Leadership Blog

Playing to Strengths

Friday, November 11, 2016 | Category :
    • Avo Vision
    • Leadership

There is a story told about a famous golfer who was well known for not being able to play out of the rough. When asked at an interview how he split his practice times he said it was always 90/10%. The journalist nodded sagely saying “Well I expect that the 90% of your practice time is spent on improving your game out of the rough”, to which the golfer replied “No, I spend 90% of the time practicing to make sure I don’t get into the rough in the first place”.

We can’t help but feel, at Avocado Vision, that this is probably the most enlightened approach we have come across in our many years of corporate training. Now don’t get us wrong, we are all for persistence, heck we actively encourage it as a core tenant to getting to the top, but there comes a time when we have to step back and ask ourselves if we are helping or harming our race to success, by insisting on doing something that (to be honest) is really not our forte.

It’s challenging as a leader to take a step back, to admit that we aren’t going to be the best person to get something done. Sure we can probably do it, given enough time, and enough chances. I mean the saying goes that if you lock an infinite number of monkeys in an infinite number of computer labs one of them is bound to come up with the complete works of Shakespeare, so if that can happen then sure we can write the software to run the organisational leave budget, even if our computer prowess extends no further than Twitter and the occasional pivot table in Excel. The question is, should we be doing this? Is it not something someone else is better equipped to do? Is this the best (and by best we mean most efficient) use of our time?

Being in a position to recognise when we are and aren’t the right person to get something done, takes self-awareness. So though we would like to think we can be all things to all men, we need to, at some point, admit that there are things we are not great at. Things that others will be more efficient, or more skilled at doing. Yes we should have an understanding of the concepts involved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should be doing it!

Richard Branson has been quoted as saying “It’s all about finding and hiring people smarter than you. Getting them to join your business. And giving them good work. Then getting out of their way. And trusting them. You have to get out of the way so YOU can focus on the bigger vision”. As the leader of your organisation you are probably the most expensive resource. The opportunity cost of having you doing something that someone else can do for the organisation, is enormous. There are things no one else can do, things that as the leader you are required to do (imagine, if you will, Richard Branson sending one of his junior software developers off to go and accept his knighthood from the Queen), but there are a number of things that many leaders insist on completing when in fact someone more junior not only can do the job, but can probably do it faster and more efficiently. If you have hired correctly, surrounding yourself with people who are responsible, accountable and just plain marvelous at what they do, why shouldn’t you trust them to get the job done?

Entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at this ‘letting go’ mindset. Often they have started their businesses from scratch, doing everything from sales and meetings with top level execs to buying the tea and dishwashing liquid. The confidence to trust their people and ultimately themselves with the choices they have made in people, is hard to come by. Too often entrepreneurs end up double checking everything and everyone, and lose focus of the big picture. They have the vision, they have the know-how to be out there talking up the business, and they have the people who can do their jobs and keep the business running on a day to day basis without them, what they don’t have is the conviction to let go.

If you are the leader in your organisation, or even one of many, you need the faith in your people to let them do what they do best, so that you can lead efficiently. Know what you are good at, what you should be doing, and know what your staff is good at and what they can handle. Surround yourself with people who have the skills to do what you don’t do well, and then have the confidence to trust them to do it. Sure they won’t do it your way every time, but is that really such a bad thing? You may even learn something.


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