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Opinion: When strengths become weaknesses – and how to avoid it

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It's hard to boil down what business leaders do and what they need to do.

As the virus and the pandemic's impact goes into the wretched history books, business leaders had better be able to adapt to new roles and different ways of supervising their people and running their operations. Being a boss now sure looks so different from even two years ago.

Consider these as our emerging leadership truths:

The higher you get, the less "work" you do.
This seems untrue but it just is. Once you promote or rise to the top of your business, you really get further away from the field.

Some employees never want to promote because they like working where they are or doing what they're doing and don't want the responsibilities or the pleasures/hassles of supervising their peers. Once you start to move up the ladder, you're doing lots of work to be sure, but it's different work than what you were first hired for.

There will never be enough time, resources, money or people to do everything you need or want to do.
Stop saying, "Where does the time go?" and make better use of the time you have.

Free up your time by delegating more. If you're always going home tired and the people who work for you are never going home tired, you need to give them more to do. Budgets are always tight, staffing is rarely at full, and even when you have money and personnel, it doesn't feel like it's enough. Prioritize.

Remember Teddy Roosevelt.
He said, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." Let’s modify his advice slightly to say, "Do the best you can, with who you have, where you are."

You can't always pick who works for you, but you can pick what they do for you. Make the best fits, between their knowledge, skills and abilities, and what needs to get done. Don't hesitate to give your people new challenges, related but different job duties and opportunities to succeed (or learn by failing, safely). That's how you identify your future leaders.

Don't ignore the strength-weakness irony.
This a human trait we all have, a concept some of us understand more intuitively, acutely and externally than others. And it's one that we don't see in ourselves: "Your strength, taken to an extreme, becomes a weakness." Whatever you're too good at can become a blind spot.

Therapists define addiction as repetitive behavior that over time creates negative consequences. We can become overly involved in things that can cause problems. Notice how often we can spot this in others but not so much with ourselves.

From a work perspective, the strength-weakness irony often manifests itself in a huge time drain for you, where you get tied up in issues, problems and events that are probably not even in your area of responsibility as a leader. See if you recognize yourself in some of these:

Workaholism: If I said, "Hi, I'm Steve and I'm a workaholic," some of you might quickly shout "Hi Steve!" which means you're workaholics too. This is not a badge of honor. Even though it might seem like it's good for your career or your bank account, it's actually bad for your physical and mental health.
"Super boss" disease: "I'll take care of it. I'll handle it. Step aside! Boss coming through." Your strength – being hands on – becomes a weakness and you slip into micromanager territory. Super bosses have difficulty delegating and this leads their employees to believe they are not trusted to do their jobs.
Perfectionism: "I need to make one more tweak to the PowerPoint before I send over the training slides" or "I'll have to go over this employee's sales report one more time with a fine-tooth comb before I approve it." Sometimes, good enough is good enough. Bosses who seek perfection in all they create (and from what they expect from others) will be disappointed. Plus, it's a huge time waster. A business owner was once asked by his staff to pick the trees to be planted in the green areas around the exterior of the building. He carefully researched his answers and provided his choices, two years later.
Can't say no: This one is often connected to the others. When you demonstrate your workaholic traits to others, when you wear the super boss cape and when you try to be too perfect, you end up taking on other people's work, failing to delegate and becoming exhausted. Good leaders use their human resources assertively and with compassion; they make the best use of time and people. It's not always about what you can do alone, nor should it be.

Steve Albrecht is a Springfield-based trainer, human resources consultant and employee coach. He can be reached at drsteve@drstevealbrecht.com.

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