How Much Is Too Much?

Billy Bragg was coming through my car speakers singing, "A virtue never tested is no virtue at all." That pretty much summed up the two coaching sessions I had just completed. Both of the leaders I have been coaching have been identified as high potential candidates for the executive team. They are highly principled men with a track record of superior results, including building a wonderful high-performance, high-satisfaction team. But, both are now receiving feedback that they have micromanaged, and that they've become very controlling with their team. The only significant change they could identify was the ever-increasing workloads and the reduction of their workforce in the name of efficiency and cost control. At the same time, there has been pressure on them for ever better performance from their team. In their minds, they have not enough people and no room for error. Their virtue as leaders had been tested, and they both felt they had failed the test.

I don't consider myself to be soft on performance demands. It is a highly competitive world, which does demand that performance, and the accompanying workloads, be increased. But I wonder how organizations are determining when enough is enough? In my more cynical moments, I have come to believe they push it until it breaks. In my days of manufacturing management, we could study a machine and produce a pretty reasonable and predictable capacity factor. My question for this group of bloggers is simple. How does your organization determine a human being's "capacity"? Do you also see the effectiveness of leaders changing under high workload pressures? I would love to hear from any of you that have responsibility for determining optimal employment numbers. How do you do it? Are we at a place where too much on the plate is leading to leadership's virtues being tested?