Over-responsibility can be a hard habit to break. However, as leaders, it is essential to recognise the signs when you might have an overactive sense of responsibility. Is this you?
The payoffs of being too responsible can be somewhat addictive for all the wrong reasons; that is, you can avoid team conflict, feel falsely competent or have a sense of fuzzy worth as your team learn to be overdependent on you. That’s right, you say, it means they need you permanently or do they?
Sign 1: Guilt
Feel guilty when things out of our control go wrong or when we drop the ball as we are holding too many
Sign 2: Conflict Avoidance
Trying to keep the peace, you’d shoulder more than our fair share of the burden than risk a difficult conversation or a confrontation involving anger or rejection. It’s easier to expand the scope of our responsibilities than to risk upsetting or disappointing people.
Sign 3: Feeling Used
Priorities are the things you want to do; demands are the things other people expect you to do. But unfortunately, too many priorities lead to boredom, while too many demands lead to resentment. And resentment is precisely where the road of over-responsibility takes us.
Even though we’ve always volunteered to pick up the pieces, we feel overworked and underappreciated.
Sign 4: Feeling Competent and Needed
A sense of competence is a good thing. It makes you feel necessary. It’s a good thing, and that’s the point. It’s nice to feel needed and capable. So if we get sick or go out of town and everything grinds to a halt, it’s a sign that we matter. But it makes over-responsibility a hard habit to break because it’s reinforcing. But, on the other hand, there’s a deep satisfaction that comes from the sense that we can handle it all and fix whatever comes our way.
How heavy is your leadership load absorbing others’ tasks, emotions, errors and problems? Don’t wait to be burnt out and resentful before you take action to change. Instead, find balance and tip the scales to shared responsibility across the team.
Think about the behaviours you are modelling for your team. For example, if you are running from meeting to meeting with a large tail of to-do tasks, what message does that send?
Be curious about the origins of your over-responsibility so that you can learn better boundaries for yourself.
Five ways to change this habit:
1. Explore your beliefs and behaviour around responsibility and your sense of self.
2. Reframe the release of responsibility to empower others.
3. Return responsibility to the rightful owner. Start small. Collaborate to transfer ownership.
4. Resist the temptation to jump back in to feed on the false rewards, or you will end back in the cycle of regret.
5. Practice accepting offers of help. Be specific with your requests for support and say yes when offered.
Changing this habit can result in discomfort at first.
You may also meet initial resistance. Setbacks are a natural part of the change process. Stay focused on the desired change. Continue to practice self-compassion and appreciate different perspectives.
I encourage you to find a more appropriate balance, aim for 100% of your responsibility, and not double or triple that. As a result, you will reduce your stress and overwhelm and have a more proactive habit of empowering others around you to learn and grow.