Letting Go: Radical Delegation

By Rob Knapp

If we’re lucky enough to be well-parented (and I was), we’ll often enter adulthood carrying great gifts. We may or may not be consciously aware of them. We may not realize their  importance until much later. When you are subject to optimal parenting there are all manner of useful gifts and lessons deposited into our psyches. The power of a negative example can provide a purpose that drives one toward a remarkable life. In my case my father was a positive example. With a single sentence I'll never forget, he armed me with an idea that grew more and more powerful the longer I carried it forward.

My father was an industrial engineer for Armstrong. The company made linoleum floors and his job was to make them more efficiently. He was given the task of relentlessly squeezing costs out of the manufacturing process; and relentless he was. He used to say, "believing you've eliminated all the costs was just a failure of imagination."

Dad was a smart guy, and even my 15-year-old self wanted to learn something from him. I asked him one Saturday when he brought me into the office, “What’s your job?” His answer is the gift he gave me. He said,

“My job is to eliminate my job—my job is getting everyone else to do the stuff that’s in the job description so that I can think up new things.”

His job was to think, to envision cost savings, to invent new workflows. It wasn’t to send memos or sit in staff meetings (although I’m sure he did his share of each). And with that idea perking inside me, I entered adulthood. As my career unfolded and Supernova emerged, the idea of getting other people to do your job so you can do your real job crystallized into a bedrock principle I live by. Today, I call it radical delegation.

It’s easy to see this principle at work in a growing Supernova practice. The administrator runs the office. They schedule the 12-4-2 sessions; they move the folders into place, they even schedule the acquisition calls. Why? First off, they are organized and dispassionate about the tasks, meaning they are more resistant to avoidance and procrastination. But most importantly, it’s not your job.

Your job as a leader and FA is to think about your clients and your team. Your job is to get deeper and deeper into their lives so that you can understand the complexity and respond with a plan and with solutions that make their lives better. Your job is to become your client's CFO, and as soon as you think you've done everything you can you need to look at it again so you don't have your own 'failure of imagination'.

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