SOOOPerman to the Rescue!
A friend of mine, we’ll call him Clay Fillslope, is president of a large, well-known charitable group. The only reason Clay is president is because during nominations he unfortunately was swatting at a fly and someone thought he was raising his hand. His nomination was quickly seconded, and, there being no other nominations, Clay was elected. Three cheers for Clay!
So, he’s doing his time — a one year term — with requisite gusto and enthusiasm. Too bad it’s just about killing him and ruining his family.
Clay’s problem is he’s doing too much. He’s trying to be Superman. Like many of the 20% in the all-too-familiar 20:80 movers-and-shakers to takers ratio, Clay has a devil of a time saying no.
“Clay,” I said to him the other day, “you don’t look like you’ve slept in weeks. You’re all hunched over, the bags under your eyes look like fairway divots; man, you’re a walking train wreck. You’ve got to let up; delegate more.”
“Yeah, I know,” he replied, with fatigue in his voice. “But you know how it is; the 20-80 thing and all.”
“Oh I know all about it,” I said. “But think about it. Can you pinpoint the reasons you heap so many tasks upon your own shoulders?”
Here is a condensed version of his list:
- Too hard to train people. It’s easier to just do it yourself.
- No one ever listed the specific tasks within the organization and who should be doing what. Clay doesn’t want to surprise other members with a new task they weren’t expecting. It’s fear of the old “Not in my job description” syndrome.
- It’s only a one-year term. No big deal.
Does the above scenario sound familiar? Nearly every organization I can think of, be it for-profit corporations or non-profit groups, owns this issue to some degree. It happens up and down the chain of command, from presidents and CEOs to job site foremen. There are Supermen and Superwomen out there striving valiantly day in and day out to single-handedly beat up the bad guys, to boldly go where only vast teams should tread.
To their own demise.
Here is the fallacy in Clay’s thinking:
- It’s too hard to train people.
- Remember the saying: “Feed a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Yes, it is difficult to train people, but it is imperative. No organization can flourish if its knowledge base is hoarded in one or two brains. Certain people are good instructors and others are not. Find the good ones and train, baby, train. Mistakes cost threefold; training and education are your best hedges against them.
- Not in my job description.
- Everybody’s job description includes “succeed.” If the leader plows himself under to avoid inconveniencing the workforce, the organization will founder. Good leaders understand this and do not hesitate to delegate. Good workers understand It, too, and cheerfully accept their assignments.
- It is a great idea to have a general list of duties assigned to each person or team. This way management keeps tabs on who’s doing what, and workers generally know what is expected of them. Certainly, “and other duties as assigned” should be on everyone’s list, not just the president’s.
- It’s only a one-year term.
- One year is a significant percentage of anyone’s working life. We only have so many minutes on this earth. Though charitable causes are a great thing, no one should unduly compromise those minutes.
- One of the most important things any leader can do is prepare for his successor. This should be a mentality -- innate and subconsciously considered with every decision. Fail at this and doom the organization.
So who wants to be Superman? Not me. However, I’m happy to step forward and lead when the opportunity is right. But when I lead, you can bet I’ll delegate and manage much more than actually “do.” I’m admittedly stingy when it comes to using my minutes.
Tim Garrison of ConstructionCalc.com, is a professional engineer, author and software producer for the building industry. Send e-mail to email@example.com. Tim reads every one.
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The views expressed in this article represent the personal views, statements and opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, statements, opinions or policies of the National Association of Home Builders. NAHB does not necessarily endorse any of the views expressed by the author and NAHB is not responsible for any direct or indirect consequences arising out of the views expressed in this article.
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