The State of Being “Over-Responsible” - A Leadership Coaching Case Study

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

“Warren, I have a problem. I think I am being over-responsible.* I keep jumping into my staff’s projects. I can’t help myself getting so involved.”

I try to pause my line of thinking in order to listen to him.

“I simply want to make sure they do the right thing and can hit their targets,” said Thomas** during one of our private coaching sessions. I listen intently as he finishes expressing his thoughts.

I replied: “I hear you Thomas. As the team leader, you are trying to take accountability for the results of your team. I respect that. And by being over-responsible for your team to hit the target, what are the areas you may be under-responsible for?”

A pause surfaced. Our eyes locked in. The silence was deafening.

Then, Thomas sighed deeply: “I guess I’m not being responsible for growing my team members. I have failed to empower and trust them. I have not given them enough space to practice and perform. They have ended up just following my orders or suggestions.”


As a leader of any business, there are the 3 Ps we can be mindful of: Profit, Process, and People.

Profit is the oxygen of all businesses. It provides the necessary resources to pay the bills and keep the business running. Leaders are focused on product & service innovation, marketing & sales strategies, balance sheet, competitor analysis, market share, etc.

Many-a-times, when companies focus too much on profits alone by trying their best to please stakeholders and the stock market, they start doing the wrong things (think Bear Stearns) at all costs to hit the right target and get the right bonus.

Process supports the company to get things done efficiently so that we hit the profit targets consistently. It includes the whole myriad of documentation process, software systems and compliance requirements designed and built in place to facilitate team members’ daily activities and performances within safety and legal frameworks.

My favorite coaching question to leadership teams regarding Process is: “How are the processes in your company doing? Are they serving you or are you serving them?” More often than not, there will be some heads shaking and some eyes looking up sheepishly and helplessly at me.

This process can be painful… Ouch!

People make up the core of any business. As bearers of institutional knowledge, they enhance old processes, create new processes, execute daring strategies, and innovate new ideas for the company to grow quarter after quarter, year after year.

Yet most leaders seem to get their priorities mixed up. People often become the by-product or after-thought of Profit and Process for many companies. “Oh, it’s the year-end. Let’s do a get-away company retreat and our annual Gala dinner to show how much we care.”

Or “ Hmm…how much budget do we have left for the year? Ok, let’s do some workshops to utilize this budget completely so that we can still keep the same budget from HQ next year.” Or “How else can we squeeze our people to make sure they can work harder for us to hit our target next quarter?”

The role of a leader is to hit the profit target. The responsibility of a leader is in people development. It is the people in the company that gives the company the reason to exist, the fire for creativity and passion to improve continuously.

Ironically, the more leaders focus on growing their team members, the more profits and better processes their companies can generate. If we truly want to grow our business, we need to start putting more conscious thoughts and intentional actions into growing our people (these two are inseparable).

Support them to step into their greatness! See their potential and help them turn into their best possible selves by encouraging them to transform their reality. Contribute less so that they can contribute more. Instruct less and ask more. Teach when necessary but coach when possible. Be responsible. Grow your profits and your people. Leaders don’t just create followers: Leaders Create Leaders.


Leadership Coaching Case Studies are designed to present different situations — real or hypothetical — in which we apply coaching principles and best practices. Learn more about Executive Coach Warren Eng and founder of Leaders Create Leaders at:

* Here we use a helpful practice in coaching called “mirroring” in which we “mirror” the client’s language as long as the meaning it’s clear. The correct term might be “overly-responsible”, etc., but that is not the point.

**Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

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