Fans of the classic British tv comedy “Fawlty Towers” should be able to immediately remember this famous line:
“Stop bothering me. I am trying to run a hotel!”
John Cleese played Basil Fawlty a harried owner of a small English hotel. The central gag of the show was that Fawlty was forever arguing with hotel guests and staff, trying in vain to explain that he didn’t have time to deal with their concerns. He was, after all, “trying to run a hotel.”
But within this hilarious comedy gem lies a huge leadership issue that applies to each one of us.
Projects must never trump people.
Leaders must certainly carry out various solo functions, such as planning, financial analysis, emails, and so on. But when the drive to accomplish these jobs starts to make interactions with people seem like an inconvenience, you’ve fallen into the Basil Fawlty trap; Projects are trumping people.
Here’s how you can tell that projects could be starting to trump people:
1. You are keeping your office door closed a bit too often
Every leader requires some alone think-time. But if your people are finding themselves increasingly locked out of your world, it could be that projects are trumping people.
2. You are increasingly connecting to your own people via email.
Remember when you used to walk around and talk to your team? Don’t let that human interaction become replaced by inter-office email.
3. You are cancelling meetings in order to work on your projects
Too many meetings can be a bad thing. So too can too few meetings. If you’re avoiding meetings so you can work on solo projects, it’s time to re-think priorities.
None of this is to suggest that, as a leader, your people should have unfettered access to you. Your time is valuable and must be well managed.
But when the desire for solitude begins to take priority over real, live, human interactions it’s time to stop and recalibrate your leadership.
Whatever your leadership role, those people issues should never be a distraction from your leadership.
Because dealing with those people issues is at the heart of your leadership.
How do you prevent projects from trumping people?