When They Can’t Do Without You – by Kelly Riggs

Being needed is a good feeling – if you’re talking about personal relationships. But, if you’re the boss, it can create all kinds of problems.  Like 14-hour days, and unused vacation, and employee dependency.  When the troops can’t do without you life can get pretty complicated, and performance is necessarily going to suffer – either right now, because you have to do everything, or later, because you never developed the talent underneath you to create a smooth succession plan.

Here is a simple test: Can you take a five-day vacation (nine days away from the office, including two weekends) without any contact whatsoever with the office? Do you trust that your team could perform exceptionally well without you? Would it bother you if they did? If you managed to take five days off, would your desk be piled with weeks of work when you returned? Yes, being needed has its drawbacks.

The problems with “being needed” extends to leadership succession as well. Look at Howard Schultz, for example. He left Starbucks, but was forced to return after eight years amid a significant downturn in performance. The late Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, and returned twelve years later after three CEO failures. In 1992, Lee Iacocca stepped down as the CEO of Chrysler and, following years of declining sales and a failed merger with Daimler Benz, he returned in 2005 to reprise his old commercials. “If you can find a better car, buy it,” he urged buyers. Unfortunately, they did. Bankruptcy followed in 2009.

More recently, there is speculation that Bill Gates may return to Microsoft more than a decade after resigning as the company’s CEO. Since his exit, Microsoft’s stock price has taken a beating, and high-profile product offerings have crashed and burned (remember Windows Vista?).


Two Reasons Why They Can’t Do Without You

So, exactly what happens when visionary leaders step out of the picture and their companies falter? I suspect two culprits – a lack of clarity and/or poor people development. When the visionary goes away and the organization stumbles, the leader’s vision is typically not clearly communicated. The leader has a clear vision, but it mostly stays locked away in the confines of his or her imagination. Need to know, and all that. Whether that is an ego problem or simply poor communication is up for interpretation.

At the same time, many visionary leaders also have control issues. Actually, many leaders have control issues – visionary or otherwise – but you get the point. As they seek control of everything, they naturally fail to develop the talent below them, and the company suffers – in the short-term or the long-term, or both. To truly create high-performance, in the short-term and the long-term, requires an emphasis on people development. More importantly, the opportunity to enjoy any kind of work-life balance definitely requires a focus on people development.

The real truth is that many managers need to be needed. They derive much of their own personal worth and self-esteem from being needed. They love to answer questions and solve problems. They live to make decisions, issue orders, and otherwise direct workplace traffic. Promotion to management is simply a validation that they are better than most, and control is the reward for being good at what they do. Unfortunately, whether the motivation is ego or a fear of failure, the results of failing to provide clarity or develop talent in the organization are ultimately the same – the toll on the leaders and/or the organization is punitive.

It is, in fact, just about impossible to find a control freak that manages a high-performance team and enjoys a healthy, satisfying private life. The two just don’t seem to go together. Ultimately, there is burn-out, depression, relationship issues, or health problems.

On the other hand, it is good to feel needed…


Author Bio:

Kelly Riggs is the founder and president of Vmax Performance Group, a business performance improvement company located in Broken Arrow, OK. Widely recognized as a powerful speaker and dynamic trainer in the fields of leadership, sales development, and strategic planning, Kelly is an author, speaker, and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the United States.

A national award-winning sales representative and sales manager, Kelly has spent the last fifteen years teaching and training organizational leaders in sales and executive management. He is a Registered Corporate Coach with the World Association of Business Coaches (WABC), and currently serves as a leadership and business development trainer for the Associated General Contractors and the Construction Leadership Council (Oklahoma). He has also appeared before a subcommittee of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives to present “Factors That Impact Employee Engagement and Performance.”

Kelly has written extensively for numerous industry publications, and his first book, “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t,” was released in 2008. His second book, “1-on-1 Selling™: How to Win More Sales, Defend Your Margins, and Build Your Brand,” will be published in 2012.