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An Over-Functioner’s Guide: Getting Others to Work

What if you are the person in your organization who takes on more responsibility for getting things done than anyone else? What if you are tired? Here are strategies to get others to step forward and contribute.

Do these thoughts sound familiar?

“Why is everyone dragging their feet on this important project?”

“It seems like I’m the only one who cares and puts effort into this.”

“Finally someone helped out, but I had redo at least half of that because it wasn’t done right.”

If you are saying these things to yourself, you clearly care deeply about the organization you belong to, but you are most likely an over-functioner. Even if you are not yet an over-functioner, but feeling burned out, these strategies can help.

Over-functioner’s Guide (listed in order of difficulty from easier to hardest)

  • Choose one or two tasks or projects that are most important to you. Commit to those and focus on those. Get involved in new tasks or projects only if you have successfully completed the first two.
  • When you raise your hand to volunteer for something new, do it consciously and intentionally being very clear about your most important priorities.
  • Schedule breaks and time off and make them a priority. Busy people and over-functioners often use every available minute of the day to work. That can lead to burnout. We all need time to slow down and take a rest, even if it is only for an hour a day, and a full day each week.
  • Look the other way. If someone else volunteers to do a task, let them do it their way. This can be hard for people who have a lot of experience and are committed to an organization. Remind yourself that there are multiple ways to complete tasks and projects. Don’t micromanage. Another person is more likely to take ownership and stay committed if you project confidence they will do the job well. Some over-functioners might need to force themselves to look the other way or even stay out of the room when someone else is working.
  • If you don’t have time and no one else has time, but this project is important, just breathe. This means don’t jump in and do it anyway, unless it is one of the top two items on your priority list. Don’t try to get someone else to do it. Just sit back and breathe. If the project is truly a priority to the organization right now, someone will step forward. If not, it can wait.

Notice that all of these strategies are focused on what you do and don’t do. That in itself can have a huge influence on what others do and don’t do.

Systems operate in a balance. When one person over-functions, another will under-function. Without intending to, over-functioners make it hard for others to step forward and volunteer. If the over-functioner (or potential over-functioner) balances his or her priorities and personal boundaries better, others in the group will follow.

Therefore, focus on the one thing over which you have control—yourself, including your choices, your actions and your responses. You can’t control others, but others will respond to what you do or do not do.

Finally, If you know an over-functioner, hand them this list, but do not tell the person how it applies to their life and how they should use it.  That would be over-functioning.

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