Many companies across a wide range of industries place extraordinary demands on their teams in order to achieve success. Law firms, investment banks, and consulting firms are all infamous for subjecting employees to long work hours when they’re deemed necessary. In software development, there’s a term that describes this process quite well: crunch time.
Even when it comes to crunch time, though, there’s a good and bad way to do things. An effective leader will realize that employee burnout is a real issue and will take steps to prevent it. Here are four ways you can demonstrate reliable leadership in crunch time.
1. Break Work Into Milestones
By itself, crunch time isn’t that bad – unless it happens too often. If your team is constantly meeting new deadlines, they’ll effectively feel like they’re always in crunch time.
One way to avoid that is to be more stringent with your deadlines. Break up the most important work and create arcs to make it more manageable. That will also allow the team to regroup and analyze how well they’re doing and where they can improve. Your aim isn’t to micromanage, but to provide incremental progress that will help keep employees motivated.
2. Stay in the Know
The more you and your team are familiar with the operations and process of your business, the easier it will be to handle the stress of crunch time.
The best way to stay in the know is to take advantage of weekly reports. These reports should contain data and analytics that will help you get a clear picture of each relevant department. By going through reports, you and your employees will know exactly which processes should be adapted, simplified, or abandoned.
3. Make Conflict Productive
Deadlines often make tensions run high, which invariably creates conflict. When that happens, a leader must step in and make that conflict productive in some way.
In most cases, disagreement is healthy. Having a debate sheds light on issues and helps people look at things from a new angle. That said, destructive behavior, such as being condescending and constantly interrupting others, will require your intervention. This kind of behavior can also be an indicator of bigger underlying issues.
4. Keep Things in Perspective
If you can’t avoid crunch time, the next best thing is to simplify it. By staying positive and not complicating the circumstances further, getting to the finish line will be much easier.
Oftentimes, it’s worth pointing out that the right solutions don’t have to be complex. Find out what resources your team needs to complete the task, then try to provide them. That can mean hiring more people, providing more tools, or outsourcing to a third party. The last thing you want to see in crunch time is uncertainty, so do what you can to find the right solutions.