Feels Great To Be Needed…But Wish You Weren’t So Busy? 3 Signs You’re Stuck In The Capability Trap

By Published On: September 25th, 2022Categories: All, Confidence, Courage, Leadership, Self-development, Women's Leadership

Feels Great To Be Needed…But Wish You Weren’t So Busy? 3 Signs You’re Stuck In The Capability Trap

By Published On: September 25th, 2022Categories: All, Confidence, Courage, Leadership, Self-development, Women's Leadership

The Pattern

Picture this… It’s another late night at the computer. You’re exhausted from the day’s work but chances are another hour will pass before you call it a day.

But you’re not working on your priority #1…

Nope, you’re busy making the final tweaks and corrections on a project you unsuccessfully delegated. And this isn’t the first time this has happened…

But you know that it won’t get done if you don’t complete it. Not in the way it should, at least.  

And honestly, it feels good once the project’s complete and your colleague showers you with gratitude the next day. You feel accomplished…and purposeful. 

Sound Familiar?

Welcome to the Capability Trap… 

Because you are great at what you do, people always come to you for help. 

You reinforce the pattern by fulfilling their requests to perfection. They are thankful, and you feel good because of their positive feedback. 

And it’s true –– you love to help, and deep down, you also like to be needed. This is why it’s so hard to say no and break the cycle.

The cycle goes something like this… 

  • You delegate a task to someone on your team
  • Things go amiss
  • The work ends up back on your desk
  • The person is thankful
  • You also get praise from other stakeholders 
  • So you feel good….but you also feel stressed

The truth is, many managers I work with worry, “If I’m not solving problems and fixing things, what value am I adding?”

The mindset that creates the pattern

The belief that rescuing is how you can best add value is a limiting belief. 

You see, leaders need to have the capacity to think strategically, look down the road, and plan for what might be coming. They need time and space to think about their vision for their team, department, and ultimately their company. 

And there’s no time for these things if you’re stuck in the weeds, solving other people’s problems…

The signs you are in the Capability Trap

So, what are the telltale signs you’re stuck in the Capability Trap?

Here are the 3 most common ones: 

1. Your delegated tasks end up back on your desk

This is the dreaded catch-22! You don’t want to do the work yourself, BUT you also want it to be done on par with your quality standards. 

You’d like to think you’re making progress in delegating. But you still find your plate full of previously delegated tasks that have bounced back and fallen in your lap. 

So what do you do? Your choices are limited. Most of the time, you just scramble to get the work done yourself. Even if it means working after hours…  

2. You’re often the office superhero who saves the day

While not your official title, it’s well-known in your workplace that you’ve got a knack for getting others out of sticky situations. That in itself is a positive thing… 

So what’s the downside? 

The truth is, people often come to you before trying to solve things on their own, making life easier for them. But the opposite is true for you. 

Here’s the thing… If you’re continuously solving problems for others, you create an expectation that you will always solve problems for others. It becomes part of your personal brand. 

And let’s be honest –– do you want to be known as the person who always says yes and gets things done perfectly no matter how full your plate is? Or do you want to be known as a strategic thinker and leader?

By “saving the day”, you’re also robbing others of the chance to improve and build confidence in themselves. 

Think about all the times you’ve learned something new in your life. In the beginning, you have to get through the uncomfortable part of feeling unsure. And of making mistakes. But if you never took the risk or put yourself out there, you would never learn anything new! You are the real hero when you give people the space to go through this themselves.

3. Your career isn’t benefiting 

Your boss may expect and appreciate your ability and willingness to step in. But that doesn’t mean that expectation serves you and your career well. 

Contrary to your hopes, your boss will not likely reward your rescuing behavior with promotions or next career steps. 

Sadly, the opposite may happen. 

Your manager sees that you are stressed and have too much on your plate. She can’t imagine how you would cope with even more responsibility when your current level is dragging you down. So she doesn’t give you the promotion you were hoping for. 

You stay stuck. 

The Alternative

Now, don’t get me wrong –– every great manager rolls up her sleeves every once in a while, to contribute to the hard work.

But this is the exception for them, not the standard operating procedure.

And don’t forget, a massive part of the value you bring is the responsibility and accountability for everything that happens on your watch. You earn your salary not only by doing the actual work but because you hold the risk and responsibility.

But that doesn’t mean you should regularly end up doing all the work yourself.

You will still deserve your salary!

You still deserve every penny of your salary even once you have mastered the art of delegation and have plenty of time on your hands for reflection and strategic thinking.

You’ll be adding even more value to the company than you currently are.

Now, you might wonder, “Okay Margo, I’m definitely stuck in the Capability Trap –– what can I do?” 

First, you need to realize you can break the addiction of being needed! It’s 100% possible. I’ve helped my clients do it again and again. It is all about your mindset.  You have to change what you believe to change your habits.

I’ll be sharing more soon. Meanwhile, sign up for my newsletter to be notified when I publish new material.

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  1. Marilou McClimans November 24, 2022 at 14:34 - Reply

    Fantastic article!

  2. Pia November 24, 2022 at 20:01 - Reply

    Helpful article, thank you Margo.

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