give it up to this person.  I’m not talking about “delegating” I’m talking about transferring a major activity that can be closely replicated and if screwed up by this high potential, your business is not at major risk.
    • Run a weekly results meeting that you participate in (maybe lead)?
    • Spend time dealing with vendors?
    • New talent scouting?
    • Reviewing investment options? (cap ex, acquisitions, etc)?
    • Putting out fires?  The latest turnover issue, R&D issue, audits, etc

All of these are important, you are doing them for a reason and probably are very efficient.  And guess what?  They all can be done by someone else even if it’s “not as good.”

Lets say you pick an area that consumes on average 5 hours of your time.  Commit to INVESTING 20 hours with this person to ramp them up. Don’t just show them HOW, show them WHY.  Roll with them for a few weeks.  Than pull away, have them lead it.  Have them report back.  Coach.  Counsel.  Challenge.

  • After your up-front investment, is it fair to say you can turn 5 hours a week into 1?
  • 3 months down the road, how’s your high potential doing?  Do you have a stronger bench?

Can this approach turn a Bursting Hustle Tank into just a full one?  Maybe.  But I’m SURE of this:  If someone were to take 5 hours a week off my plate so I could concentrate on bigger picture activities, I certainly would have less of a “bursting” feeling.  

Worst case scenario?  A high potential team member has been developed far more than NOT trying to deal with the bursting tank at all.  And that matters most in the Leadership game…  

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Your Hustle Tank is on “E”? Now What?

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Hustle Tank on E

A recent post discussed the career dangers that result in a Hustle Tank on “E.”  The purpose was just to raise awareness that if you find yourself there for an extended period, you are in a REAL AND PRESENT career danger zone.

Than someone dropped me a line and said, “I’m there, any advice to get out of it?”  I always appreciate readers engaging, and this is not an easy question!

So here are some thought on how to attack a Hustle Tank on “E.”

First, let me assume (could be dangerous) that things in one’s personal life are relatively stable and not in a state of turmoil.

Everyone has challenges beyond work, but let’s assume those challenges are not EXTRAordinary.

Step # 1

1)  Analyze Your EXISTING Daily Routine:  How you use your time can be a major contributor to a tank on E.

  • How much “dead” or wasted time are you spending per day?  (Take a look at your TV habits for a starting point)
  • Are you working out?
  • Are you reading new things?
  • Having conversations with trusted people?  Old Friends?  New contacts?  There’s a coffeehouse on every corner, use it.

Key Point:  Getting your tank beyond “E” will likely involve utilizing your time in a very different way.  Start small, 20 minutes a day with something different.  Write it down, whatever that new activity is, each day.  Nothing fancy, a cocktail napkin works.  But do SOMETHING different each and every day.

What “bigger chunks of time” or new experiences are you consistently engaging in?

  • Service to others?  Non Profit service is a great way to charge your batteries and get the attention off yourself and onto others
  • New “side projects?”  Start yourself a blog, new hobby, a free on-line course from Wharton or a bunch of other elite institutions, etc

This one is harder to do daily, so you may want to think of this as a WEEKLY activity or bi-weekly.

2)  Get a Plan Quickly And Approach Your Employer

  • Nothing infuriates an employer more than someone that is clearly on “E” and doesn’t seem to care.  If your in this situation you need to deal with it head on and start sitting with your management.  The more well thought out your meeting the better.  More solutions you bring to the table the better.
  • The point is to not let “E” be long term, it will diminish your reputation, get on top of the situation and confront it.

There is risk involved with sitting down with your employer and telling them “I’m burnt out!”  Many people don’t want to approach it for fear of losing their job.  Maybe the emergency funds are not built up?  Maybe the confidence is low?  There could be a hundred reasons why people avoid the conversation.

Balance the risk of “looking the other way/ignoring the problem” vs. confronting the reality head on and a being in the room while the problem gets discussed and worked.

I’ve never met a high achiever that prefers to let OTHERS make a decision (especially negative ones) behind close doors vs. having a seat at the table.

There is one obvious solution I’m leaving out:

Expand your options, find alternatives.  Translation?  Find another job.  That is intentional.  Most people don’t analyze the root cause of what gets them on “E.”  Or some do, but they never confront the situation with their Employer, for whatever reason.  Lets say you jump to a search and find another job, great, Congrats!  How long will it be before that tank finds itself on “E” again?  The answer is not “IF”, it’s “WHEN.”  What’s the solution going to be then?

Working towards Excellence is not an easy road.

Business is a CONTACT SPORT.  There’s no shame in having your Hustle tank fall to “E.”  The only shame is not figuring out why, than developing an action plan to fix it.

Good luck, and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on how you refill an empty tank….drop a comment below!

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