“It’s easier if I just do it myself.” Probably true. But is that the best solution? Is efficiency the reason? Or is it the excuse? When we focus on immediate efficiency, we’re being short-sighted. Routinely doing it yourself because it’s easier is a mistake. It doesn’t allow for people to grow.
Watching someone fail is hard.
The first time I remember this lesson hitting home for me is when my kids were small. The impatience would creep in as I glanced back and forth from my watch to my young child struggling with his shoes. I very often gave in to that impatience, reaching down to “help”. I didn’t want to be late to our next activity.
Sometimes I wouldn’t even give the child the option of putting on his shoes himself. I would simply decide there wasn’t time for that and do the task myself.
Leaders tell me they do the equivalent of this to team members. Rather than asking a team member to update a project, fix errors in a report, or prepare something that needs to be done quickly, the leader will just do it. “It’s just easier if I do it myself.”
As my aunt always said…
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We want to develop our team members. We give it a ton of lip service. But if we’re consistently doing all the little (or big) things ourselves in the name of efficiency, we’re going to hell.
Taking the time to increase someone’s capacity is not efficient in the short term. But it’s critical for the long term.
Employees leave companies for many reasons. One contributing factor we hear about is feeling undervalued, underappreciated, or underchallenged. We must encourage employees to grow and develop by giving feedback and then giving them a chance to do something with that feedback. If we don’t, we’re missing an opportunity to create ownership.
- Awareness is the first step in making change. Pay attention for a week. How many times do you do something yourself that someone on your team really could/should have done? What situations caused this to happen? Observe without judgement. Once you are more aware, you can decide what to do.
- Get out in front of it. Use weekly 1-1s to plan ahead with team members. “I’m looking forward to getting your report. I’ll likely have some feedback about it. I’d like to share that feedback with you and see what you can do with it. What would be the best way for me to share that feedback?” Create an agreement up front so everyone knows exactly what to expect.
- Get uncomfortable. Rather than quickly making those changes yourself, reach out to the team member who created the document. Call them on Teams or walk over to their desk. “We need to make some quick changes to this document and I want to walk through them with you as I make them. We’re on a tight deadline so I thought this might be faster so you can see exactly what we need.” Showing someone what you want can be a nice compromise.
Find a balance
As with all things, finding balance is key. There will still be moments when you just need to do The Thing yourself. But take time to regularly evaluate where you might be missing opportunities to help someone else develop. Focus on the long term. Give people a chance. Otherwise, how will they improve?