How to Grow a Third Arm

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How much more productive would you be with a third arm? I have a formula for one! Fear not, it doesn’t involve psychedelic mushrooms and vodka (a disappointment for some). It involves tactful trust and developmental delegation.

This could be you! Well, sorta.

This could be you! Well, sorta.

Investing in others is a scary thing, especially when you are trusting them to handle something precious to you. But think about making your life and job EASIER and all of the benefits that come with MORE TIME. Before you can develop anyone you need to develop yourself. Start thinking positively about the benefits of teaching someone to do the more basic tasks within your scope of responsibility.

Simply put, attempt to categorize all tasks into two columns: “No Mistakes Allowed” & “Mistakes Tolerated.” The first column must stay within your direct control as we cannot afford a problem there. The second column is where we start considering which tasks could be shared as a learning experience with an emerging talent. Maybe it’s 1 task, possibly 3? Choose a total that offers a meaningful return on your investment in terms of time. Identify the skill needed for the task and then seek out your third arm.

  • Manage Payroll – Detail Oriented, Accounting Skills, Time Management
  • Organize Meetings  – Communicator, Collaborative Personality, Tech Savvy
  • Attend Meetings for You – Professional, Listener, Understands Inter-Office Politics
  • Project Management – All of the above!

Scan your roster of dedicated teammates and find the match between skill and ability. The most important step in this process is to directly ask your targeted teammate if they are eager to “learn more about the environment” or “learn more about the next level of management?” It’s critical to capture the right attitude, and this starts with an up front commitment between both of you to teach and learn with the proper spirit. Even when you find the right attitude you still might not know if you’ve matched the right person to the right task, but this is part of the cost to growing extra extremities. You WILL MAKE MISTAKES, as will the teammate you choose. But that’s OK! You gave them tasks that can be corrected if mismanaged. When mistakes are made, you will flip the “Teacher” switch and live up to your end of the bargain (developing your talented third arm).

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Let’s review the benefits of pushing through this initial investment of time to delegate and develop. You are rewarding an eager teammate with the chance to enhance their contribution to an environment they care about. The reward of mentorship is gratifying, appreciated, and has no hard cost. These efforts are often public and the entire team sees your efforts to reward talent with attention, a leader’s greatest currency. Finally, look at all the time you stand to gain (or invest elsewhere)? Let’s assume that managing payroll takes 3 hours a month, organizing meetings takes 2 hours a month, attending meetings in your place takes 8 hours a month, and managing projects takes 10 hours a month. You stand to get 3 to 23 hours a month to reposition within your job scope.

What would you do with 23 freed up hours given your current workload? What would you do with your third arm? How about a “High-15?” Slap-Slap-Slap!

One thought on “How to Grow a Third Arm

  1. I don’t have anyone to delegate to (yet) in my role…but this could also work with giving children assigned tasks and more responsibility, which would allow parents more time I would guess.

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