Superhero School

“Build a team that delivers better results than you, without you.” – Chapter 10, Your Oxygen Mask First

I have the great fortune to work with many CEOs and executives who are seen in the same light as superheroes. They are smart, driven, solid people who have the ability to solve challenging problems and create incredible results when it matters most.

We idolize the superheroes in our culture. The athlete, the CEO or executive with an outstanding record of success. The working parent who raises a family, thrives in their career and contributes to the community.

They are role models for excellence and the capability of the human spirit, and all of us can be inspired by what they create.

The downside is that we mistakenly believe that success only looks like a solitary, motivated person who works hard to make a difference in the world. But, sooner or later, these superheroes hit a ceiling because one person can only do so much.

Superhero Syndrome

I worked with an amazing executive – a guy who could make things happen like I’ve never seen.

He was the best of the best – and even had the Superman cufflinks to his match his persona. He had a large team but kept maxing out because he thought he was the superhero. The person who had to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

After seriously burning out for the third time, we worked on how he could do things differently. And I got him to clearly see that his job wasn’t to do it all. It was to build team of superheroes who could earn their own their superhero accessories. He needed to switch his energy to how the people on his team could grow their powers.

I got through to him using the metaphor of parenting. He could be the best dad ever to his kids, but they wouldn’t be the best version of themselves and strong, capable adults if he did everything for them. His job, as a parent, was to make them strong, independent, and equally or more capable than him.

He got it and, within a couple of years, had built a team of superheroes who were just crushing all their projects and creating legendary achievements of their own.

The Challenge

  • Where do you notice that you (or someone on your team) are stuck in the mindset of being a superhero?
  • What can you do to shift that and put the energy into building a team of superheroes?

PS – For more insight – and some practical techniques – read Chapter 10 of my book, Make Yourself Useless.