“I Wouldn’t Want to Be You”

Posted 10.24.2011

Several months ago, I was in a coaching conversation with a “go to person” leader about the results of her 360 degree feedback from colleagues. Her highest rated behaviors were a strong mix of items that focus on getting results and items that focus on building relationships. In my experience, leaders who have high scores in both of those broad areas – results and relationships – are the ones who are very effective over the long run. They get stuff done without leaving a lot of damaged people in their wake.

So far, so good. Then we turned our attention to her lowest rated behaviors. As is the case with most “go to people”, her lowest rated behaviors were a combination of items related to pacing herself, balancing her priorities, giving her team space to execute and achieving results through others rather than by herself. When I asked her what her take was on the mix of results, she said something I hadn’t heard before.

She said, “I’m afraid that the people on my team are looking at me and saying, ‘I wouldn’t want to be you.'”

When we talked more about what she meant by that she said that a big part of her job was to grow the future leaders of her organization and that by taking everything on herself she wasn’t setting the right example. Her thought that was when the members of her team were looking at all that she was taking on and the impact that had on her life, they were thinking, “Why would I ever want a job like that?”

Her perspective is, I think, spot on, but rare. The go to person leader often understands that they’re pushing themselves too hard but figures that the only person they’re hurting is themselves. So, they suck it up and keep going. The woman I was talking with understands the bigger picture. If you take it all on yourself, results eventually suffer, your team doesn’t grow and they don’t learn how to get stuff done in concert with others.

How do you overcome this challenge? The first step is recognizing and defining it. Like Dear Abby used to say (Google her if you don’t know who I’m talking about), recognizing the problem is 90% of the solution. Some possible next steps could include:

  • Allowing and encouraging your team to become experts in the things that you’ve been an expert in.
  • Being clear with yourself about the things that only you can do given the role that you’re in.
  • Being clear with your team about the desired results so that they understand what success looks like.
  • Raising your comfort level and theirs by establishing regular check points.
  • Coaching your team to come up with their own ways of doing things rather than giving them the answers.

Over many years of coaching go to people, I’ve noticed a big connection between the way they involve their team and the way they live their life. An involved team usually leads to a more sustainable and balanced life.

What’s worked for you in this space? What have you learned about the connection between involving your team and the pace you keep?