Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Managing a Leader's Time

Time. It seems that leaders never have enough time to get everything done that needs to get done. There is always something more to do, something new to check, some outstanding item to correct. It's kind of like the mule in the picture--a bit too much in the cart to handle. We wind up in a situation wondering who is in control--the leader or the tasks? As in the picture, if we allow ourselves to become saturated and over tasked--no one is going anywhere and that especially includes our team.

What to do?

Recognize that many our nature says we want to do it all. We want to have our hands in every aspect of what's happening and be fully engaged. Then, once we recognize that our tendency is to do it all, begin to develop an action plan to back it down a bit. Remove some of the bundles from the cart and put them in someone else's cart.

In church this past Sunday, we read a story about a famous leader, Moses, who had a similar problem. He wanted to do it all. And he was trying to do it all. He actually thought he was supposed to do it all and he was becoming ineffective at leading because he had not learned the magic of delegating.

You should read the story in Exodus 18, but I'll provide some of the important aspects. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, came for a visit after Moses had led the people out of Egypt. In Exodus 18:13-16, Jethro observes what Moses is doing--judging the people and solving disputes. People are standing around and there is a lot of nothing getting done while Moses is diluting his ability to lead the people and be their representative before God. I love what Jethro says in verse 17: "What you are doing is not good!" Basically, Jethro pointed out that Moses was killing himself being involved in the small stuff. Sometimes it takes an outsider to slap us with the obvious.

Jethro reminds Moses what his role is to be--that of representative of the people before God, not solver of petty disputes. Moses has himself tied into a role that he need not do. Jethro advises Moses to appoint others to solve the disputes to free him up to have the relationship with God for the good of the people. And a funny thing happened, Moses listened to Jethro (even though he was his father-in-law!).

Leaders--listen to Jethro. What is the most important thing that you do and that only you can do? What are you doing that someone else is capable of doing or even more capable than you of doing? Give it to them. Use your team. Don't kill yourself by being so involved in minutiae. Focus on the big stuff and off load what you can onto others. They will appreciate being involved and if you match individual capabilities with tasks, the job will likely be done better than you were doing it.

Effectively using your team members is a ciritcal aspect of team success. Effectively using your personal resources is critical to your survival and happiness. You can't do it all and more importantly, you shouldn't do it all--so why try. Use your team. That's why leading is a team sport!

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