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How to Break Free from the Task Heap
A common experience that many leaders have as they begin to flesh out their team is the one in which it would be easier for the leader to do something than it would be to delegate and have somebody else do it slower than they would. The natural response is for the leader to just do it herself and be done with it.
And that’s precisely the wrong response. The right response is to delegate it so that others learn why, how, and when to do it.
This is a case where short-term thinking prevents grounded, future-building processes. In the short-term, finishing that 15 minute task rather than spending 30 minutes in the delegating, training, and supervision process and still not having it done seems counter-productive. The broader view understands that you'll always be buried under a heap of 15-minute tasks, but, not only that, the fundamental processes that lead to the heap will remain in place so that you'll end up with a heap no matter what we do.
The only way out is to build better team processes and execution that remove those 15-minute tasks from your task heap for good. Would you rather spend 30 minutes and be done with that kind of task for good or see that task return to you an indefinite number of times in the future?
The key mindset shift that needs to occur for emerging leaders is to see themselves as a team builder rather than the primary executor. When you make that shift, you see that your job isn’t to do the task itself – it’s to make sure that you have the people, processes, and systems in place to get the task done. And if you remain buried under that heap of 15-minute tasks that aren’t the essential functions of a leader, you can’t do the job that only you can do.
So, the next time you decide to just do it yourself, ask yourself whether you want to do it the next time … and the next time … and the next time. If not, it’s time to train, delegate to, and supervise somebody else on getting it done.
[A version of this article first appeared on Upmarket Magazine.]