How to Handle Your Workload as You Move Up in the Hierarchy

A newly promoted client recently asked me about how to plan for her new job. One of her biggest worries was whether the people who report to her have the right talent, capacity, skills, potential, and drive to move into bigger roles themselves. She needs them to step up so she can pay proper attention to her new responsibilities, but she isn’t sure how to make that happen.

We laid out an approach that will help her stay on top of her own responsibilities while delegating or reassigning appropriate tasks and projects to her team.

The Value of the 100-Day Plan

Although it’s common for newly hired executives to submit 90- or 100-day plans, it’s not always required of execs who are promoted from within. But these plans are an extremely valuable exercise — both for the recently elevated leader’s development and as a way to help keep the leader on track, even if no one is formally checking their plan or their intended results.

For a newly promoted leader, some of the most important aspects of the exercise are planning how to close out and hand off any responsibilities that aren’t part of their new job and preparing and launching the people who will take over their former functions. Creating such a plan can be a daunting assignment, because there’s usually a lot of old stuff still needing to be done plus new stuff crying out for attention — in fact, that may be the very reason they were promoted! 

Experiment with Mind Maps

One technique I’ve found very helpful for organizing the competing projects and tasks is for the leader to draw a series of mind maps. These diagrams will capture everything they’re doing so they can identify which responsibilities they need to shift to others and which new tasks they’ll take on as separate initiatives or projects.

Start by writing the name of each initiative in the middle of a page and drawing lines outward from it, creating nodes at the ends for each specific task or responsibility. Then, for each node, draw additional lines outward to show the responsible person and other critical factors like deadlines, deliverables, and milestones. By going over these maps with colored highlighters, you can indicate any overlap, such as who has responsibilities in several areas or how many aspects are due on the same day. You can also highlight any unresolved or as-yet unassigned tasks to see how well the initiative is going. Once you’ve got all the crucial aspects captured, you can refer to these mind maps as you lay out various instructions, critical paths, or directives. 

After mapping and setting timeframes, you’ll know what belongs in your first 100 days. Even after the initial work period, this is a good tool to use anytime you need a sharp focus, sustained over a relatively short period of time. A mind map will often move work forward faster than if you just lay out your goals for the next couple of quarters. Everyone can get interested in doing the countdown with you, to see if you land where you had intended. 

If you’d like, you can also map and draft another 100-day plan to use after the first one expires; this can help everyone gather themselves up and keep going after a brief reflection and review. Think of it as having three 100-day plans in a year, with a little cushion time for special intensive planning and reporting. Oddly, shifting the timing from away from the standard calendar quarters can make you look more carefully at your intentions and actions.

Focus on Your Team

Employees often take comfort or form habits around their expectations of their immediate manager’s behavior. Even when that leader’s job changes, it’s fairly common for subordinates to assume that the leader is still going to do the same work in the same way, along with a few new things. But often the leader’s new work is significantly more complicated or just plain harder than what they used to do.

As you review your mind maps and consider assignments, you may there are find tasks or activities that your team members aren’t ready to handle. It’s crucial to work with these individuals to understand what tools, support, and resources you can provide to help them as well as what information or skills they still have to learn. 

Sometimes all the team requires is your encouragement, or for you to backstop some tough questions while they’re learning the ropes. Your subordinates are responsible for pointing out their needs so you can see those lacks or concerns from their point of view. But it’s the new leader’s job to draft and manage the plan to move the team from the old way of working to a new steady state.

Onward and upward —

LK

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