top of page

Stop Trying to Do Everything Yourself

It’s hard to imagine a more self-defeating work pattern than trying to do everything yourself. And yet, I see it in my clients (and to be fully honest, in me) each and every day.

When it comes to delegating tasks or inviting others into cocreating, most of us figure it’s easier just to do it ourselves rather than bother others, or coach others, or you know, deal with other’s thoughts and feelings.

I get it. Inviting others into your work makes things complicated.

They don’t know the space as well as you do. They have their own point of view and possibly, agenda, which may differ from yours. Often, they have unworkable, unrealistic, downright silly ideas.

But that’s the point.

Sometimes it’s the silliest of ideas that leads us to the workable ones that break us free of the same old ways of doing things.

In the world of systems leadership, “the way we’ve always done things” is called path dependence. When we’re path dependent, we rely on the past – processes that worked in the past, ideas and solutions that worked in the past, data and performance indicators that worked in the past, structures that worked in the past and types of people that worked in the past.

In other words, path dependence produces solutions for yesterday. Or as Adam Morgan and Mark Barden put it in their book A Beautiful Constraint, “…self-reinforcing bundles of beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors whose nature – and underlying rationale – may no longer be visible and are rarely questioned.”

What a great way to create results that no one wants.

So, what’s a leader to do?

Change the path.

Trying to do everything ourselves is a hallmark of the contractive state. We are defensive of our own way of doing things, react negatively to the involvement of others, and become judgemental of their ideas. Few great new ideas and innovations come from this state.

Changing the path first requires us to shift into an expansive state. Rather than defending our way of doing things, we coach others on why we do them that way and allow them to coach us on new possibilities. Rather than reacting negatively to the presence of others, we choose to cocreate with them. And rather than judging their “silly” ideas, we challenge their thinking. And we challenge our own thinking at the same time.

In his book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge describes an organization where, “…people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free and where people are continually learning how to learn together.”

What a beautiful way to succeed.

Yup, it will take more time. And yup, there will be tension and conflict. And it will be frustrating, uncomfortable, and at times, downright painful. But the more you do it, the better you (and they) will get at it.

And here’s one more benefit.

Your colleagues are far more likely to buy into, value, and work harder on a product or solution they had a hand in creating. And the more painful the cocreation process is, the more they will actually value it.

Go figure.

Or rather, go figure it out with someone else.

Well hello there! If you'd like to learn more about Expansive Leadership, sign-up for my newsletter (green box at top right of your screen on desktop, or under this post on mobile) so you'll never miss a post. I promise I'm not a spammy nightmare. One per month, and that's it.


The Unstuck Leader book is now available.
Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Me
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
bottom of page