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Finding someone better than you


I’m on a run of conducting a number of 360 degree feedback debriefs. I have been completing those debriefs in quite different industries. But I have hit a common thread. Nearly every person I have debriefed is working punishing hours. Within the 360 feedback peers, direct reports and managers are advising the individual to delegate more and work less.

When discussing this feedback I hit a number of themes. Effective delegation is a skill that most of us struggle with. Under-resourcing makes delegation difficult. Clients, users, or other managers expect the person themselves to attend.

One particular theme is emerging though that interests me as a co-owner of a business. Often I here – “I wouldn’t ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself” and “I am the only person who can do the work”. I have heard or read these phrases across finance, IT, and law people in the last 2 months.

If you read the literature on how to “grow your own business” or other similar airport reading there is one key recommendation. Recruit people that are better than you. Good advice. But that advice requires that you accept 1) that you won’t be the best person at some tasks in the company and 2) that people will be able to do things that you cannot, let alone will not, do.

In thinking about this topic more and more I’ve come to a conclusion that part of the challenge is in how you measure yourself. If your measure of success is being the best / working the most / being the expert then it takes you down a route where developing or recruiting people past your expertise is against your internal measure. Rather, you need a measure of success that is broader and recognises your leadership or management position. What makes that hard is the previous measure is probably what led to your senior position and extrinsic reward. It is the measure by which you and others have valued you for quite some time.

More pondering to be had.


Brendan Walsh

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