From working ridiculously long hours, and sacrificing time with their families, to doing the work of the people they're supposed to be managing, taking up the slack of other managers and teams, working from home in the evenings and even taking calls in the middle of the night, these managerial martyrs - often promoted internally due to excelling at doing the job - have forgotten (or completely neglected to understand) one critical issue.
Their job is no longer about doing the work. But about leading, inspiring and challenging their people to get the job done.
So why is it that so many managers (particularly those in the service industries) are choosing to run themselves ragged, when they have teams around them who are capable (or would become capable with the right leadership) of completing those same tasks more efficiently and with a lot less drama.
1. They want to be liked. Often, your managers (especially those who've been promoted above their peers) are so uncomfortable setting priorities and deadlines, and holding their people accountable to deliver, that they just do it themselves. As a result, the team meanders along, setting it's own priorities (typically avoiding tasks which are difficult, unusual, or beyond individuals' comfort zones) and leaving the manager feeling like they have no option but to complete priority tasks alone. What's more, once the team understands that their manager is lacking confidence in this arena, they'll quickly deflect any requests to handle new requests with a, "sorry, I'm to busy with XYZ". The result? The team lacks any sense of direction, results become dull and one-dimensional, and the leader becomes burned out and bitter.
2. They want to be admired. Of course, wanting to be liked isn't the only factor that drives managers to embrace martyrdom. In fact, many of them do it for the perceived glory they get in return. They want senior management and peers to know that they're willing to go the extra mile, work til midnight, bleed the organisational mission, and love nothing better than being asked "how do you do it all?" These are the managers who will make sure everyone knows how late they worked last night, that they were in at the weekend, that they put work before their family, and that they care more than everyone else. Unchecked, the desire for recognition can become toxic, as their "dedication" becomes common place, and they have to work harder and harder (and often be more aggressive in getting noticed) to achieve that metaphorical pat on the back.
3. They feel like a fraud. Especially prevalent amongst women (but also a factor for many men), is a fear of not being good enough. When your managers are concerned that they might not be up to the job (whether true or not) they are often subconsciously compelled to over-compensate by working even harder. This can actually be a driving factor for (the previous mentioned) wanting to be admired, since admiration from bosses and colleagues validates the possibility that they just might be capable after all. Imposter syndrome, however, is one tough cookie, and can often push it's sufferers to work themselves into the ground in an attempt to compensate for their perceived shortcomings, for years, and even decades.
4. They don't know how to. It may seem like the most obvious thing in the world, for managers to delegate work to their staff but actually, for many - especially those who've had limited experience in effectively leading others - overcoming push-back from their staff can feel like an insurmountable challenge. Giving managers the leadership skills to engage their people, and manage the needs of those people, as both individuals and teams, while maintaining focus on business priorities, is one of the top concerns for those organisations looking to lead the way in terms of performance and reputation.
In reality, martyrdom usually happens for a combination of these reasons, and the impact on your organisation is significant, as managerial martyrs begin to lose energy and enthusiasm, often become difficult and passive aggressive (and sometimes just all-out aggressive), lower the morale of your staff, and weaken the performance and reputation of your business.
Click here to find out how I can help your managers go from martyrdom to strong, capable and effective leadership.
In The Times last week, Rachel Sylvester accused our MPs of suffering from learned helplessness, allowing the hard-right to run rough shod over Brexit negotiations, while doing little to actually try and improve the situation.
But MPs certainly don't have a monopoly on this phenomenon, and I'd like to share a little about how it's impacting the effectiveness, and the reputation of your organisation.
First though, what exactly is learned helplessness?
Well, in the most basic terms, it's a subconscious decision (and a common human reaction) not to try because - due to conditioning - we both come to expect pain/suffering/discomfort and we learn to feel, think and act (believe) that we have no power to change a given situation.
The theory was tested extensively by Seligman and Maier, in the 60's and early 70's, through (frankly horrifying) experiments with dogs, whereby it was identified that if pain and suffering was conditioned and expected, then even when there was a very simple opportunity to escape the discomfort, the dogs didn't even bother to try.
Thankfully, the human experiments were much less extreme, yet the results remained consistent.
What's more, Seligman et al (1978) found that learned helplessness also leads to depressive symptoms and low self-esteem.
So what's all that got to do with you?
Well, if you're frustrated by the morale, attitudes, and/or behaviours of the staff in your organisation, chances are it's a serious problem for you.
Because if your business is racing to keep up with technological advances, and to maintain a competitive edge, while your staff quietly (or loudly) resist, insist on continuing to do things the way they've always been done, and behave in the way everyone else behaves (while at the same time moaning and griping about how terrible everything is, to their co-workers and your customers) - because they simply don't believe they have the power to contribute to and improve the culture of their workplace - the needle of effectiveness, and the reputation of your business can only move in one direction (hint: it's not up).
Of course, this idea that your people are helpless to affect change couldn't be further from the truth, and it is in fact their own commitment to this false belief that exacerbates low morale, weak innovation, and poor service, thus creating a vicious circle of frustration and disappointment both in and outside of your business.
So what's the alternative?
Well it's pretty simple really.
Your people just need to understand how much influence they wield, how they are not only accepting the current frustration of the status quo, but indeed contributing to it. And, how very easy it is for them to start contributing, instead, to create the kind of workplace that they would love to work in (they don't need to exit, they can remain and reform).
You see, while it's crucial for leaders to be on board and pulling in the right direction, when building a culture of engagement and excellence, the best company cultures are not merely a product of their leadership, but a product of the continual engagement and empowerment of their people.
To discuss how I can help you to empower your staff to be effective self-leaders and create a culture of excellence, contact me here.