Superhero Syndrome in Action
Superhero Syndrome was alive and well (?) in a recent conversation I had with a department leader.
Client: These two team members—they know what to do. They’re such strong team players, and they’ve been with the company for a combined 23 years. To put it simply, they know their stuff. The problem is, they won’t do this one particular task, and every time I bring it up, they come up with excuses as to why it’s not happening.
Me: Then what happens?
Client: Well, the task must be done. Someone has to do it so I typically take some time after everyone has left for the day and do it so it’s ready for those who need it.
Me: What do you see as the problem here?
Client: Maybe there isn’t a problem. I mean, it’s getting done, right?
Me: Yes, it’s getting done. Is this how you’d like it to go from here on out?
Client: Definitely not! I guess I’m confused by their lack of action, and I feel like I’m babysitting rather than leading adults. I may finish the task, but I’m very bitter about it. And now my bitterness is bleeding into other aspects of our work. It’s having a negative effect on me—and us.
This is a classic example of Superhero Syndrome that traps many leaders. Team members don’t fulfill their responsibilities, and the leader swoops in to ‘save the day’. The problem is, there’s nothing being saved, and there’s also no growth for anyone involved.
The Antidote to the Syndrome
The antidote to Superhero Syndrome is delegation. Some benefits of effective delegation include:
- Inspired growth. No one intentionally remains stagnant. We all have an innate desire to improve, learn, and grow our skills. That growth keeps the ‘fire’ burning within us.
- Increased engagement. The ‘fire’ mentioned above keeps your team committed to the work they get to do. When they truly feel their skills and talents are being put to good use, they’re far more engaged in the work at hand.
- Boosted team morale. When everyone on the team is challenged with new tasks that encourage learning and growth, a new kind of energy fills the air, and increased morale becomes the norm.
- Greater efficiency and productivity. Take your lengthy list of tasks and delegate some of them to the best candidate for each task to effectively ‘spread the wealth’. Getting more tasks accomplished in less time? Yes, please!
- More creativity and problem solving. One of the best things a leader can do is encourage team members to be problem solvers rather than problem bringers. When challenged with something new, team members get to expand their creativity and become more effective problem solvers in the process.
- Collaborative, trust-filled culture. When you delegate consistently and effectively, your team knows you believe in them; you trust them; and you want them to be valuable contributors to the organization’s success.
Powerful reasons for more delegation, right?
Throw That Cape Away with Six Simple Steps
You may think delegation is easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow the six steps below to make the benefits listed above a reality:
- Start by identifying tasks that must be accomplished but do not necessarily require your specific expertise. Delegate these tasks so you can concentrate on high-impact activities that drive the organization forward.
- Consider the strengths of your team members. Match their skill sets and interests with the tasks to be delegated. This will ensure the tasks are done well and will also give your team members opportunities to enhance and grow their skills. When you provide challenging yet achievable tasks to your team members, they’re inspired to give their all.
- Clearly define the task including its objectives, expected outcomes, deadlines, and any needed resources. Encourage team members to ask questions for clarification and be sure to establish an open channel for feedback to promptly address concerns.
- Set realistic expectations for your team members when delegating. Avoid overburdening anyone with an excessive workload as this only leads to decreased productivity and can lead to burnout. Balance is key. Assess the priorities of your team members and delegate tasks accordingly allowing them to deliver quality results without feeling overwhelmed.
- Support your team members by providing the resources, training, and tools needed to accomplish the delegated tasks. Offer them guidance and mentorship to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility.
- Celebrate the wins along the way. Recognize your team members’ efforts and provide positive reinforcement. Frame challenges and setbacks as learning opportunities which will ultimately inspire greater problem solving.
Effective delegation empowers your team, fosters a culture of trust and collaboration, and drives innovation. It also gives you the opportunity to take off that superhero cape and instead see the superpowers your team members exhibit as they learn and grow through newly-delegated tasks.