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Why Are We Still Doing Too Much?

March 10, 2017 Susan MacKenty Brady

Are we still trying to do it all? Perfecting? Controlling? Worried about what will happen to the work/effort/project if we don’t get into the weeds? Anxious about how we will look if someone who we’re responsible for messes up? Uncertain about how we will prove our value if we’re not working at a staggering pace?

Uh-huh. Yes, we are. We’re confused about the difference between having it all and doing it all. We can have it all, and the only way to sustain your “all” is to be sure that you aren’t doing it all. Period.

Easy, right? Well apparently, not so much.

The proof is in the pudding

Some 6,000+ responses from Linkage’s Women in Leadership Assessment helped us conclude that we need to spend more time engaging, inspiring and equipping others, and less time trying to do it all ourselves. The good news? We’re not alone. Think of this as an epidemic of women everywhere over-doing it. A self-inflicted tyranny of sorts that we must admit to perpetuating.

Before you slip into a shame attack about over-rowing the boat, please know that you likely are inspiring, equipping, and enabling those around you. You just aren’t doing these things as much as you could be—and frankly need to be—in order for us to achieve gender equity in the leadership ranks. And it also means you are still simply doing too much.

All of this said, this isn’t totally our fault. In our home lives and at work, we are supported, affirmed, given public accolades, and sometimes expected to row hard and fast.

The underlying belief that we must shift away from is thinking that if we just work hard enough and keep doing, doing, doing—we will be worthy of being tapped for our next big gig.

Time to change your tune

When I work with groups or coach women one-on-one, I hear: How else will anyone know I have value to add if I don’t hyper-perform/pay close attention to the details/etc..? Hyper-performing got me to where I am today!” My response? “Yes, yes it did. And now you must change.” Marshall Goldsmith so eloquently summed this up in the title of his best-selling book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Don’t we deserve some gratitude and celebration for all of our endless hard work? Yes, we do. And then the party must come to an end. We must wake up and look in the mirror. It was a good ride, and now we need to think and act differently. Do we still need to perform at a high level? Of course! But if we are to step into positions of increased leadership complexity, we must change the way we perform.

We must amplify and leverage the gifts and talents of those around us and think of achievement as a team sport. Even if we don’t aspire to a position with greater responsibility, we still risk the burn-out factor. As we age, life becomes more complex (often times emotionally) and doing too much becomes utterly exhausting.

There are 4 things that we need to do in order to end the tyranny of doing too much. We need to:

  • Admit that doing it all no longer serves us
  • Pause long enough to assess and be intentional about our time
  • Choose, moment to moment, to develop or delegate to others and ask for help
  • Re-think how we add value and educate and celebrate our unique contributions

Your path forward starts now

Here are 4 questions that will help you think about your journey forward:

  1. Do you ever think to yourself that you may not want to advance in your career because “you don’t know how you would get it all done?” If so, read on.
  2. How are you spending your time? On what and with whom? Time is your most precious asset. Are you being purposeful about majoring in the majors, where your impact can be amplified? Or are you doing the job of others or correcting work or wanting to do things yourself despite knowing others in theory should be able to do it?
  3. When is the last time you decided not to get involved with an issue, topic, or project? Are you asking for help at home and at work? Are you coaching and teaching others so that you can be surrounded by the talent you need for the team to get it done?
  4. Are you bragging about your people? Are you using your political capital to talk positively behind the backs of those you admire and with whom you see potential? Do you have a mentor to help you grow? Do you feel sponsored and is that sponsor talking about your value as a leader, not a doer?

Choosing to not do it all

Healthy striving means we have a desire to make an impact and be in service of others. And, we hold ourselves in warm regard when we choose not to do it all ourselves. We look for moments when others are delighted to contribute in new ways—and we help facilitate it.

Think about it this way: How can you aspire to inspire others? How about we role model what it looks like to equip others? How about we wake up each day and intentionally come from a place of healthy striving instead of that all-familiar hustle? If we begin to multiply our impact with and through others instead of doing it all ourselves, we may just see more women in positions of leadership.

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Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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