We’ve often said managers must overcome the emotional need to be needed – a need that can compel them to take on their employees’ problems or responsibilities – because it’s counterproductive to every manager’s true purpose, which is to create an entity that will function in our absence. This can be a tough reality to live up to!
However, it’s not only emotional needs that can drive a manager to work against the best interests of their business and people; managers with monetary problems often feel a *financial* need to be needed. In our characteristics of good leaders we stress the importance of financial stability, and this was recently reinforced with me by a friend’s experience.
She told me that her manager had recently taken on a lot of her workload. At first it wasn’t entirely clear why – she listed a few possible reasons – but it all made sense when it came to light that the manager was going through some significant personal financial issues. Under intense pressure to maintain a continuous flow of income, he began to feel insecure in a managerial position in which he wasn’t directly responsible for producing visible results. So believing he needed to put himself in a position where he’s seen by his superiors as effective, busy and valuable, the manager started to take over tasks and responsibilities that he normally didn’t (and shouldn’t!) do on a daily basis.
Of course, by taking over his people’s tasks, the manager was being anything but valuable. But in his irrational thinking, he equated being busy with being valuable. Many people in management fall prey to “activity traps” such as this, which is dangerous because managers need to focus on and be responsible for results, not activity. But when your finances aren’t stable, it’s easy to lose sight of priorities and act against the best interests of your team and the business.