There are some things that I am really bad at. I have a tough time learning foreign languages; I took Spanish 1 for two years and the highest grade I received was a B-. I still can’t speak Spanish. I volunteered to help out where needed at the grade school carnival; and it turns out, they needed someone to do face painting so I agreed to draw rainbows and footballs on happy children’s faces. I was surprised how many parents took pictures of my work, not because it was so good, but because it was really, really bad. My art was so bad that rainbows and footballs were indistinguishable from one another. It was two of the longest hours in my life. If you think about it, there are some things you are bad at too and all of us try to avoid doing them.
On the other hand, there are a lot of other things that I am good at. I’m good at painting houses, fixing cars, and straightening the chairs at our campuses. I’m good at playing catch and playing hockey, and I’m also good at counseling, working with metal, and driving long distances. The truth is, I am good at a lot of things and so are you.
Then there are a few things that I am excellent at. I’m excellent at far less things than I am good at. I’m a good writer, I can preach God’s Word clearly and passionately, I can diagnose problems in a complex environment, and I’m excellent at motivating people to do what God has called them to do. There are certain things that you are excellent at too. You might be excellent at managing systems or people, you might be excellent at including others or recruiting new clients. Everyone is excellent at a few things, good at many things, and can easily identify the things they are bad at.
The problem for leaders is that sometimes we commit to things just to fill the gap; out of duty and obligation we stand in the gap because someone has to. Sometimes we need to do this. That is why I did face painting. I’m not going to do it again, but at the time I filled the gap because it was the right thing to do and it helped the school carnival. If you are bad at something you won’t do it for long because it sucks the life out of you.
Not only do leaders fill the gap doing things they are bad at, they say yes to all the things they are good at. I like to paint houses, work on cars, and counsel people in crisis. We like to do the things that we are good at because we feel a sense of accomplishment and reward when we do them. There is nothing wrong with saying yes to the things that you are good at, but over time your schedule may be full of so many things you are good at, that you don’t have the time to actually do the few things you are excellent at. Therein lays the problem and this is what you need to do about it.
First, take an inventory of your commitments in order to determine what you are excellent at, good at or bad at but doing just to fill a gap. Over time, try to minimize the things you are doing that you are bad at. Since I am good at recruiting people, I should have recruited someone to paint faces that were excellent at it. This way, both of us would have been satisfied.
Second, limit the commitments you have, to the things you are good at. This sounds crazy, but you need to limit the things you do that you are only good at, so you can invest more time in doing the things that you are excellent at. Many good leaders can’t invest enough time in the things they are excellent at because they are doing so many things they are good at. In order to reach the next level as a leader, you need to focus on doing those few things that you are excellent at.
Third, focus your time and talents doing the few things that you are excellent at. Since you minimized the things you are bad at, and limited yourself to only a few commitments you are good at, you will have enough time to invest in the things that you are excellent at. When you do what you are excellent at you will feel confident, energized, and accomplished. Spend as much time doing what you are excellent at as you can.
Once school starts, we load up our schedules and buckle down. If you use your discretionary time to just fill in the gaps doing things you don’t enjoy you will burn out quickly. If you spent your time only doing what you are good at you will feel overwhelmed. Wise leaders invest their time in doing the few things they are excellent at and feel a deep sense of accomplishment because if it. What is keeping you from doing what you are excellent at? What are you going to do about it?