7 reasons why “one and done” doesn’t work for leaders

There is a good deal of satisfaction in finishing a job. I make lists of tasks then check them off as they are done. I’ve noticed, as I am certain you have, that many tasks are done repetitively.  It takes one skill set to start up a business but another skill set to keep it running and make it prosperous. The two are not always found in the same person or when they are, do not always rise to the surface at the right time.

Putting something in motion and expecting it to run itself is the snake oil sold by internet marketers. There simply is no such thing. Inventors have pursued the dream of a perpetual motion machine. None have been successful.

The same principles that prohibit the development of a perpetual motion machine apply to your work as a leader and manager. I know you are unbelievably busy and long for opportunities to turn over responsibilities to others and just walk away from them. But the hard reality is that cows never stay milked.

You can put everything in place perfectly, consider all the contingencies, and assure that the details are perfectly communicated and explained. But it won’t be long before the unseen and unforeseen will demand your attentionS.

Here are 7 reasons why one and done will not work for you.

  1. Friction between parts – Put two people together or put a person with a machine and somewhere sometime the very fact that two objects make contact either physically, psychologically, or mentally, friction will occur. And friction causes heat which is the product of energy loss. Friction causes wear and eventual failure somewhere. At the very least you will need to provide for regular maintenance. Like the oilers on old locomotives, you have to know where the wear points are and keep them lubed.
  2. Friction between parts and supporting structures – see number one. Even if a person works in isolation, they still must interact with paper and processes. Over time this can cause problems in some because of boredom, frustration over systems that work slowly or with sporadic interruptions, or the isolation itself. You’ve heard the expression “Things are running smoothly” so that’s what you have to do – keep things running smoothly.
  3. Wear and tear – nothing is new forever.  Stuff breaks and someone has to see that it gets fixed.
  4. Fuel depletion – motivation must be reinvigorated and you have a major role to play in that. Attention and interest from you, the boss, keeps energy levels higher.
  5. We live and work in a dynamic state not static. Our work settings involve change, movement, action, and therefore change. So what exists today will be different tomorrow. The cow needs to be milked twice a day.
  6. Because sharp becomes dull with time and use. Fresh and new devolves into stale and old. We all usually engage new jobs and new assignments with some excitement and energy. After a while the new is gone and drudgery sets in. Some routine and repetition can be reassuring, but the smartest and most creative among your associates will not be content for long.
  7. Except for birth and death, most life processes are cyclical and repetitive. Of note is the fact that processes change as we mature because the way we interact with the world around us changes as we understand it better. Letting people mature in their positions is important here. One manager objected when her superiors demanded that her department’s associates complete a number of forms. She reasoned that the forms were there to assure certain tasks were completed and that the forms were unnecessary because the associates in her department had proven over time that they responsibly carried out those tasks without being reminded or monitored. “I work with grown-ups,” she said, “so those forms are insulting to their intelligence and sense of responsibility.” She was correct. What was necessary, even reassuring, to a child can be insulting to an adult.

As tempting as it may be to assign responsibilities, you can never completely divorce yourself from them. You may be able to hand off large and heavy loads, but somewhere along the way smart managers and leaders take a measure of just how well things are going.

What experience have you had in this area? Did you hand something off and walk away from it? What happened? If it worked just fine, why? If not, what happened and why? If you know an overworked colleague who gets frustrated at the demands made on his time and attention, pass this article on to him.

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