A Chipmunk in Traffic
You’re like a chipmunk in traffic because you need to prove yourself. Someone asks, “How are things going?” You say, “Crazy busy.”
It’s a mortal sin to say, “I’m looking for something to do.”
Stress may reflect a need for self-importance. You unknowingly enjoy frustration because it makes you look important. “Oh my! You must be important. Your blood pressure is through the roof.”
Competition to contribute:
Insecure leaders need to judge themselves as busier than others so they can feel more important than others. But the real issue is contribution.
You might be running around like a chipmunk in traffic, but what if you aren’t making meaningful contributions?
- Worry about doing things that matter, not about rushing from one meeting to the next.
- Compete with yourself to make a greater contribution, not to appear busier than others.
Over-helping turns leaders into chipmunks in traffic.
Are you doing someone’s work for them? It’s useful to help. It’s harmful to do someone’s job for them.
Over-helping might feel important, but it frustrates, disempowers, and promotes laziness.
Trust competent people to do their jobs. If your team is incompetent, train them, reassign them, or manage them out.
Tip: When someone comes for help, ask, “What have you tried?”
Feeling over-worked leads to resentment.
Resentment justifies giving less than your best. For example…
You feel resentment because you arrive early and stay late, but others arrive and leave on time.
You’re frustrated because you care more and try harder, but others don’t have passion.
Feeling over-worked promotes the false belief that bringing your best isn’t worth it. When you justify bringing less than your best, you sabotage yourself.
What suggestions do you have for leaders who feel like chipmunks in traffic?
Dear Dan: that simple tip: “When someone comes for help, ask, “What have you tried?”” is one of the best Leadership tips of all time. I’ve seen more Management level staff fail at their jobs because they allowed their direct reports to, essentially, assign their duties up to Management. Ultimately Management wears the failure of not accomplishing their own Management job tasks and goals– which includes ensuring everyone does their job, and does it well.
Thanks Mary Ellen. Glad you’re highlighting this idea. Reminds me of Onken’s classic about Management Time. https://hbr.org/1999/11/management-time-whos-got-the-monkey
A very good way to manage “monkey-control”, and build on learning/coaching while encouraging development.
Ah ha, my key points; “You’re frustrated because you care more and try harder, but others don’t have passion.” I used to be very frustrated on the “lack of passion” seen in others NOW I say their loss and this is after I make attempts to turn them around. You have it or you don’t.
Thanks Roger. Do what you do because it’s who you are.
That’s so funny Dan. I was talking to my 24 year old son last night on many topics of life and that’s what he said, “Dad you do what you do because it is who you are”.
Great post as usual! I really appreciated three points in this article, “Trust competent people to do their jobs. If your team is incompetent, train them, reassign them, or manage them out.” The goal is to have the right people in the right positions. If someone is struggling, don’t do the job for them, that does not help the employee. Asking the person, “What have you tried?” can lead to a quick readjustment in the direction to put the person on the right path. In contrast, taking over can leads to “frustration, disempowerment and laziness”, which diminishes moral and ultimately staffing turnover.
Thanks Rosemary. We shouldn’t be afraid to manage the wrong people out. They will be happier and so will you.
Dan – I really appreciate this post. You have had similar posts that deal with those leaders (or subordinates) who pass off hours of busy work, meetings, staying late, etc., as being busier than everyone else. It’s nice to hear that it might just mean that the person has a self-importance problem and which is actually counter to doing good, smart work! Thank you.
Thanks Harold. You might like to know that leaders and managers CAN get ahead without killing themselves. I know successful leaders who observe regular office hours for the most part. There are times when you have to work late and come in early. BUT if that’s the norm, then something might be wrong with the job or with the person doing the job.
“What have you tried?”, I am going to borrow this one.
Thanks Pat. Enjoy.
I wonder about, and agree with this statement: Feeling over-worked leads to resentment.
But what if your staff member is in this boat after you’ve let them go to work through something. Sometimes I feel like its a revolving squeaky wheel. They want freedom and responsibilty and for you to let go, but then they feel over-worked and resent me.
I really appreciate this post and resonate with it, but guess struggling with moving forward sometimes.