Lots of times, leaders are looked on to be a one-stop for all a team’s needs. That’s a lot of burden to place on one person’s shoulders. It’s like giving every single line in a major motion picture to the same character. Can you imagine what it would be like if every single line in the Godfather were heaped on Al Pacino, and everyone else just got to stand around and gesture? He’d go nuts!
Teams are built for delegation, for dividing the wealth, for sharing the suffering. When I ran a team of engineers, I quickly realized why it was a bad thing to be the subject matter expert on every aspect of our product. I started giving people assignments that would put their knowledge FAR ahead of mine, such that I’d be in meetings answering questions with, “Beats me. We’ll have to go ask John.” It turned out to be a great method. I could focus on some things. Other folks could have their areas of expertise, and we cushioned the load a little better.
In THE WORLD IS FLAT, Thomas Friedman mentions that the way businesses will win in the coming years is to master “value chain disaggregation.” Sounds like a lot of words, right? It basically means this: everything that seems like a one-shop job is probably really a four-or-five segment job that could be farmed out to multiple sources. Find the parts that your group (or you) must do, and focus your efforts on making those the best.
Bringing this down to the “just you!” level, figure out what has to be done by you, and see what you can give to others to make their own area of expertise.
One final point: I don’t mean that you should give away your shitwork. Couldn’t be more blunt than that, right? Give your team things that might not be your forte, but that aren’t exactly garbage tasks. We all have garbage tasks. Just do yours and suffer in silence. Or find ways to get them out the door to completely different companies who have built business models around it.
So, Pacino, can you share your stage?