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                        “Many people live in perfection and can’t accept ‘finitude.’
                         As humans we can’t achieve everything [on our own].”
                                                                                             Bob Dunham

As a business owner or leader you have a lot of commitments to juggle, people to engage and hurdles to overcome. Sometimes it can feel relentless and overwhelming.

If the business is up against a critical deadline or in crisis, it’s clear that you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. However, perhaps this has become your norm rather than the exception.

Or if you are the Founder, it can be hard to “let go of your baby” and devolve to your employees who have different styles or ways of engaging. You fear that they may risk your reputation or brand.

If you are really passionate about your business or eager to please customers, you may take on too many tasks or commitments without considering your capacity to deliver.

One of my teachers, Bob Dunham, argues that many leaders have built their reputation and success on doing more and doing it themselves. They may feel “lonely at the top”. This “heroic” behaviour can lead to burnout to the detriment of the business and team morale.

Dunham recommends that leaders take stock of their actions and what they enter into their weekly schedules to determine how much of what they are doing stems from an inability to set boundaries and say “No.”  Many people find it physically uncomfortable to make this declaration and prefer to ease their discomfort by saying “Yes.”  They have to practice and learn how to hold their bodies to enable them to say no.

Some leaders are overwhelmed because they feel they have to “do it all” themselves and fear that they would be considered weak if they ask for assistance. Or too often leaders step in rather than allowing their team members to make mistakes and grow their competence through practice.

Some leaders persist in trying to deliver to the original specifications to please their customers even though circumstances have changed and the terms of delivery need to be re-negotiated. They hesitate to have conversations with their team members or customers to redesign the commitment, gain more resources or put the idea in the “parking lot” for now.

Or a leader may simply be overwhelmed because he or she hasn’t scheduled enough time for rest and recovery and is operating on “near empty” which only has the undesired effect of taking more time to complete the task or commitment.

Questions for reflection:

Do you trust your employees?

How can you build trust and devolve more responsibility to others?

Are you a perfectionist? Is this essential for your business or are you appeasing your ego?

Would “good enough” be enough?  How much more could you achieve if you treated an initiative as a draft or iterative process and invited others to collaborate?

Can you say “No”, renegotiate and redesign your commitments?

Do you build in enough time to restore your energy?

Could you create more time by seeking the recommendations of peers and professionals who have overcome your challenges?


Sylvana Caloni, Confessions of a “Recovering Perfectionist”

Sylvana CaloniThe Cost of Being a Hero/Heroine

Stephen M. R. Covey, 2008, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything. US: Free Press

Judith E. Glaser, 2014, Conversational Intelligence. How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results. US: Bibliomotion

Stuart Heller and David Sheppard Surrenda, 1994, Retooling on the Run: Real Change for Leaders with No Time. US: Frog Ltd.

If you would like to discuss with me how you can make changes in your practices and how you engage with others to address your feeling of overwhelm leave a note below, send a message to or call me on +44 (0) 20 7226 3611 or +44 (0) 7952 068133.


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