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Jack Dunigan

Management

Stuck in First Gear? Is the Impediment to Progress You?

Your role is not to make sure everyone does things right

Published: Thursday, August 8, 2019 - 12:03

It happens easily enough and usually innocently enough. You start a business or organization then endure what is often a long and expensive learning curve. Along the way you learn. You learn a lot. You discover the competencies and incompetencies of those working with you. You learn how to manage cash flow challenges. You learn the ins and outs, the ups and downs of business in the real world.

In a few years, the business or organization begins to prosper. By then your role should change from working in your business to having more time to work on your business.

But too often it doesn’t. The business begins to prosper and could expand to another level, but something seems to be holding it back. (I use the term “business” in a very broad sense. Even nonprofits are enterprises with a mission to accomplish and must function in just about every sense as a business. The only differences are that the excess revenues received are not distributable to anyone except in the form of salaries paid for work performed.)

Could it be you?

How could it be me, you object? Because holding onto authority means letting go of responsibility. Notice I did not write “shirking responsibility.” One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my early developmental years in leadership was to discover what things, what jobs, what tasks, what responsibilities faced me that only I could do... and giving everything else away. Everything.

Reach further, accomplish more, work less

Too many of us are stuck with limited reach, divided effectiveness, and multiplied work... and we’ve done it to ourselves. Like a car stuck in first gear, your journey consumes way too much fuel, makes way too much noise, and takes way to long to get there.

Why?

Because one of the key responsibilities resting upon you is the need to empower and release others. To make more leaders. But you won’t be able to do that if you see them as inept and incapable, or if you regard them as a threat.

Your role is not to monitor others but to mentor them. This assumes the following:
• That you are secure enough in your position as leader to share the work and the credit. Insecure leaders seem to be attention hogs.
• That you are attentive to whom you hire. You have identified your limitations and hire others for their strength to compensate for your weakness.
• That you are willing to pass on what you’ve learned to others.
• That you will not allow paranoia to stifle the growth of your company or organization.

You can stop right where you are. In fact, if you do, you are not alone. Thousands of businesses are stymied simply because their owners/leaders cannot or will not shift gears.

Now, by this point I usually get some pushback from leaders who complain that they have no one they can trust; that if they didn’t monitor everything that goes on, the whole company would fall into chaos; that every person they’ve ever tried to employ has disappointed them.

They are, of course, quite incorrect. They are either control freaks, or they are unable to grow. Will others fail? Yes, but then so do you. Will others disappoint? Yes, but then so will you. Perfection and 100-percent economy and efficiency is a myth. You don’t meet that standard, and no one else will, either. It is no reason and cannot be legitimized to excuse oneself from mentoring.

Never forget what your role really is. It is not to make sure everyone does things right. It is to make sure that you... and everyone else... stays focused on the vision and does the right things.

You there, yes you, the leader of your company or organization. Do only those things that only you can do. Mentor others so you can give everything else away.

First published on The Practical Leader blog.

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About The Author

Jack Dunigan’s picture

Jack Dunigan

For more than four decades, Jack Dunigan has been leading, consulting, training, and writing. His experience is varied and comprehensive. His training and consulting clients are as varied as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Supreme Court to a top-rated campsite management company. But his advice is not merely academic. His blog, www.ThePracticalLeader.com, is focused on practical advice for leaders and managers of businesses, corporations, nonprofit agencies, families, organizations, departments, anywhere and anytime a person leads others. His latest book is Three Absolutely Necessary, Always Present Skills of an Effective, Successful Leader (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2012).