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Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

| October 24, 2023

by Peggy Huston

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Peggy Huston, Leadership Coach at MOR Associates.  Peggy may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

Do you suffer from a feeling of overwhelm? Does the workload for your team continue to increase while the size of your team remains constant or is shrinking? Do you wonder, who will do something about this situation? 

Once upon a time, early in my career, I would work with my supervisor, Chris, on Monday mornings to develop an action plan for the week. I completed some of my tasks daily, and some were longer term that I would work on once I had completed those daily tasks. I experienced great satisfaction at the end of each day and the end of the week when I checked everything off of my list. Years later, I had advanced through several positions, each with more responsibility, including the responsibility for others’ work. My list only got longer, never shorter, and never seemed complete at the end of the day or the week. I tried working longer hours and being more efficient, but my efforts did not slow the work from flowing in. It was discouraging. So I paused and thought, what problem am I trying to solve?

The problem was that my expectations had stayed the same while my role had changed. I was expecting someone like Chris to filter the work flowing into my unit, and I realized that person was now me. I needed to decide what work my team would accomplish and when. These decisions meant I would decide what work we would not complete. This new awareness was a bit daunting at first, but then I began to think about the skills and tools I have to accomplish this responsibility. Each title below links to a prior Tuesday Reading that explores the topic in greater detail.

Be Intentional

Whether we are taking an intentional approach to decision-making or not, the result is that we are making choices, and we are responsible for the outcomes of those choices. Given this truth, I choose an intentional mindset to develop my strategies to manage the workload for my organization.

Think Strategically

I need to be intentional about moving up to a balcony view and thinking about the impact of my decisions. The balcony is where I want to be, whether assessing a project request or preparing for a challenging conversation. Defining the desired outcome enables me to align my and my team’s efforts to deliver on that outcome.

Invest in Relationships

When developing strategies to achieve my desired outcomes, I consider the relationships I have built and invested in – what do I know about the people involved, what do they care about, and how can I leverage their expertise and experience? The network I have been growing and the information I can gather from these relationships are foundational to my ability to influence folks to move in the direction I want them to.


Not all work is equal. I want to optimize our time. Therefore, I must have structures that enable me and my team members to make prioritization decisions. Examples include a documented set of goals that enable team members to determine whether a request aligns or not with the high-level goals, a set of criteria (e.g., fit for my team, impact, urgency, availability of the right team members) to assess which projects I should prioritize enables me to make timely decisions on if and when we implement a project, and an approach to constructive conversations about challenging topics promptly.

Develop Talent

A strategic plan for developing my team members is another integral component to effectively managing workload. I need to build development time into our schedules so that each team member’s value increases as our work evolves.


Making and acting on decisions to manage the workload in my organization without appropriate communication will only create more work for me and my team. I want to communicate internally to ensure we are all moving in the same direction and hearing their concerns. I want to share this with my boss to ensure that we are in alignment and that they have my back. I want to communicate externally with other units and ask for their feedback and partnership. To effectively manage the workload in my team, I dedicate a significant amount of time to communications.

Embody Confidence

Along my leadership journey, I have had the good fortune of others believing in me. However, my successes were based on my belief in myself. Being confident about the direction I set, the decisions I make, and the messages I send are critical for me to enable others to do their best work. Even when I had to acknowledge that the direction I set was not working, I would remember that people were watching to see how I showed up. To earn their trust, I had to be honest about what went wrong and what I learned, and confidently set the new direction. 

If you are in a situation where you are overwhelmed by the workload, the first thing for you to do is to shift your mindset. The demand will always exceed the capacity. Managing the workload is the only way to avoid burnout for you and your team members. Once you have shifted your mindset, remember that you have the tools. Now, it’s practice, reflection, learn, adjust and repeat. You’ve got this!

Which strategy are you most inspired to focus on to manage your workload?

Last week, we asked about one thing you would be most excited to do to provide an opportunity for others to develop their capabilities

  • 25% said coaching and developing direct staff
  • 24% said organizational-wide development efforts
  • 20% said mentoring
  • 15% said a leadership program at their institution
  • 16% said leadership development of self

Our answers reflect a combination of both thinking individually about others, such as through coaching or mentoring, and thinking more holistically about programs at the organization level. We suggest a combination of the two is needed. Focus on the individual builds or strengthens needed habits and practices, while the focus on the community provides the opportunity to enhance relationships through shared experiences beneficial to learning. This ecosystem creates the environment and opportunities to unleash people’s potential. Consider leveraging the strategies from today’s reading to make these essential investments a priority.