What Is It That Only You Can Do?

Here’s a tip about where to spend your time and energy as a leader.  Take a close look at everything that needs to be done in your group, and identify the work that only you can do – work that you can’t delegate to your team, because it requires your personal attention.  Then spend your time on these tasks, and “give away” everything else.  This simple exercise will clarify where you should be spending your time.

Sounds easy, but how many of us really do this consistently?  Mike Abrashoff, author of It’s Your Shipcalls this $500 an hour work, and draws a distinction between the high value work we should be doing and the “$10 an hour work” that we sometimes find ourselves engaged in.  Ask yourself as you move through your day – is this $500 an hour work, or could someone else on the team be doing this?”

If you think about it, there are several things that, as the leader, only you can do.  Only you can showcase your people for your manager and other leaders.  Only you can spend extra time developing them or giving them feedback from your perspective as the boss.  Only you can set the final vision and strategy for your group (hopefully, after involving them in the design).  Only you can really sell ideas 2-3 levels up the chain.  Only you can support and fight for those innovative new projects that your team wants to implement.  You get the idea.

I once worked with a woman who said: “the company really pays me for just 10 days a year”.  Brilliant!   What she meant, of course, is that most of the time her team was busy doing the heavy lifting; she was coaching & supporting, removing barriers, building relationships across the company, etc.  But when a crisis hit, or when a big change initiative needed to be led, or when it was time for feedback or a tough personnel decision, she was out front, leading the way.  She spent her time doing high value work, that only she could do.  Anything less than that, she gave away to her team to stretch them, to develop their skills… letting them make mistakes and learning from them, etc.   She knew where to spend her time.

The next time you find yourself doing something that you know someone else could (and should) do, ask yourself what else you could be doing.  And if you can’t think of higher value work, you’re not thinking hard enough.  There’s always a best practice to explore, a relationship to build across your peer group, an idea to sell to the CEO, a bridge to build to a vendor or supplier, etc.  There is work out there for you that only you can do as the leader.  You need to find it, and spend your time in that world.  It will absolutely make you more effective, and will change the way others perceive you as a leader.