Over-performing Leaders do Damage
You are a senior leader. You’re smart, curious and capable. You often work far beyond what would be considered regular hours. You get lots done. You’ve made it clear to your team that you don’t expect them to work the hours you do. Think this is ok? Think again. You may be doing more harm than good.
Working incredibly long hours can set the organization and your team up for failure by depriving team members of development opportunities and by creating a climate of unrealistic expectations.
Staff see staff do
Even though you have made it clear to your staff team that you don’t expect them to work in similar fashion, the fact is that they likely feel pressure to do the same. Remember that behavior speaks louder than words and the unwritten rule is to follow your boss’s lead. So they too begin giving up evenings and weekends to focus on work…family and outside interests be damned.
Difficult shoes to fill
By working insane hours you also create within your business an expanding level of expectation about what your position entails and is responsible for. If you choose to put in 60 – 80 hour weeks, the business will simply absorb what you accomplish as the standard. This might be OK while you remain, but what if you decide to leave? Pity the new person coming in trying to fill your shoes…unless they too have little interest in life outside of work.
As discussed in an article awhile back, good succession is about ongoing development that stretches the capacity of your team, particularly of those potential candidates right next to you. But if you are over-performing, you are likely and unwittingly limiting their exposure to these very experiences that will grow them. Remember, you got to where you did, in part, because your leader shared opportunities with you that challenged your skill set.
Key relationships lost
Another important piece that will suffer, should you depart, are the strategic alliances and critical external relationships that you so carefully developed. Much of the equity that you have established with these key players will leave with you, leaving your teammates and successors at a loss to identify and re-establish them.
It’s not your fault…entirely…
Organizations can directly or indirectly support over-performance. Many organizations simply don’t have the mechanisms, risk assessment techniques, or the will, to support their leaders in developing sustainable practices. As seen above, this can be very short sighted and not in the long-term best interest of the organization. Unfortunately, more often than not, over-performing is reinforced and even expected, creating a significant risk for the organization.
Path to burnout
Keen, capable leaders are brought up through the ranks with an exclusive focus on work…very few are taught the importance of developing a sustainable lifestyle. When was the last time you took a work-life balance or wellness course? My experience has been that many over-performing leaders have systematically learned to value work at the expense of life outside of work. The importance of having an active and fulfilling life outside of work is simply not understood or appreciated. It is no wonder that Statistics Canada recently reported a 33% increase in long-term disability claims due to mental health issues such as stress and burnout in the last two years.
Three good reasons to rethink
Neither your team nor your organization will win if you work insane hours, even if you don’t mind. Development of your team will be compromised and your organization runs a risk having so much information invested in one person’s head. Most importantly, you might well be risking your health.
I’m curious to know if you have ever worked under an over-performer and had to clean up after they left?