The Straight Truth


Stick a Venn Diagram where the sun doesn’t shine

This brief story came via email from a friend.

“Linda, I had the most amazing experience earlier this week that I wanted to share with you.

First of all, we are all here working like DOGS since December. It has been incredible, and everyone is getting a little frazzled by it.  We brought in a new employee in January, but we are all still dancing as fast as we can to get everything done.

On Saturday morning, I sat down and put aside all the work I had to do. And instead of doing that pile of work I did a Venn diagram of organizational roles and responsibilities among the four people on our Brand Propulsion team.  I reviewed it with my business partner and kept going back and tweaking it all weekend.  On Monday morning, we sat down with the team and reviewed it together.


I came right out and said to two team members: ‘The newest employee and I have been neglecting our mission-critical tasks to help you with your tasks, and this diagram has made that totally clear to me.  The tasks that the two of us are neglecting in order to help you are critical to the company’s success, and they cannot be neglected for one more minute, so you guys are just going to have to get it together and use your best judgment to deliver these client services and be responsible 100% for your deliverables and all the details of them, because I need to turn my attention to my own role and tasks that fall into my responsibility from this moment forward.’

And then that’s exactly what I have done since Monday morning, and I have made huge progress this week. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

And if the other two can step up, we will be in a great place.

I love my little Venn diagram!”

Tickled Pink

I picked up the phone and called my friend after reading her email. I could hear her grinning ear to ear. To “see” what’s been happening as she did with her Venn diagram is a data-driven point of decision. “I have to stop rescue, fixing and saving work that is not mine to get done,” she effused. A revelation!

If you are challenged by all there is to do on your team and find yourself rescue, fixing and saving much more than you would like to because it all has to be done to meet deadlines and customer expectations it might be time for a Venn diagram time out to SHOW the team that it isn’t just you being overwhelmed or dramatic.

You can plot tasks that have to get done in the different roles and see where there is overlap or where you get involved when you must not. Let that person do it and if they don’t do it be ready! Up to now, you’ve fixed it. The new you declares, “I will have to let it go so the lesson is learned and as a team, we stop the madness.” Could be you won’t have to worry about things not getting done because up to now, absent the clear picture the Venn diagram paints, work associates were not aware of what you had been doing and the impact. With the writing on the wall, everyone can see and make new choices.

I Am Responsible

I think a lot of my friend’s insight and newly found joy was moving an external problem to an internal one. “I am always working like a dog and not getting my stuff done. I’m not doing the work I love to do, I’m doing other stuff that is someone else’s job. What am I doing?!” Stopping and getting clear about her role in it has been step one. The more challenging part is sticking to her announcement to the team that stepping out of her role and the tasks she has is a thing of the past. Of course there will be times when the whole team has to dig deep and take on more and by agreement they will do so, but not all the time. Nope, that’s over.

When it’s your work product and your company and your name on the line for the quality of the output, this is a tough haul. You may have to watch something fall apart or fail for everyone to get the message and decide if they are really up to what was agreed to. When “it’s just easier to do it myself” the company is cheated, the customer is cheated, and sustainability of a team’s capacity to do the work is compromised in a big way. A common refrain could be, “We are all always working like DOGS and me more so than anyone else!”

Get a Lever

If this resonates with you in your department, as a team member, or your small business, maybe it’s time to Venn it! Take a look at what is really happening and then pull everyone else in to see it too. What do you have to lose except your anger and frustration that it always falls on you and you don’t get to do the work you want to be doing.

I could see that my friend who told me her story had used the Venn diagram as a kind of lever to pop the lid on her nonfulfillment at work. If you can relate, put your pile aside and take the time to stick a lever right where it hurts, hit it with as much clarity as you can and see what falls where. If nothing else it can shed light on next steps for you to get unstuck and get more sleep!