A Surgeon Can Be a Janitor, but a Janitor Can't Be a Surgeon: Delegating Within a Zone of Genius

We hear the phrase “zone of genius” often, whether in self-help articles about unlocking your potential or figuring out how to maximize your potential at work. Sometimes you might hear one say “I’m in my zone!” as a synonymous phrase. Essentially, being in the “zone,” so to speak, is merely the mash up of your top talent and your purpose.

The article title says “a surgeon can be a janitor but a janitor can’t be a surgeon.” Think about that for a minute. In breaking this down as a preface for the rest of this conversation, let’s consider each position (a janitor and surgeon) in terms of one’s top talent and purpose. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that each person in the position, the janitor and surgeon, absolutely LOVE what they do.

If you are a janitor, your talents may lie within keeping the premises of a building/facility in tip-top shape though knowing the best chemicals to use, application and have a process in which you go about your job. The purpose is to do just that, to keep facilities clean. No doubt it is laborious work and a great, and much appreciated, trade. One might expect a modest wage from this trade. On the bright side, because college and all that jazz isn’t for everyone, you don’t have to spend years and mega $$$ to do it. If you have drive, and are willing to put in some elbow grease, you can be great in your field.

A surgeon on the other hand has talent in a steady hand and highly specialized medical knowledge. These talents are obtained through years of very specialized, and very costly education, and a specialized board certification. Their purpose is to conduct surgeries in order to help heal people, often with very serious or life threatening problems. While also laborious, and highly stressful, one can expect to be paid a much higher wage because of that specialty.

Can a surgeon be a janitor? Sure, if that person wanted to do facility maintenance no doubt they could pick up a mop or broom, roll their sleeves up, and get to work. At the same time, the surgeon would not be operating within their “zone.” Okay, now let’s reverse that. Can a janitor be a surgeon? Generally speaking, no, they cannot. That is because they haven’t had all of that specialized training and certifications, right? Also, the janitor wouldn’t be working within his/her “zone” either.

Let me give you a hypothetical: Imagine being at the hospital preparing for your heart surgery, the nurse walks in and says: Sorry, Tim (or whatever your name is) your cardiac surgeon, Dr. Miller, won’t be conducting your surgery today because he’s out with the flu. However, Ron, our most amazing janitor who was steady with a blade in taking gum off the floor last week, is going to stand in for him.

Consider another hypothetical: Imagine a busy ER, lots of trauma patients are rolling in from a serious multi-car traffic accident who all are going to need surgery. Dr. Miller is the only surgeon on staff and has to operate on all of these patients within the next 24-48 hours. Because of the number of patients who have been coming in, the hospital facility is in need of some cleaning, but janitor Ron is out on vacation for the next two days. Now imagine that the hospital president came down from his/her office to ask Dr. Miller to stop seeing patients and to mop up some floors and take out the trash.

Okay, clearly these are totally ridiculous stories and arguably would never happen. After all, would it ever really make sense to ask a janitor to be a surgeon, or for a high paid surgeon to do a janitor’s job? From a practical, and business standpoint, no, it would not. I suspect you’d agree that in a crowd of people you might more easily find people who could take on the task of being a janitor rather than one that would be qualified to be a surgeon, right? Interestingly, while it absolutely makes sense to see why a janitor can’t be a surgeon, and why a surgeon shouldn’t be asked to be a janitor…we still see this exact situation playing out…just with other fields.

Think about your own past work history. How many times have you, or someone you know, been educated/trained to do one particular job and then, from left field, management asks one to do something totally outside of the “zone.” I’m not talking like out of your comfort zone…but rather actually out of your “zone of genius” type of zone? If you are like me, you’ve been there, done that, and have a t-shirt to commemorate the frustration your felt from it.

A Note to Managers:

Hopefully you would agree that it doesn’t make sense to pay a surgeon to do janitors work. Similarly, it doesn’t make sense to have your accountant drafting your legal documents, or to have your general business lawyer trying to tackle your technology projects. Different trades require different skill sets. Of course, I’m not saying you can’t ask for occasional help with side projects here and there (especially if you are a start-up company and are lean on resources) but if you’re constantly going to the surgeon asking them to do janitor’s work – perhaps it’s time you considered engaging a janitor.

When you hire, or delegate out tasks, focus on delegating tasks within your employee’s “zone of genius.” Not only will it increase productivity (which ultimately helps the bottom line) but will also help keep moral higher and therefore reduce costly turnover. After all, no surgeon puts in all of the time, effort, and other resources that it takes to become a surgeon because they want to take over the janitor’s mopping.

Until next time friends…

What does your workload and Thanksgiving have in common?

Working diligent and effectively at all things in life is good. At the same time, when you are diligent and effective, others can see that as an opportunity to pile you up with more tasks and that can be a slippery slope. Saying “no” (realistically) early and often when you start getting overwhelmed is important for your well being and helps set boundaries with those lovely little “task delegators.”

Think of your workload like food. You can pile a mound of food on your plate like it’s a Thanksgiving feast, and you want to be sure and take a little bit of everything so not to offend anyone who contributed to the meal, but the reality is, your stomach is only so big and you can only eat so much at a time, right?  Even if you gorge yourself to the point of not being able to move…you become sluggish and tired and likely feel like crap.  Am I right?  Hey, we’ve all been there!  And what would happen if you continued such a “Thanksgiving feast” heavy eating pattern on a daily basis?  Never saying no to the food?  You’d likely grow to an unhealthy weight and be perpetually sluggish and tired – along with the development of other ailments like sleeplessness. Similarly, it’s important to remember that your plate is only so big.  If you pile the plate high enough, eventually food falls off the plate, onto the floor, and likely ends up in the trash, right?  So how do we normally manage a full plate of food?  Well, you take a little bit – eat it all – and if you’re still hungry, you go back for seconds, right?

Your workload, in the office or in life, is no different. You can’t live every day like it’s Thanksgiving and you can’t say no to great grandma Jean’s corn pudding or aunt Suzie’s pumpkin cheesecake.  It will literally make you less effective and likely sick – in more ways than one.  When people are trying to delegate more than what you can reasonably handle, recognize this!  Say “no” (and mean it) early and often to protect your health and sanity.

Until next time friends…

Five Benefits to Keeping Your Business Lawyer in the Loop

Let’s face it, the word “lawyer” for many is akin to a four letter expletive that people are offended by. Typically because it reminds people of getting sued and/or having to shell out, often unexpectedly, loads of cash that they rather have spent elsewhere…like on a vacation.  Similarly, like in all professions, not all lawyers are created equal, and not all lawyers really have their client’s financial interests at heart – after all, being a lawyer and having a law firm is a business. I personally pride myself on NOT taking advantage of my clients…giving them direction on how they can do things themselves and helping only where they REALLY need/want it…but after 18+ years in the legal field, I know that not all lawyers share my same client-friendly mindset. It is no wonder that people cringe at the thought of having to use a lawyer.

Lawyers don’t have to be a thorn in your side through.  In fact, a good lawyer can be a business’s greatest adviser and advocate – keeping in mind that a job of a lawyer is to tell you what you NEED to hear which can sometimes be very different than what you WANT to hear. All businesses should have a lawyer or two that they keep in regular contact with and it should be part of your regular business operating budget.

Before you go thinking I’m crazy, here are a few reasons that keeping your lawyer updated on the goings on of your business is advantageous:

  1. Lead Generation: Your lawyer can often be your biggest cheerleader (and lead generator) for future customers. Chances are your lawyer is tapped into many different networks.  You never know when someone they know will need your business’s products or services and a solid referral from your lawyer could be future revenue in your pocket.
  2. Idea Generator: An attorney that understands you, your business, and your goals can be an invaluable asset when it comes to creative thinking.  Brainstorming on new ideas with your lawyer may prove to be helpful in that they may be able to think of concepts outside the box for your business that you may not have already thought about.  What if that lawyer helps you generate the next million dollar idea?
  3. Cost Cutting: One thing that many lawyers are good at is organizing and streamlining processes – it’s part of the way we think.  What if your lawyer was able to give you ideas on how to streamline an existing process that will considerably help cut costs moving forward?  If a few hundred dollars for your lawyer’s time on the telephone could save you thousands of dollars in the next year, wouldn’t you do it?  Sure you would.  You’d be a fool not to.
  4.  Risk Mitigation: When you brainstorm with your lawyer on a new business concept, they can often help you plan your road-map to reach your goals and help you navigate around pitfalls that you might not even think about.  For example, when clients come to me talking about setting up a new business I always ask them the business name and ask if they have considered any reputation issues with that new business name.  The same goes for contracting issues, employee issues, etc. To that end as well, there is a LOT of bad information being circulated around on the internet. Indeed it is wise to conduct your own research but don’t you think it prudent to have your research double-checked by someone who knows where to actually find the correct information when it comes to the law? As Dr. Emily So once said, “better information means better ideas, means better protection.”
  5. Cost Effective: It is a lot cheaper to keep your lawyer up to speed on your business as it grows, even if through a short monthly 15 minute call, than it is to try and ramp your attorney up (trying to teach them everything about your business, including policy changes and the like in a short amount of time) when you suddenly need advice in order to be reactive to a situation – like when you are named as a defendant in a lawsuit.  When you are named as a defendant in a lawsuit, you typically only have 20 days (varies by court and jurisdiction) from the date that you are served with a complaint in order to determine what your defenses are and what sort of a response you will need to file.  That process becomes a whole lot easier if your attorney already knows about you, your business, it’s policies and procedures, etc.  It is also easier to to budget in a few hundred dollars a month to keep your attorney up to date then to get smacked with a request for a $20,000.00 retainer, most of that potentially being eaten up just “learning” about your business, and then having subsequent large litigation bills.

As you can see, there are many reasons to regularly communicate with your attorney and hopefully you would find it more advantageous and beneficial than paying your monthly insurance bill. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

If you are in the state of Arizona and are looking for that solid “friend in the lawyering business” consider Beebe Law, PLLC!  We truly enjoy helping our  business clients meet and exceed their goals!  Contact us today.

All information contained in this blog (www.beebelawpllc.blog.com) is meant to be for general informational purposes only and should not be misconstrued as legal advice or relied upon.  All legal questions should be directed to a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  

 

Smart people will, by default, never be “yes” men…

I see it all the time; business owners who hire professionals that turn around and try to tell them how to do their job.  Some call it micromanaging.  Others call it “big boss syndrome.”  What I know is this concept just doesn’t make sense.  Why would you do that?  Assuming that the quote “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” was actually said by Steve Jobs…I think he had it right.

Smart people, by their very design and nature, will not automatically be “yes” men.  They will question, analyze and reason with any requests that are made of them and, if they disagree with your position, they are going to tell you so and they will not do what you ask them to do if they know it is wrong or is going to bring harm to you in the long run. Professionals are not going to tell you what you WANT to hear…they are going to tell you what you NEED to hear.

A wise colleague of mine once said that the best you can do is advise your client on the best/right choice to make and let your client take it from there.  In the legal world this is true…after all, if the client goofs things up, and you have to fix it, you can look at it as job security.  Right?  I think, however, in a business setting, and you are an employee who has been hired to do an important job, this can be an even harder pill to swallow.  I suppose this is because if the boss screws things up, it could mean that you end up out of a job, or worse, which will make that employee fight harder against “bad” decisions.

Bottom line, if you want a “yes” man all of the time…don’t hire a smart person.  It just won’t work.