One of my favorite pastors is Andy Stanley from North Point Church. Andy is the son of Charles Stanley, who my mom grew up listening to. So it’s kind of fun to see how the next generation takes after the first, both in preaching and in listening. Andy probably delivers the clearest message I’ve ever heard. He’s very compelling and I tune in weekly to his leadership podcasts.
Years ago I was going through a book with college ministry leaders by Andy called Next Generation Leader. One chapter was called Only Do What Only You Can Do. The description went like this: the less you do the more you accomplish. I got the idea but I struggled to put it into practice.
I was leading a team of students that put on our weekly meetings for the Link, the college-aged ministry of Blackhawk. I knew that it was my job to get my team to do more work. The more they took ownership the better our team was performing. It was their job to get the equipment to the venue, get the equipment set-up, put together the script for the night, and make sure all the media components were cued up. But after that there was nowhere to go. That was the final product. It worked, it was good, but there was nothing left for me to do. There was very little that only I could do. So Andy’s principle didn’t fully sink in.
Fast forward to Summer 2009. I’m working at H&H Arborists as the lead worker on a crew of three. Bill, the owner is busy all summer doing sales while the crew is out doing everything from pruning to removing trees. It’s a young crew – with eight years of experience I’m the veteran.
My job is to figure out how to complete each job efficiently and safely. As the only man on the job with real experience, this can only happen so fast. Thankfully Bill is very willing to take precious time on the job site to train the guys on many days where the job requirements are appropriate. (I say this because many other tree companies don’t value or practice intentional training like H&H.) So now my job is to balance training with being a productive crew.
After a few weeks I’ve developed the guys’ skills. They can do light pruning, mostly from the ground. Soon one of the guys is comfortable in the tree so the crew is getting better. And this is where Andy’s principle really started to sink in for me. Now the crew is to the point where they can function in certain situations and I’m tempted to work along side them but I can’t. There’s other work that only I can do. Sometimes work gets done fast when everyone works on something together. There’s accountability and there’s encouragment when you’re side-by-side. But if I’m doing something that they could be doing, there’s something I’m not doing that they couldn’t do. This isn’t always the case, but I’m challenged daily to evaluate how to get the work done most efficiently.
Only do what only you can do. It’s become a simple principle to understand but an important one to practice. Businesses move forward when they’re efficient and this is one step to that end.
If you’re in a leadership position, are you doing thing other team members could be doing?