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Scheduling at the holidays should be a team effort

December 16, 2018

Q: Last year we had a huge mess at the holidays, with too many people off work, not enough arrangements made for coverage, etc. After that we put together a plan to avoid that this year. Now that I’m implementing the plan, I’m accused of micromanaging. I feel like I can’t win! What should I do?

Alain, 49, head of strategic consulting

A: Is this your plan or the team’s plan?

For it to work, you need a shared commitment.

Think back to last year. How widely did people agree that there was a problem? There may have been quite a disconnect between your perception and your team’s.

There’s no doubt that holiday times can be challenging, but if the inconvenience and hassles were mostly on you, your efforts to solve the problem may not have much value to others.

Keep in mind that as the team’s leader, you may be aware of consequences from the disarray that they may not know about.

Sharing this information will increase their trust in you, as well as your effectiveness in putting a new approach in place.

On the other hand, everyone may have been feeling the stress.

On a busy team, people can find that vacation has piled up and may have to be used by the end of the year or forfeited. Year-end deadlines may also be looming without resources to help share the work.

If there’s an agreed-upon need yet you are still encountering resistance, consider that either the plan or your implementation of it could use some improvement.

The best way to figure this out is to get feedback from your colleagues on the team. Call a meeting to reflect on last year, get their perspectives, and define what, if any issues, should be avoided now, if possible.

Then listen. You can certainly share your concerns, but do it in a way that doesn’t put them above the others. The respect you show them will increase the chances that your point of view will be heard. And you can certainly have an expectation that they need to be addressed if they are valid.

Also be open to new solutions that others raise. Being able to contribute to the next steps is a powerful driver of buy-in.

At this point, it’s somewhat late in the game. But here are some quick tactics that may help you all keep your heads above water.

Defer work. If there are year-end items that could reasonably be moved into early 2019, do so.

If this involves discussion with an internal client, reach out and see if they are amenable to that.

Extend leave time into 2019. Even if you have a “use it or lose it” policy, explore whether you can provide any extensions.

Relax about coverage. Realistically, most offices slow down enough that you may be overestimating the need to have people in during the holiday week.

Consider how busy they really were last year and calibrate accordingly.

Finally, approach the situation with gratitude for what your team does.

Be sure you are not ending the year on a stressed and punitive note. Instead, find a way to bring a message of appreciation as you move into 2019.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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