June 30, 2019

Running With Rusniak: Leadership Lessons from a Toddler, Vol. 1

Leadership Lessons

Just Because You CAN Do Something, Doesn’t Mean You SHOULD. 

Being a parent, to me, is a continual lesson in patience. My two-year-old tests my patience every day.  It’s often something as simple as putting on shoes, eating a meal, or getting into the car. Everything just takes longer when it involves a small human who is fiercely independent and still learning the ways of our world.

The topic for this blog post came to me recently, when I found myself sitting with my daughter at her Little Tikes table (which we affectionately refer to as “the red table”) in our kitchen. It’s her daily request for Mommy to “Please sit with me while I eat.”  I was watching her try to scoop some of her chicken pot pie onto her fork. The bits of meat kept sliding off and the fingers of her other hand were slowly becoming covered in the gravy. Even when she finally succeeded in landing a few morsels onto the prongs of her utensil, they kept sliding off before she could navigate them from her plate to her mouth.  I kept asking her, “Can I help?” And she kept responding, “No, I can feed myself. See! It just keeps running away from me, but I can do it!”

As I sat there watching the minutes go by, I felt equal parts of pride and frustration. One of the greatest joys I’ve experienced in being her mom is watching her learn and master new skills. I tried to temper my frustration as I thought of all of the other things I could be accomplishing instead of watching my child attempt to feed herself. I found myself thinking that just because you can do something, little one, doesn’t mean you should. The thought crossed my mind as quickly as I squashed it, knowing that it was not the attitude I should be sharing with my love-for-learning daughter. At her age, of course, she should do everything! How else will she learn? I also realized just how applicable the idea is for me as a business owner and leader—just because I CAN do something, doesn’t mean I SHOULD.

The Delegation Dilemma!

As a business owner, I sometimes find myself “saving pennies” by doing things myself. In reality, some tasks probably cost me more that way, when I consider the value of my time and how long it takes me to complete them. The tasks that I “just do myself” become costly; since I’m not an expert, they take me longer than they would someone with more experience. The same thing applies, however, for tasks at which I am extremely experienced. As a leader, I often think, “Well, I know how to do this. I’ve done it a million times before, and I’ll just do it again,” But I really shouldn’t. The tasks are often those that don’t require my specialized skills. I should delegate them to my team members so that they can learn how to perform those functions (and perhaps become more proficient than I am at them).

How Do You Decide?

The question for me is always, “How do I decide what I do and what I delegate?” I’ve tried to create a process to help me make that decision:

  1. Time – How much time does it take me to do the task? Do I know of someone (or something—such as apps or other technologies) that could do it faster than I can?
  2. Quality – Will having someone, or something, else perform the task increase or decrease the quality of the outcome? If so, by how much? If there will be a decline in quality, will it be significant enough to matter or measure?
  3. Cost – What will it cost me to have someone, or something, perform the task on my behalf?
  4. Passion – Do I love performing the task? Will I be upset if I’m no longer involved in it?

A great example of these four questions in action relates to the decision I made about who will clean my house.

  1. Time – It takes me several hours to do a thorough job, often over several days, because I’m regularly interrupted. Therefore, the house is never all clean all at once.
  2. Quality – I’m certain that the combination of a cleaning person and a Roomba will clean my floors better and more regularly than I do. So, involving someone and something else will increase the quality of the outcome in this case.
  3. Cost – There are many cleaning services available in the area that I live, and the hourly cost of the services would not exceed my own hourly income.
  4. Passion – I most certainly do not love cleaning; I find no joy in it.

This was an obvious choice—just because I CAN clean my own home, doesn’t mean I necessarily SHOULD. Do I, on occasion? Absolutely! Would I prefer not to? You bet!

What responsibilities, personal or professional, are you considering delegating but struggling to decide if it’s the right move? Are there other relevant factors you consider when making the decision to delegate?

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