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Why Is It Always Hard to Start a Huge Task?

Posted by Eric Friedman

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Why is it that handling minor tasks is always easier than starting a big one? Of course, some of your employees would never back down from a challenge and thrive under pressure, but there are others who seem very unsure of themselves when faced with a big job. Not all of us are brave, but everyone can contribute to achieving a common goal. In Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” proud Gimli and noble Legolas are competing all the time. The little hobbits are not so brave, but they are witty and inventive, and always seem to find an unexpected way out. Gandalf the Grey may be the powerful keeper of experience, but Frodo the dreamer is the one who leads the company to their great victory.

When the fellowship started on their big journey, some of them were speeding ahead while others just wanted to go back home. You may often see the same kind of situation in your team. But you never know, sometimes those with timid personalities are holding back because they are feeling afraid or just kind of numb inside. And this may have its reasons.

The feeling of responsibility takes their thoughts away from the task. Unfortunately, sometimes the positive traits we expect from our employees can become extreme and actually hinder their job performance. Let’s imagine that someone has to perform a small task with minor importance, so she does it automatically. With a bigger task, employees may feel more respected, but they may also be a little bit afraid. The fear of failure leads them to start worrying about not getting that raise or promotion, and many other problems. So, eventually, working under the burden of responsibility is like swimming against the current. Instead of spending their time and effort on dealing with the task, they waste it all on thinking about how huge and overwhelming their responsibility is.

When you’re dealing with a huge task, it’s hard to imagine the final result. Without a specific destination, people often feel stressed and kind of lost. And big projects can have that effect on people if they don’t have a clear idea of what the desired outcome is.

The illusion of freedom can make you postpone starting a job. Big tasks have distant deadlines, and there are always minor things to do close at hand that have more immediate results. Eventually, these small tasks can consume all of your productive time, while the important job is overlooked.

There are several ways to reduce the fear of huge tasks among your employees, including the following:

  • Don’t point out their responsibility. One can easily walk on a tightrope that is 20 inches off the ground. But if the same rope is stretched 10 feet off the ground, the physical danger makes you nervous and you’re likely to lose your balance.
  • Underline the personal benefits. Coming back to the example of “The Lord of the Rings,” we can see that each team member achieved something. Gimli and Legolas learned to collaborate, the little hobbits became braver, Gandalf increased his powers, and Frodo saved the world. The same kinds of benefits may await your employees when they take on big challenges.
  • Don’t fight fear. Psychologist V. Zealand states that the feeling of fear is not as exhausting as your effort to suppress it. Although it is not very comfortable to be afraid, you can still be productive. Follow the example of Hulk in the Avengers, who said that the secret to his fighting technique was, “I’m always angry.”
  • Give them a sense of freedom. Inner freedom can set a lot of bound potential free. So, weaken your grip on your employees. In the fear of losing control, managers can often wind up reducing their team’s motivation.
  • Break it down to steps that can be performed during the productive part of each day. Teach them to divide their work into manageable pieces, and then to compete against the clock to get them done. This means starting to work at a certain hour and doing a specific amount of work each day. Imposing interim deadlines will make your employees feel more interested and excited by their work, and they will wind up doing more and saving time. Having goals and productivity guidelines will help them feel positive as they complete each day’s tasks.

And finally, to really achieve good effects, let your team members know you believe in them 100 percent. It is like the placebo effect for people who are sick, who start to heal when they believe they are getting effective treatment. If your employees really believe that they can handle anything, they will perceive each new huge and difficult task not as a possibility for failure, but as a chance to prove their professionalism and giftedness.

Why Empowering Your Employees Equals Better Business

People want to work in a place where their voice is heard. They want meaningful, rewarding, and enjoyable work. Are you providing such a workplace for your employees? Empowering your workforce can help increase productivity, reduce costs, improve communication, and so much more. Plus, empowered employees are more loyal to the company and engaged in their work.

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About Eric Friedman

Author

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based skills testing for pre-employment and training. With academic degrees in Psychology and Business, and experience with both mature and expansion-stage company growth, Eric has focused on how best to hire and motivate team members to be the best they can be for their companies.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Lucy M. August, 03, 2015

    To detect a problem and solve it and to help people make money are the roles of a good HR manager. If employees are part of one big mechanism, a company needs a good technician to keep these parts functional. And it means not only to help them get along well with each other, but also to help them get along well with the job they are doing. The right attitude affects everything.

  • Cinthia M. August, 04, 2015

    It may sound a little harsh, but I don’t particularly like people who go to extremes and either jump headfirst without weighing all the pros and cons, or those who keep shying away from responsibility. If you don’t try doing it, you’ll never know whether you’re able to do it, right?

  • Jill P. Scott August, 06, 2015

    I think it’s easy to accept responsibility, but it’s more difficult to live up to it. Sometimes your doubts about your competence for the task may not be unreasonable – after all, you know and understand yourself better than your manager.

  • Susan Dingle August, 15, 2015

    It’s not just that it’s hard to get started on a new task. It gets really complicated when it’s a team task, and of course, different members of the team approach it different ways. Some hang back, some jump in, some want to take it a little bit at a time. It’s important for the manager to have faith in and respect for the team members and to show that. It’s also important to give the group some signposts or landmarks along the way and to get them to check in and show their progress.

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