Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just how important do you think you really are?

I once heard it said that the ultimate measure of an ‘important’ person is that when they die their death affects the financial stock market. The person telling me this was referring to the circumstance where the variance of the value of the shares of a particular company is so high that it in-turn changes the stock market value world wide (such as the Dow Jones or FTSE). If you are really ‘important’, your death might even influence the exchange rate of a national currency. Of course there are not many of us that are that important (read influential), so the following story / insight might better apply to those of us with a more humble status:

‘The graveyard is full of irreplaceable people’

It was not that many years ago, while I was working on (what was for me and my client) a very important project that mid way through I began to run out of steam. I was tired and suffering from a heavy cold that just would not go away. I was simply ignoring all of Mother Nature’s warnings in the profound belief that keeping the project going at full speed was the only thing that mattered. It was nearly Christmas and my family and children were looking forward to seeing me. I hadn’t seen them for a long time. Once I arrived back in England for the three days I had allocated for family duties, the cold took over and became flu. As a consequence I was forced to spend most of the three days sick in bed recovering. It was then that a wise friend reminded me that ‘The graveyard is full of irreplaceable people’. It is true, so very true.

This year I have seen too many faces I know with the same tired expression that I had, even at times my own, blankly gazing back at me in the mirror. This simply has to stop. There are two fundamental factors that get us to this point:

1. Our ego’s simply ignore the commonsense logic of responsible delegation.
2. Taking on too much in the first place, not being able to say ‘no’

Re: 1. Too often I hear, ‘it’s not that simple, I simply do not have anyone I can delegate to, and if I did it would take longer to explain it to them than simply doing it myself’. Nonsense! Just take a look at really successful people and you will find a common tendency in their ability to delegate. It comes naturally to them.
Re: 2. ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person’. This wise saying is true because ‘busy’ people have an uncanny knack of filling their free time with important and useful activities. But what on earth can be more important than spending a little quality time with our loved ones? After all our families and friends are our sponsors, they are often the people who give us the space to do what we do.

So when you find yourself in a frame of mind where you think you momentarily irreplacable, don’t kid yourself. During my career I have seen many irreplaceable people drop dead, only to notice that within days and weeks of their untimely departure their business world is back to normal again. Someone always steps into the vacant position. Often the business realizes that the person’s workload was too much, so they allocate their tasks to a number of profiles. And if you are deliberately trying to make yourself irreplaceable – stop! It’s a dangerous path that will only lead to disappointment and bitterness and no one will love or thank you for it.

Facing our own lack of importance need not be depressing, it simply reminds us that we are not alone on this planet, and that by and large we choose to spend our time the way we do. We simply need to decide if we have the balance right and if spending more time for our inner selves and with others, is not better for us and for them in the long run? After all none of us can be sure how long that is.


Kurt said...


Another blog that is spot on. Reading the text I noticed when you posted it. I hope this server does not run on European time otherwise you may have to reread what you wrote.
The worrying thing is that most people that will read this blog will recognise it and they may even smile reading it ... but the next day they will carry on as ususal.
A suggestion for having a clean brake. Give your wife the password to your internet router so she can disable it when she feels like it. And for those with a UMTS card or a blackberry hand it in.....

Harley Lovegrove said...

The blog server is on US time zone! ;-) But your suggestion of handing internet access rights over to my wife is frightening by an excellent idea. Before WiFi I had to go off to my office, now I can pretend to be present with the family but be mailing at the same time. The result... No engagement with my family and poor quality communication to my teams

Anonymous said...

You are three people: who you think you are; who others think you are; and who you really are.