You’ve probably experienced the truism about “Need something done? Ask someone who’s already too busy to do it—they’ll get it done.”
Often true—and good for you getting results… but not so good for them. Too many volunteer organizations depend on people who won’t say “no” to new responsibilities, which leads to great results… punctuated by burnout-related volunteer turnover.
Companies do this, too—pushing people beyond their limits for too long. It works for a while, until everything implodes.
To avoid burnout: Recruit a team
Small business consultant Becky McCray—an expert on businesses in small towns and rural areas—recently shared about a reader in Texas who finds herself in a small group of people that does all the work.
Becky noted, “Let people do it themselves. Let them dream up their own ideas. Let them do it their own way. Let them take risks and even fail.”
As Becky’s email pre-header said, “There’s never enough time, enough money, or enough people. ”
I’ve seen this in my volunteering, both in New Jersey and North Carolina—I used to pitch in and do everything but got burned out. I eventually learned to step back and let other people work, too.
Your job as a manager is to get results through other people
As a manager (even when I’m managing volunteers), it’s a success when I’m not the only one doing the work—being a good manager is about getting results through other people. Some of this gets to Michael Gerber’s “Technician-Manager-Entrepreneur” continuum from The E-Myth Revisited.
I see that with my clients at Agency Firebox (owners of digital marketing agencies)—they’re often trying to do everything themselves (the “Technician” mindset). The exact solution varies but it ultimately comes down to helping them find a way to let go of running every detail.
Make people “vote with their feet”
While I still believe that big things typically don’t happen unless someone owns making it happen, the Valve employee handbook gives a template for getting things done in groups. In particular, the game development company has their employees “vote with their feet” as to which projects get attention. If people aren’t interested in a particular idea or feature, it doesn’t happen. You can see more in the online handbook PDF.
“Survival of the fittest” for ideas and initiatives and programs? Yes, for better or for worse—it means things won’t happen unless enough people want to do the work to make it happen. If you can’t get people to follow you to help execute your vision… maybe your idea isn’t so great after all.
Either way, rallying a group to help you is definitely more sustainable than expecting the “person who’s already too busy” to do yet another thing… or being that person yourself.
Question: Are you—or have you been—the “person who’s already too busy to do it”? Have you found a way to say “no” to avoid burnout? Click here to share your comment below.