Needing To Be Needed

I was in a hotel gym recently running on the treadmill, and I noticed a man pacing back and forth talking loudly on his phone. He must have made 3 calls in less than 7 minutes. On every call he sounded agitated. After he hung up the last call, he got on the treadmill right next to me (lucky me). He then turned to me and said “I don’t know what they would do without me.” With a slight smirk no less. He volunteered to me that he can hardly take a full day off because they (his staff, I presume) are always calling him. He said there are just too many sticks in the fire…balls in the air (and any other cliche one can think of). 

I said to him, why not just turn your phone off and see how your team handles things in your absence. To which he replied, “No!!! They need me.” They. Need. Me. That’s when it hit me. It was not that his staff needed him. It’s that HE needed to be needed. He needed to be called…and texted…and emailed…and met with. It clearly helped him feel some sort of relevancy. But by doing so, he effectively stifled his staff’s ability to think and act for themselves.
It is very possible to condition people NOT to think. If I make every decision for you and insist that every decision comes through me, then I am weakening your decision-making muscle. On the other hand, if I insist that you take the initiative and make decisions, then I am strengthening your decision-making muscle. Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The worst part is when we condition people not to think, then blame them for not thinking. Sounds dysfunctional doesn’t it?

Give people the opportunity and room to develop their decision-making skill set.

One of the greatest gifts leaders can give is to trust their team enough to empower them. Empowerment is not the action being done…it is the initiative the person took to do it. You cared enough “to do” something. I am confident that most people know what needs to be done. However, only the empowered ones actually “do” something…without being asked or told what to do. Now, back to Mr. Needy. Imagine how engaged his team would be if he trusted them to do what he hired them to do. Imagine how much more he would get done if he stopped micromanaging everyone else’s work. To all the needy ones reading this, my suggestion is this: Learn to trust your team. You may not have learned how to delegate or empower others, but those management skills are paramount if you ever want to take a day off.  Not only that, but your best employees despise being robbed of the opportunity to use their brain. Your best employees (and the ones with hidden potential) are saying to you… 

Trust me to make decisions.
Involve me in the work that affects me.
Give me a project and watch me accomplish it.
Yes, I might make mistakes.
Yes, you may have to coach me along the way.
The confidence I develop from trying can never be attained otherwise.
You hired me…now trust me.
You hired me…now train me.
You hired me…now equip me.
You hired me…now empower me.
You hired me…now support me.
I am not just a warm body, coming to work.
There is more that I can do. So much more.
All I need is a chance…an opportunity to prove that I can do this.
I promise that your belief and investment in me will not be a waste.

To my manager, this is a new day…and my mission is to not just meet, but to exceed the expectations of every person I work with and serve.

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