Share the pain

How do you express to your boss that a situation is dire? That you and your team are running yourself ragged and may not last the week? Or, as someone in our POC YOUniversity Hot Seat Coaching Call said, “how do you tell them that ‘shit’s on fire!’?

I’ve heard this from so many people recently… talented, well-intentioned leaders are doing their best to keep as many fingers in the damn as possible. The problem, however, is that you do that SO well that your leaders and managers don’t see that there is something wrong.

Because you want to do your job well, and because you don’t want to let anyone down, you shield them from the pain – which is the natural human tendency.

However, if you are going to get their support, they need to feel the pain. Your pain.

Your boss needs to understand your struggle and the toll this situation is taking on you and your team. They need to understand that while the duck (you) may look calm above the surface, it’s paddling for it’s life below the surface.

But how do you tell them that without looking weak, or that you can’t do your job? Let’s start with this…

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Say it with me: asking for help is not a sign of weakness!

One more time for the folks in the back: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS!!!!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do we ask for help? I’m glad you asked (for help!):

  • Tell the story that moves your boss. Some people like numbers, others like anecdotes, others respond to employee feedback. Whatever language speaks to your boss, frame your question and/or request in a way that draws them in and makes your point.
  • Have a plan. How many times have you gone to your boss with a problem and they said, “what do you think we should do about it?” What DO you think we should do about the current issues? Develop a thoughtful, cohesive plan (that speaks your boss’ language). Show that you have thought this through and it’s not just an emotional outburst.
  • Make sure you have their attention. Your boss is busy, and there is a good chance that you are not the only one making theses requests. This should not be an “oh, by-the-way, if you have time, could you maybe think about how to fix this mess, if it’s not too much trouble” conversation. Set a time on the calendar, get your paddling ducks in a row and make your case.
  • Help your boss make a case to their boss. Maybe your boss agrees with you but they won’t be making the final decision. Help them develop the story and plan to present to their boss.
  • Don’t give up! Be respectful, but keep after it. Remember, lots of people are counting on you – not just to get the job done, but to be their advocate. Giving up is really not an option.

So that was a few more bullet points than usual, but desperate times… amiright? Even with all that extra typing, it’s not an easy conversation to navigate. I’m happy to chat with you about your specific situation. All you have to do is ask (this one is super easy!).

Thanks for reading!



Doing more with less is not a long term operating strategy, right?

Let’s first acknowledge that the conditions that COVID-19 has thrust upon us have created situations we couldn’t have imagined, and we’re in survival mode.

We’ve got less staff, less time, less resources, and less patience.

So naturally, we’re going to bang the “do more with less” drum. I get it. For now.

My hope for our post-COVID world is that the “do more with less” mantra finally sees it’s way into the annuls of no-longer-useful corporate jargon like value-added, synergy, and paradigm.

Why? Because I don’t think we’re really doing more. We’re doing less.

For example, I’ve worked for a number of organizations who tried to make their staffing model more efficient. Two teams of ten under two different leaders became one team of 20 under one leader, and over the years that grew exponentially. Now that same leader that had 10 people now has 100 people and we wonder why they are barely keeping their head above water.

And because of this we see other problems creeping in… we can’t seem to get employees to show up. Service levels have gone down. We’re questioning our culture. Gotta be these younger generations, right? Don’t get me started.

The real problem is our doing more with less mantra has given us less leadership in the field, less time for training, less oversight of an individuals development, less time for the leader to show the employee that they care.

And I hate to say it, but that’s part of the perfect storm we are encountering with our current staffing issues. Our environments and employee experience were “good enough” in an employer driven market, but as tides have shifted and the employees now have the power, they are making choices that we don’t like.

So how do we get out of the downward spiral of always trying to do more with less?

  • Recognize that over time, you have actually been doing less with less. Our adherence to this flawed business model has hurt us more than it has helped. Stress, mental health issues, burnout and worker fatigue can all be linked back to the self-imposed condition of trying to do more with less.
  • Think ahead. WAY ahead (at least 5 years). Just like you would for a new attraction or business expansion, think critically and strategically about your employee experience. What does your pay look like? Your benefits? Your leadership? Your support of your employees? Go blue sky then work backwards on how to make it happen.
  • Make the best of today. Don’t do more than your staff can handle. We may want everything open, but what is the cost of doing that? Spreading your team too thin to make a few more bucks will likely cost you plenty down the road. You might not see it right away, but your attrition and turnover costs will far outweigh the few extra dollars you are making now. Not to mention the devastation this will do to your culture (which is really your best recruiting tool.)

No one has ever (to my knowledge) enthusiastically said, “we get to do more with less today!! Giddy up!” Fact is, more with less is a temporary fix to a temporary situation, and should have never become our operational norm. Once we kick COVID to the curb, let’s do the same with doing more with less.

Thanks for reading!

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