Episode 12: How to Not Always Be Needed

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One problem many leaders have is that they can’t seem to get away from work. Their team may call or email them constantly about problems, they may feel they are always putting out fires, and they feel they can’t get away because something always comes up.

There can be multiple reasons that cause this – and it’s something you can overcome. In this episode, we explore the reasons why we get caught in this trap and the steps we can take to get out and overcome it.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • Why do good leaders develop their teams?
  • Steps you can take so your team isn’t dependent on you
  • Why is it ideal to hire the right people?
  • Don’t just solve your team’s problem, help them solve it
  • Build a culture of growth and learning
  • Create a playbook or standards that people can follow

Resources Mentioned

The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken Jr., & Hal Burrows

Full Episode Transcript


Hey, so the other week I went to a conference and I heard the same message from a couple of people. One person was someone I met just at the conference, and he happened to tell me about what was going on with him. And another person was somebody on stage kind of confessing to the same issue.

And the thing that they both struggled with was, that they couldn’t seem to get away from their business, that their team was basically dependent on them that every morning they woke up and their phones exploded with fires or texts or things going on or people keep calling them about questions or what to do in this situation, and they just can’t seem to get away.

So in this podcast, I wanted to kind of give just a few suggestions about what you can do to help you do that, what process, and what steps you can take so that you can get to the point where you can leave and your team is able to handle it themselves without having to depend on you. And that’s actually what you want as a leader.


Why do good leaders develop their teams?

Sometimes leaders want to be indispensable. They want it to that people depend on them, that the company can’t work without them and that’s the wrong mentality.

Good leaders develop their teams so that they can be productive without them. That’s one of the signs of a good leader, that you’re able to develop them so that you can leave and that they can do it without you. They aren’t dependent on you. You’ve helped lead them and grow them to that point.

Steps you can take so your team isn’t dependent on you


So, the first step that you need to take is to ask why. Why is it that you’re in this situation where you can’t leave?

So here are some questions to think about, kind of similar to that, along those lines to think about.

Not everything will apply to you. Not everything necessarily is the reason that your team and your situation are the way it is. But it’s something to think about, to see if it might be. Okay. And some of these might be kind of hard-hitting, maybe, depending on how you look at it.

But they’re important to point out or to think about.


So first question why can’t the people below you or your team do it? Why can’t they handle it themselves? What’s preventing them? Is it that they don’t have the training?

That they don’t have the authority, that they don’t have the knowledge or the processes to follow? Is it that you don’t trust them? Maybe you have a bunch of people on your team that you don’t trust and you don’t think they can handle it themselves.

Is that a trust issue on you? Did you not hire the right people? Do they need to be trained? What’s the issue with that lack of trust? Why can’t you trust them to do it? Why aren’t they at that level?

Do you fear that people will just mess up? Is it a sense of control that you’re afraid people are going to mess up, they’re going to make a mistake? You have to control everything but make sure everything’s done the right way. Is that the reason?


Are people dependent on you to solve all their problems? Anytime they have a problem or issue, do they always come to you and you solve it for them? Is there an insecurity you have maybe that you feel like you have to be needed so you want people to depend on you because it fulfills the insecurity in you?

Is it some kind of ego? And some of these things can be between insecurity and ego. But for ego, do you have to be in charge? Do you have to be able to prove you’re the leader and that you’re the one to make the decisions?

And if you don’t make the decisions, if you’re not the one making the choices, you’re afraid it’s going to make you look bad. Or maybe because you’re the leader, you feel like you have all the answers and the others don’t.

They aren’t as smart or as good as you. So you have to be the one to solve everything. Is it that your processes are not set up? Do you not have good processes that people can follow to help solve certain issues?


Those are some questions. Just take time to think about what is the reason why you are in the situation you’re in. It’s not necessarily bad you’re in that situation, it’s just that you are. What’s the reason behind it?

Do your people just need more training? Do you need to hire different people? Do you need to move people to different seats? Do you have some stuff in you that you need to fix? Whatever it is, think about those and then start working to fix those.

So now I’ll offer some other suggestions too. But if you don’t find the core reason why, if everybody’s just new, then that kind of makes sense. You have to build them up. But if you don’t find the reason why, it’s going to be hard to solve it.

Why is it ideal to hire the right people?


So ideally, this is kind of the overall you want to hire the right people, you want to train them, you want to have good processes set up they can follow and then trust them to do it. That’s ideal of how you want it run and you need to work on that.

So if you have people that you don’t trust in your team, then maybe you didn’t hire well.

Are they just in the wrong seat? Do they need to go they just need training. What needs to go with those people to make them what they need to be? Do you need to let some go, whatever it is, make sure you have the right people?

You want to train your people and whatever it is in their job, they’re able to handle the different situations. But part of that is you want to help people learn to solve their own problems.

Don’t just solve your team’s problem, help them solve it


Sometimes leaders take it upon themselves to solve everybody’s problem and there are different reasons that could happen. But for whatever reason it is, that’s what they do. People have a problem, they come to them, and the leader takes it upon themselves to solve it themselves and that’s poor practice.

You want to be able to train your people to handle their own problems. When people come to you with a problem, don’t just solve it for them, help them solve it. Guide them into solving the problem, but don’t just do it for them.


There’s a 1 Minute Manager book kind of on this topic. I think it’s called “The 1 Minute Manager Meets the Monkey.” And the kind of concept is when you take other people’s problems, you’re taking their monkeys. And over time you get overloaded with these monkeys because you’re solving everybody’s problems for them instead of helping them solve their problem.

I think the monkey was the next step in the problem. You want to get them where they can solve their own problems. Because when you get to that point where you train them and guide them in the process, whatever it may be, then that’s good for them.

Because that helps them in their career, that helps them in their job, that helps them as a person be more engaged, more confident being able to solve their own problems versus being dependent on you. And also frees up your time to be able to do what’s most important for you. So do that as much as you can. Help them solve their own problems.


Now, there’s a saying that sometimes happens, and I’ve actually put this in some blogs and it’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s one of those things that you have to be careful about. And it’s the saying that if you come to me with a problem, come with a solution as well.

The idea of it is you want them to think of a solution instead of just coming to you with a problem. The problem with that is there are some problems that you want to know about immediately and you don’t want them to wait to figure out a solution for it because sometimes that’s not their position to solve some of the problems that happen.

So, however, you want to do it, if you want them to come to you with problems and you just guide them, if you say, hey, try to come up with a solution if it’s this level of problem, but if it’s at this level, come talk to me however you want to do it. But try to help people solve their own problems.

Build a culture of growth and learning


You want to build a culture of growth and learning. You want a culture where mistakes are okay, the right kind of mistakes. If someone’s lazy, that’s different than people trying, putting in their best effort, chasing after new ideas, and making mistakes along the way. That’s completely different.

You want the right kind of mistakes because that means people are trying and growing and you want to encourage people in that the thing is when you release people to help solve their own problems and stuff, mistakes are going to happen sometimes and that’s okay.

You don’t need to have a culture where people fear making mistakes because you’re going to have a poor culture in that. You may need to have a gradual release like as they’re learning, as they’re growing.

You may slowly release the level of problems that the mistakes aren’t like deadly for your business. But you want to be able to encourage them to try to make mistakes and get better and release them as you need to.

Create a playbook or standards that people can follow


Another idea is to create kind of a playbook or standards that people can follow along. So for example, you face a certain situation, there’s an issue whether you kind of solve it or you meet with your team and you all solve the issue.

Whatever you all do, you write it down, you all discuss it, write it down. Boom. And over time it becomes like a playbook of here’s the situation, here’s how we solved it. And it can be a guide to help people when they face other similar situations or different scenarios.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a black-and-white thing. You have to do it this way but definitely could be a guideline. And of course, some things, depending on what it is, maybe a black-and-white thing on how to handle certain situations, but some that don’t necessarily have to be.

But that’s an idea so that as people go, hey, I’m not sure what to do in this situation. Boom. Here’s this playbook, okay, this is what we’ve done in other situations. And as new employees come in, they can look at the playbook and be like, okay, this is the kind of the way the process is. This is the way we do things here.


And when I talk about processes, I’m not talking about a lot of the bureaucracy lot of organizations have that hurt productivity instead of help. Any process you build should be beneficial.

It should help solve problems. It should help people be more productive. If you have a lot of people writing blogs, you probably want some kind of standard in some ways that people follow to make it easier to edit. This is the way our format and stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself.


So, processes can be good as long as it helps people be more productive, solve problems, and so on. If the problem of course is ego, if it’s insecurity, something of those in a sense of control. That’s something that you need to work on in yourself.

If you like you have to control everything, if you feel like it’s going to make you look bad if you don’t make a decision or have some kind of say in everything. You need to learn to let that go because it’s not true.

The more you control, the less productive your people are going to be. The more you hold on trying to make all the decisions yourself, over time you’re not going to lose people but your people are going to be less productive and less engaged. If you’re arrogant, that hurts you.


So those are things that you need to work on if that’s what you struggle with yourself. In summary, if you’re facing a situation where you’re constantly needed, the first step is to ask why. Why are you in that situation, what’s the cause? What are the core roots of that situation? And once you do that, work to move to fix it.

Some other tips that can apply to that or just the kind of basic things you can do is of course hire the right people, put them in the right seats, train them, have good processes, and then trust the people to do it. Have a culture of learning and growth where people are allowed to make mistakes. Gradually release if you need to.


Help people learn to solve their own problems instead of you solving them yourself. If it’s helpful create that playbook, the standards, have the set processes that people can follow, or be a guide for people.

Or maybe look at your problem and take the steps you need so that you can grow your team to be a high-functioning team that can run without you because you have thought them how to make good decisions to solve problems and handle difficult situations that may come along.

I hope this helps! I see you next time.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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