Have you ever been afraid of making your own job unnecessary? Have you ever been involved in a project that would make your work dramatically more efficient? Have you been part of a team that worked to streamline processes and improve efficiency? These situations make you feel like you are putting your own job at risk. Right? In most cases, your job is not at risk. In all cases, the proper approach will increase your leadership value in the long run. How?
In most cases, strategic leaders will find that actually embracing an attitude of “working myself out of a job” will increase their value to the organization. (In some cases, leaders are indeed assigned responsibility to implement some process or technology that will result in the elimination of their job. I’m not writing about those situations in this post.) That is, by engaging in certain activities that appear to threaten one’s own job security, you actually increase your job security.
What are those activities?
Strategic leaders are skilled at identifying tasks and responsibilities that can be delegated to employees. There are two general facets to this: 1) identifying the appropriate tasks and responsibilities, and 2) identifying the employees who could benefit from the developmental experiences of added responsibilities, stretch assignments, and challenging projects. Delegation is not a way for the leaders to avoid doing work. The purpose is developing and raising up new leaders for the future. There are few things that increase the strategic leader’s value more than raising up other leaders.
Strategic leaders have a knack for seeing processes that are either inefficient or need improvement. (Technology is often the solution here, but not always. See the next category.) Process improvements save time, increase productivity, and allow the leader to reinvest that time into mission-expanding work or personal development. Four leadership skills that help generate process improvement ideas are curiosity, a lust for learning, detail-orientation, and the ability to see from multiple perspectives.
Strategic leaders maintain a keen eye for existing and emerging technologies that can increase efficiency and effectiveness. Strategic leaders have a habit of looking for repetitive and/or time-consuming tasks in the workplace. Strategic leaders also have a habit of looking for questions and problems that no one can figure out how to address. Often, both of these can be tackled with technologies that then free people up to focus on truly thought-provoking aspects of work: deep analysis, creative endeavors, and relationship building that all contribute to accomplishing the mission.
Strategic leaders are able to look at every activity and ask, “Does this really need to be done?” They are able to look beyond the habits and routines of people and the organization and critically evaluate the value added. The problem is that habits and routines make the workday comfortable, so we embrace them and don’t want to give them up. But they are also the seeds of time-wasters. They decrease individuals’ value to the organization. Regular and frequent examination of everyone’s work leads to the elimination of unproductive busyness, enabling time to be invested in more valuable ways.
Strategic leaders are constantly engaged in delegation, process improvement, technology improvement, and elimination. It might seem at first glance that these contribute to “working yourself out of a job.” On the contrary, they actually serve to increase your value to the organization because each approach adds value to others and to the organization.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.