Are You Over-Functioning?

Below is an excerpt from my new coaching modules, The 24/7 Leader: Transforming Personal & Professional Life:

“Why isn’t anyone doing what they’re supposed to do?” Jasmine, the owner of an expanding company, blurted out.

She seemed so overwhelmed and annoyed, I didn’t know if she’d start crying or screaming during her first coaching session. 

She did both. 

For the past few days, she’d been working around the clock on a new building project that wasn’t going well.

“If I don’t oversee every detail,” she complained, “it won’t be done right.”

I asked her to write down two words: over-functioning and under-functioning.

“Someone who over-functions does the work instead of developing people to do it themselves,” I explained. 

“For example, a parent over-functions when they do their child’s homework instead of guiding them step by step. Over time, the child starts to under-function—she waits for the parent to do it for her. In this dance, the child doesn’t learn how to do homework herself, and the parent doesn’t have time to accomplish other important tasks. Both get caught in unhealthy relationship patterns that lead to resentment.”

Jasmine's eyes widened and quickly flashed. “I’ve been over-functioning!”

I nodded. “Just now you shared examples where you repeatedly stepped in and made decisions for people—even though they owned that accountability.”

“The team just wasn’t moving fast enough, so I felt like I had to push things along. It drives me crazy when I think people are dithering.”

“Okay. But is it possible you’re operating from a belief that people who can’t work as quickly as you do are incompetent?”

Jasmine remained silent while she reflected. Then she nodded.

“Whether you’re operating from that belief or not, that’s the message you’re sending your team." I continued:

When you do their work for them, you’re saying you don’t trust them to do it. 

“In other words, you’re ‘micromanaging’ and teaching them to under-function. Is that what you want to do?”

“No!” Jasmine exclaimed. “I’m exhausted! I want my team to handle these things, but I don't know how to stop this pattern.”

“First, I recommend you learn more about yourself so you can teach your team how to play to strengths and cover blind spots—yours and each other’s. Get clear on how you can all work together as a high performing team.”

If you want to rely on your team, you have to set the bar and teach them how to reach it.

Jasmine spent a month learning about her own over-functioning through our coaching work. Her self-admitted need for speed resulted in frequent communication gaps about accountabilities, so we also worked on carefully defining each role in her organization.

“Now that you’ve established expectations, you have to communicate them regularly.” 

I advised Jasmine: “Bring these accountabilities alive by spelling out each person’s tasks for the upcoming week. Ask them, ‘Are you willing to do XYZ? Do you have what you need to do the work?’ When they say yes, tell them to let you know if they encounter any hurdles. You’re there to help. At the end of the conversation, schedule a follow-up meeting to debrief the results. That is the accountability conversation.”

“What if they say, ‘I don’t know how to do it?’” she asked.

“Then wear the director hat and do it with them until they get it. After that, put on your coach hat. Be their sounding board when they need help solving problems.”

Over the next few months, I helped Jasmine understand how habits—like over- and under-functioning—form the dynamics that tee up how other people engage with us. To be an inspiring leader, she’d have to teach the team how to treat her by aligning her behavior and intentions.

When we lead ourselves effectively, we simultaneously teach others what they can expect from us and what we expect from them.

Your Coaching Challenge:

Use your learning journal to reflect on these questions:

  • Do you tend to over-function or under-function? How does that affect the dynamics at work and at home?
  • If you over-function, what steps can you take to develop others?
  • If you under-function, what can you do to own more responsibility?

Inspiring leaders take full responsibility for the outcomes they’re creating, align intention with action, and model the behaviors they want to see in their teams.

If you would like to take this deeper, join "The 24/7 Leader" coaching process and peer mastermind. To enroll, please contact us. For more support in your team's development, let's talk: 888-959-1188.