Over the years, I have often heard the phrase, “It’s quicker if I just do it myself.” Your husband doesn’t know to transfer that file from Dropbox to his hard drive. Your wife doesn’t know how to reset the timer on the automatic outdoor lights. The new deacon doesn’t know how to make a hospital visit. Your co-worker can’t connect to the wireless. The Chair of Deacons doesn't have a key to the building because they can’t work the alarm system. Your toddler can’t quite get that other arm in the coat.
You see where this is going. In all these cases, it seems quicker and easier to just do it yourself. The problem with this approach is that it does not take the long view. It saves time only in the short term. You save time in that moment. You accomplished in a few seconds or a minute or two what it might have taken you half an hour or more to train someone else to do, but you have trapped yourself.
Losing the Minutes
You did not teach the other individual to be self-sufficient, so you are now on the hook to perform that task for them again and again. You find yourself more and more restricted to performing these same tasks. You always have to transfer the file or reset the timer or make the hospital visit. The wireless connection will continue to be just as confusing to that co-worker tomorrow. While your toddler . . . well, that’s admittedly different. It’s true that your toddler will eventually learn to put the coat on in a tolerably short time, but he won’t learn it as fast if you keep doing it for him.
Each and every time that you stop your work to perform a task that you should have trained someone else to accomplish, you are losing those minutes. Multiplied over a year or a lifetime or a career, those minutes add up to a lot of lost time. You get the idea. We save time in the moment because we believe that we don’t have time to teach someone else. We trap ourselves in to losing those same minutes again and again over the long term.
Losing the Opportunity
Lost time is not even the most serious consequence. More serious is the impact that your failure to train has on the individual. Your failure to teach them hinders their independence. You hinder their ability to grow, to develop new skills, and to become self-sustaining in their tasks. You diminish their self-confidence. You rob them of the opportunity to successfully accomplish a new and hard thing.
Over the long term, you hinder productivity. If you are not available, they can't make progress on their task. They are frustrated because they are dependent on your schedule. This causes them to lose time and productivity in their tasks, as well. By failing to teach them, you actually dis-empower them. You diminish their ability to respond fully to their work and ministry.
All this sounds pretty serious, and I believe that it is. Whether you are a pastor, a parent, a partner or a co-worker, everyone benefits when we are empowered to learn new skills and accomplish new tasks.
Don’t do it yourself. Make the sacrifice of empowering others. Take the time to teach, to train, to develop other people. Train yourself to say, “Let me show you,” or “I’ll walk you through it,” instead of “Here, I’ll do it for you.”
Doing It Right Together
Alex Martinez, a UBA Administrative Assistant, is a master at this. I’ve known more than one administrator or office manager over the years who simply refused to work with volunteers. Each one said, “I’d rather do it myself. It takes less time, and I’ll know it’s being done accurately.”
Those administrators were hard workers. They were fast. They were accurate. They paid attention to detail. They demanded excellence from themselves. They got an enormous amount of work done and they got it right.
Alex is no different. She possesses all those qualities and values to the full. She also knows that one person’s time is limited. She knows that training others to do a job well empowers them and releases time for her. She manages the work of three to five weekly or regular volunteers in our office.
Those volunteers record financial deposits, enter attendance, and type manuscripts; they are the “frontline” for those who call us or come to the office. They do tasks that are important and in which there is little room for error. How is it that we are confident in their ability to do these tasks every week?
We are confident because Alex has taken the time to train them, to check their work in the beginning, and to provide additional instruction and correction when a task went awry. Any one of these tasks could have been done quicker and more efficiently in the short term by Alex herself. And it would have saved her the anxiety of wondering if a task were well-done—if there were errors, if she had trained them well enough.
Yet Alex knows the wisdom of the old adage “Many hands make light work.” She believes that we are all “co-laborers with God.” By taking the time to train and develop others, she not only expands her capacity to accomplish things, but she pours into the development of others who are co-laborers in the Kingdom of God.
Don’t do it yourself. Teach someone.
Dian Kidd is UBA's Associate Director and has served UBA for almost 30 years. She guides the day-to-day team actions as team leader for UBA's consultant team and oversees daily implementation of data management, communications, strategy and inner-office workings.