Adventures of an Urban Nomad

The Competence Trap

According to the Google dictionary, competence is “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.”

There are some things I’m good at, other things I’m OK at and then there are things that … well, let’s not talk about those.

The things I’m good at I enjoy doing and will do those in preference to things I have to do.

Those that I’m OK at, I don’t mind doing but would rather be doing something else.

And the other things – I said we won’t talk about those.

The point (although taking a long time to get there) is that I consider myself pretty competent in a range of areas.

And because of that I will do those things in preference to others.

The problem this creates in my business and possibly personal life is that I get caught up in doing things that I really need to delegate to others.

An example is writing.

I’m pretty good at that, and mostly enjoy doing it.

In order to have a website and a good presence .in the social media space involves a lot of writing.

So it should be easy for me to get plenty of content written for my website, blogs, Linkedin, facebook etc etc

However, I get caught up doing lots of other things which are important and/or urgent.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

This is referred to as the”Eisenhower Matrix”.

These are defined as:

Important activities
have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.

Urgent activities
demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

We’re all familiar with the matrix which comes out of this:
Urgent and important – do it now
Important and not urgent – schedule it
Urgent and not important – delegate it
Not urgent and not important – ignore it
(That’s my take on it.)

My challenge is that this principle is often overruled by the “Competency Principle” which is “I CAN do it so I SHOULD do it”.

Often we feel that we’re the only one who can do it as well as we can.

This is a huge trap.

Many of the tasks we CAN do are ones we should delegate.

At work, there are quite a few items on my to-do list.

All of them are things I can do, otherwise I wouldn’t have them on the list – I’d give them to someone else straight away.

We’ve recently added some very capable people to our team who have been volunteering to get specific tasks done.

I found myself reacting (although not saying it out loud) with I WANT to do that because I enjoy it.

I then decided it would be better if I delegated these things.

As a result I started to find I had more time to get important things done like spending time working ON my business rather than IN it.

While there’s still a long way to go I can already see the benefits of employing good people and letting them do the things they love.

Yes, I CAN do it but am I better off spending my time on important things which provides an environment where other people (and me) are all enjoying and getting rewarded by doing our bit?

Are you being like me, and getting caught in the Competence Trap?

If you find this is something you tend to do, it’s worth putting a sign above your computer, on your bathroom mirror and anywhere else you will regularly see it and get reminded which says: “Just because I CAN do it, doesn’t mean I SHOULD do it”.

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