Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Only Do What You Can Do

By Dave Stagl

This probably won’t apply to you if you have time to read this, but believe it or not, when I talk to fellow production folks at other churches, I often get the sense they have too much to do and not enough time. So I want to talk about a principle that’s helped me manage this. I’m probably a little biased, but I think Andy Stanley put it best in his book, “Next Generation Leader,” [with this bit of advice:] “Only do what only you can do.” Stanley goes into more detail in his book, but the gist of the principle is that we all have core strengths we should focus the bulk of our time on. Crazy, right?
Several years ago, our audio staff downsized when our associate audio director received a promotion to audio director at another campus. He served under me for three years, and during that time had come to own a good portion of our weekly workload—which all shifted back to me.
In that season I was forced to reevaluate many of the ways we approached things, but more specifically, the way I approached things. While there was frustration during this time, I slowly recognized it as an opportunity to course correct some things on a personal level as well as in our little audio world. As I evaluated things, that principle—Only do what only you can do—became a personal goal.
I started with a task list of things our audio department is responsible for. Everything on the list was something I’ve done and can do, however, the idea of the principle is I’m probably not equally qualified for everything on the list. So I created three categories for the list: stuff I should do, stuff I can do but someone else should probably do, and stuff I shouldn’t do. My goal was to organize everything [into] a category so I could strategically delegate to volunteers and contractors, [so I could] focus most of my time on things “only I can do.”
Listing my “shouldn’t do’s” was easy because not only were these things my friends, family, and co-workers gladly point out, they also tended to be things I don’t enjoy. For example, organizing our equipment room isn’t winning me any awards; I freely admit there are times I just don’t “see the mess.” Filtering things into the other categories, however, became more of a challenge because everything gravitated towards my “should” list.
I admit that giving things away isn’t natural for me. I mean, I’m the audio director, right? Doesn’t that mean they hired me to do all this audio stuff? Perhaps, but then again, maybe I’m just rationalizing. It’s hard to let someone else do something I’m ultimately responsible for, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
I’ve found through conversations that many of us are exceptionally gifted at justifying why we can’t let go of things. Unfortunately, we give up our leadership positions by taking this approach. The reality is if we are going to be leaders we need to let go of things. “Leadership” implies there are others in the game with us. Leaders don’t do it all while everyone else watches. By clinging to every little task we often hold ourselves back from achieving our full potential in things we’re great at—while denying someone else success where we are weaker. Knowing this didn’t make categorizing my list easier, though, so I came at it sideways.
Everything on my department list generally lands on a day of the week, so I listed everything by day placing my potential “should do’s” for each day in order of priority at the top of the list and my “shouldn’t do’s” at the bottom. In order to keep my “should do’s” reasonable, I limited them to three things a day.
Everything else fell into another category, and needed to be delegated whenever possible, even if I enjoyed it and was good at it. I love mixing our online broadcasts, for example, but I can’t mix FOH and broadcast at the same time.
I’m a control freak, so [one] real purpose of this exercise was to give myself permission to delegate things and force myself to prioritize the things “only I can do.” Letting go didn’t happen overnight, but over the past several years I’ve definitely focused more of my time on my “should do’s,” while handing off the rest. This resulted in stronger results not just for me, but [also] for our entire team.
I know letting go isn’t always easy—and finding people to delegate to is another story. However, sometimes the first step is simply getting to the place where you can release things. If you’ve got a lot on your plate, I highly suggest giving an exercise like this a shot.

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