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PART TWO

USING YOUR NEW FREEDOM TO INCREASE PERFORMANCE AND WELL-BEING

Part 1 of this book showed you the invisible failures that are so often the result of collaboration overload. Overloaded people become gradually trapped and unable to engage with others in the most productive ways. When we’re overloaded, we can’t take the kinds of bold, creative actions that have significant impact on our careers, the organization, and the world.

Part 1 also showed that you can free yourself from overload by following the high performers’ best practices and modifying your beliefs, structures, and behaviors. These practices constitute the left-hand side of the infinite loop that I introduced in chapter 2.

The infinite loop

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Once you have bought back significant chunks of your time, you are on your way to mastering essential collaboration.

But essential collaboration is not just about freeing up time. The purpose of becoming more efficient isn’t to reinvest your collaborative time the same way you did before. I’ve seen plenty of people reduce their overload only to take on more meetings, more emails, and more frenetic activity that, despite their best intentions, derails them, either sending them back to where they were or trading their old set of problems for new ones that undermine their careers and lives.1

The predictable derailers include becoming a bottleneck. This happens all too commonly when people who overcome overload go on to use their newfound time and energy to help others by jumping into more and more decisions. Although they may have positive intentions—they may enjoy a sense of accomplishment, like Scott in chapter 1, or they may feel it’s important to avoid ambiguity—they end up becoming choke points. They get so involved in every decision that they deprive their employees of challenges that would allow them to grow.

Others—again, starting with positive intentions—become what I call biased learners, disconnected leaders, or formalists. Biased learners allow certain people—such as those who are physically nearby or who have a similar functional background or common values—to disproportionately influence their learning and decision-making. When successful people are promoted, they continue to turn to 60 percent to 70 percent of their trusted ties to brainstorm or test ideas. Trust is a good thing, right? But often the perspectives of these trusted friends become less and less relevant in the new context.

Disconnected leaders try to project a laudable image of knowledge and decisiveness when in fact they have knowledge gaps and skills deficiencies that they need to address. Successful people face many transition points—promotions, new roles, role expansions, or side projects in areas where they have only partial expertise—and often there is little or no time to develop the needed new skills. In trying to project their image, disconnected leaders don’t admit their shortcomings and thus fail to cover their skill gaps through their networks.

Formalists see their networks through a hierarchical lens. In trying to follow the organization’s rules, they rely too heavily on the formal structure as a map of how work gets done. They don’t realize that the lines and boxes on formal org charts can mask or distort the underlying networks and collaborations that are the true currency of execution. This myopia, which particularly impacts people who are more junior, leads people to fail to understand or leverage the power of informal networks. As a result, they miss important levers of influence.

The key to avoiding these derailers and achieving impact is what you do with your liberation from overload. The beliefs, structures, and behaviors that you learned in chapters 3, 4, and 5 constitute a force field around you that protects you from overload and has given you the gift of more time to reinvest. How are you going to put this precious freedom to the best possible use? How are you going to achieve maximum impact?

Once you’ve bought back a sizable chunk of your time, it’s critical to shift your focus toward creating personal connections that help you achieve greater performance, impact, and well-being. That’s the other half of the battle, and the other half of the infinite loop.

As you will see in part 2, the best practices on the right-hand side of the loop lead to reputational capital and a greater flow of good things toward you. A greater sense of well-being and a reputation for being an energizer—a person others want to follow—give you the clout to set clearer boundaries and push back on work that doesn’t add value. That’s why the two sides of the loop are interdependent: the benefits on the right side enable you to further reduce collaboration overload on the left side.

So, follow me into the right-hand side of the loop, where you will learn to use your network to accomplish things of greater substance and to show up for others, the organization, and yourself in a way that is sustainable.

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