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People Work Over Paperwork

The Bottom LineQuestion: Are leaders today getting too caught up in details and forgetting about their people?

Adubato: In his book, “Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make,” author Hans Finzel says that many leaders put “paperwork before people work.” That means leaders sometimes see the people in their organization (and some on the outside) as a big pain in the neck. “Paperwork” is a metaphor for being task-oriented. Many leaders measure performance by how much we get done.

Question: So where do we go wrong?

Adubato: When this clouds our sense of the human element. Sometimes we don’t see that the people around us are critical to the overall success of our organization. You must ask yourself, “Am I pushing people away just so I can do my ‘paperwork?’”

Question: Okay, so most of us will answer “yes.” What can we do about it?

Adubato: Well, there are other questions you need to ask yourself first.

– Do you tend to close your office door for long periods because the people around you keep interrupting you?

– Do you find yourself coming in early and staying late because those are the only times you see as truly productive?

– Do you use body language to communicate that you really aren’t interested in listening because you have “more important” things to do?

– Do you overuse the “do not disturb” button on your phone or your caller ID?

– Do you eat lunch at your desk to minimize interactions with colleagues?

Question: Sounds familiar. So now what?

Adubato: Look, you’ve got to do some of those things. The problem is having an obsession with them to the point where you build walls and communication barriers with those around you. This limits your ability to lead and connect with others. Our goal should be to strike a balance between paperwork and people work.

Question: Are there specific things we can be doing to improve our people work that won’t take much time?

Adubato: Absolutely! The first step is to delegate more tasks. Once you have done that, it is time to communicate. Your people need to know where you want to take the organization. This also means letting your people know how important they are to the organization’s success. People work includes giving compliments and other forms of direct feedback. Finally, break bread with colleagues at least once during the week. If it can’t be lunch or dinner, invest time in a cup of coffee.

The Bottom Line. Answer the questions above to see where your priorities are. Once you do that, you are on the fast track to improving your ability to lead your team.

Steve Adubatowrote “Speak from the Heart” and “Make the Connection.” He is also an anchor for Channel 13/WNET (PBS) and a motivational speaker. He can be reached at (973) 744-5260 or at

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