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What Needy Needs: 8 Ways To Empower Past Dependency

Needy drains energy. Needy distracts. Needy wastes time. Needy surfaces guilt “gosh, maybe they really do need more.” You want to help. Helping too much hurts them, you, and the rest of the team.

Dig deeper to get to the root cause of dependency. Maybe it’s them. Be sure it’s not you.

Causes of Needy

Needy comes from:

  • Upbringing
  • Self-doubt
  • Fear
  • Incompetence
  • Misunderstanding
  • Lack of vision
  • Unclear goals
  • Micro-management
  • Disfunctional teams
  • Bad leadership

From Needy to Needed

Turn your high-maintenance employee into a highly valued contributor. Give enough to help, without encouraging dependent behavior.

  1. Create safety. Build trust. Many needs stem from insecurity. Invest in the relationship and show you really care. Create professional intimacy as appropriate. As questions. Spend time getting to know them personally. Show up real. Share how you work on your leadership. Expose a personal mistake or two. Make failure a friendly topic.
  2. Listen – Get underneath root cause. This may bet messy, and may call for reinforcements, e.g. Employee Assistance Programs, a coach. If there’s work to be done, help them get help.
  3. Reinforce Vision and Goals – Check for understanding. Have them articulate their role in the big picture. Brainstorm together how they can best contribute, and what support they think they need. Also reinforce where you don’t need to be involved. Create clear parameters for decision making.
  4. Assess competence and skills – Make it okay to tell you they don’t know how. This is often the easist one to fix.
  5. Stay consistent – Stay calm through mistakes. Leaders who freak can bring back childhood memories, and childlike behaviors.
  6. Promote teamwork – Create space to talk about diverse team strengths. Encourage the team to rely on one another.
  7. Reasonable Reassurance. Recognize incremental wins. Celebrate success.
  8. Back off – Explain what your doing. Have a conversation. And then stop helping. Extreme, but potentially necessary. I talked to one leader who shared that his team had become so dependent, he just stopped answering their calls and emails. After the shock, I asked “soooo… how did that work?” The team started relying on one another and figured things out. Results skyrocketed.
How do you help employees become more self-sufficient?
Filed Under:   Authenticity & Transparency, Communication
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
 

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What People Are Saying

Dave Tumbarello   |   16 July 2013   |   Reply

Another great post. I would add to the list something about offering larger challenges, rather than smaller. It is one thing to have trust (in your first bullet) but another thing to say, “Okay, it is time that you tackle this project. Outline the scope and the resources you’ll need and let’s talk about it after …” Not every employee can take on a new challenge, but the Needy employee will grow when given the chance. Of course, saying this, managerial oversight may be required and that the project may not go as planned. But with the right Needy candidate, the challenge might bring growth the the employee, the leader, and the relationship.

letsgrowleaders   |   16 July 2013   |   Reply

Dave, Fantastic add! I fully agree.

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   16 July 2013   |   Reply

Karin- I agree with the comments and that this is a great post. You wrote ” You want to help. Helping too much hurts… them, you, and the rest of the team”. I envy you for this great example. In my presentation “New metaphors for Teams” I discussed that both over-inflation and under-inflation hurt. You give a human example here. I totally agree.
It is far better to mine people strengths and directing them to their full potential rather than keeping the image of needy.
A lovely and refreshing post.

letsgrowleaders   |   16 July 2013   |   Reply

Ali, loved your new metaphor preso, I’ve attached it here. I also look forward to including it in the Frontline Festival on teams. http://www.slideshare.net/hudali15/metaphors-for-wrong-management

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   21 July 2013   |  

Thanks, Karin. Out of the painful news I did not disclose comes your joyful comment.