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AT THE OFFICE: Helping downsized team accomplish same-size workload

Question: A couple of my team members are leaving for new opportunities and aren't going to be replaced. Our workload isn't being reduced, though. How can I adjust so that the remaining team can successfully get everything done?...

Question: A couple of my team members are leaving for new opportunities and aren't going to be replaced. Our workload isn't being reduced, though. How can I adjust so that the remaining team can successfully get everything done?

Answer: Prioritize the work, look for ways to streamline and be equitable in increasing team members' workloads. And be a voice of reason by pushing back on unrealistic demands.

The inner game

Examine what you control. Some of your workload may come from your management style. If you require too many status reports or time-intensive team meetings, consider changing your approach.

Don't let trying to be perfect limit the amount of good work you can deliver. This may not be easy to think about -- it's very satisfying to strive for perfection. But you might have a 500 percent approach where a 100 percent approach might do. Or, you might have a customized process in place where a standard one would be sufficient. You also could influence your clients to move away from "wants" to get more of what they need.

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Finally, you and your team can control your attitudes. Instead of "we'll never get it done," choose an attitude of "what can we do and how can we do it?" This starts at the top; if you're positive and innovative, it'll help your team follow.

The outer game

Perhaps the most challenging step is to push back against the organization. At some point, demands are simply unrealistic, and as the leader it's up to you to make the case that a certain number of people is needed to achieve the desired quantity and quality of work.

Bolster your case by demonstrating that you're making the most of the team you have. Draw on your team's ingenuity to find opportunities to improve, including pinpointing redundancies and inefficiencies. Start by asking each team member to put together a list of suggestions.

Set aside some time to think deeply about how you support your team's objectives. Re-examine any contract or regulatory requirements with a fresh eye to see if you have options in implementing them. Get away from your desk for this so you won't be distracted.

Chat with your clients to find out what's working the best and what might be flexible. This could be a chance for them to get even better results.

Sit down with the team and put it all together. Imagine ways to sculpt what you provide to reduce unneeded effort and provide more of what clients really need. Bring these ideas back to your clients, fine-tuning them until you reach agreement.

In the short term, the existing work will need to get done. Everyone will have to pitch in (don't let the person who says "yes" too much carry the bulk of the load). Acknowledge the pressure, look for tangible or intangible rewards that you can offer, and remind yourselves that this, too, shall pass.

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The last word

While you keep your heads above water, create a sustainable way to achieve your team's goals.

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