Delegating and self-reliance

Competent professionals have a tendency toward doing everything themselves.

Over a decade ago, David Maister estimated that half of the productive capacity of the typical professional service firm is consumed with a higher-priced person performing lower-level tasks.  This statistic has improved very little, if any, in most firms in the last ten years.

Self-reliance is viewed as a positive trait by most.  This trait is especially characteristic of professionals.  But, there comes a time when high self-reliance becomes a hinderance to leadership effectiveness and productivity.

Jeff, a managing partner, had a reputation for continuing to work on projects after assigning them to his team members.  He delegated the task, but could not bring himself to stop working on it.  So he would secretly work on the project.  In the end, his team stopped taking delegated assignments seriously because they knew that he would continue to work on them and have his own presentation or research documents.

The problem with most professionals is that they are just too competent. They are convinced that no one can do as good a job as them.  This is one of the most limiting characteristics you can possess.  It can render the most competent of professionals unproductive.

When it comes to self-reliance, it’s best to become a moderate.  No matter how capable you are, learn to depend on your team appropriately.  Never do what your people are fully capable of doing.


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