Out of time? How to solve your talent shortage crisis


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Many hands make light work. Not very helpful advice for thousands of short-handed Kiwi businesses who feel trapped under a low-capacity ceiling. However, there is a surprising solution for leaders who are bold enough to think differently.

Success in business is straightforward. Not easy, but straightforward.

Business owners need to get from where they are now, to where they need to be – ideally in the most direct way possible.

Now you might accuse me of pretending business success is easier than finding a parking spot at The Mount on a Saturday afternoon in January, but it’s true.

Leaders also learn an uncomfortable fact of business and life – when you add other people into your company, then the problems (and the dramas) start to add up.

Many of my clients say to me, “we are stretched wafer-thin by a skills shortage”, and then in the next breath they proclaim, “I really should do some of that staff training ‘stuff’, but I’ve just been too busy”.

Ah yes, the ‘b-word’. You’d have these talent gaps filled and skills shortages sewn up…if only you weren’t so ‘busy’.

I have some uncomfortable news for you. You don’t have a skills shortage, a talent crisis or a capacity problem … you just have a bunch of decisions that you’re too scared to make.

A problem vs a decision

You don’t have a ‘problem employee’ – you’re refusing to make and communicate a decision about their performance.

You don’t have a ‘capacity problem’ – you’re not making a decision about boundaries and saying ‘NO’.

You don’t have a ‘talent shortage problem’ – rather than treating the recruitment of talent as a 365-days-a-year top business priority, you decided to only start searching for a replacement once the previous employee was halfway out of the door.

Note (just to prove my ‘tough love’ point), you don’t have a ‘weight problem’, you’re just deciding to put the wrong foods in your mouth.

Make different decisions, and the problem goes away.

My slightly crazy exploits of hot-footing it across the Sahara Desert, becoming a Guinness World Record holder and running 160-km ultramarathons non-stop mean I am often invited to speak to businesses who have a ‘motivation problem’.

But using motivation to ‘rally the troops’ will not fix your talent problem. Motivation is a short-term sugar rush that feels good for a day then leaves you feeling empty.

I should know, I tried to ‘motivate’ myself off the couch, the booze and the drugs for years, and I can say with some authority that ‘motivation’ alone is about as impactful as adding yet another traffic cone to Cameron Road.

What will fix your talent problem is a bold decision, followed by bold action, followed by the courage of your convictions to keep taking the same action time and time again.
The action you must take? … Well, you might not like it….

A key takeaway

The self-styled gurus of the business world will proclaim the answer to your talent conundrum is more productivity, and better time management.

After all, how else would they create the mental bandwidth to write all those painful LinkedIn articles? I must admit, I prefer to spend my time having fun and making money, but each to their own.

A talent and capacity shortage – by the definition of the word ‘shortage’ – leads us to believe something is missing.

So, what do we do? We shovel more work into our agendas in a fruitless attempt to fill the gaps: to-do lists, complicated prioritisation activities, weird and wonderful triage approaches and ‘do it later’ piles.

Michelangelo (a very busy man) had a block of marble. But he took a chisel to it. He removed 80% of what existed. But what remained was the statue, David – a timeless, priceless masterpiece.

At this point, things become emotional. We deliberate, weigh-up pros and cons, and allow ourselves to be sucked into the draining, black hole of ‘tough choices’ – deciding which tasks should be allowed to live another day.

So much time wasted; so much emotional currency used up. And you wonder why you feel overwhelmed.

Multiply this feeling by each team member, every single day. As if by magic, you’ve created a highly talented sub-industry that’s busily devoted to deciding what tasks to accomplish today, due to the fact that everyone is so damn busy.

The solution? Do the opposite.

Don’t add. Remove.

Think of your time (and your talent) like a rough block of marble, dug out from the ground. If you keep excavating chunks of marble, all you’ve created is a heavy, messy, expensive pile of rubble.

Michelangelo (a very busy man) had a block of marble. But he took a chisel to it. He removed 80% of what existed. But what remained was the statue, David – a timeless, priceless masterpiece.

Create your masterpiece

A fruitless search for ‘more’ will not fix your talent shortage crisis.

Capability problems can only be solved with a decision of ‘less’.

You and your team are only ‘too busy’ because you refuse to say ‘NO’ to distractions, time-wasters, deliberation, people-pleasing and procrastination.

Remove your limiting beliefs. Stop putting things off that you don’t ‘feel like’ doing. Chisel away all thoughts about kicking that project a little further down the road until it lands in the big, scary realm of ‘the future’.

Teach your team that ACTION is the answer. There is no ‘triage’, no ‘to-do-list’, no “I’ll see if I get round to it this week”… you have only two options: now or never.

If your talent adopts this approach, exciting things happen. They move out of ‘crisis’ and into ‘creation’.

If you want to create an amazing team, running an amazing business, focus on creating an amazing day. Today.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Or waste another week listening to the time management gurus. Your decision.

Related: Warning: The biggest business mistake you’ll ever make

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Freddie Bennett
Freddie Bennett
Guinness World Record Holder, podcast host and bestselling author, Freddie is known as ‘The Profit Hunter’. He helps business owners enjoy more time, money and freedom by discovering and extracting hidden profits in their companies. Freddie@conqueryourmedia.com

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