Don't Do, Teach

Jun 18, 2021 12:19 AM
TLDR: Whenever possible, when people ask you to do things, turn the tables and teach them efficient ways to do them instead.
Early in your career, you do everything possible to be the best at a task. I built my career on the back of deeply complex excel data models and early PowerBI dashboards (started with Power Query/Power Pivot/Power View, but thats another story)
I was sought out for my output, and if I was lucky I got to layer in some of my ideas in the end product. This turned into an endless cycle of signing up for more and more special projects for the high that came from being involved in the "interesting work", even if my involvement just meant burning midnight candles to pump out data visualizations.
I didn't know how to say no. I was doing dozens of favors for internal teams at my firm based on my well known data analysis skills, but the joy I felt from being in the room (cue Hamilton) was dwarfed by the exhaustion I felt from working a full time job, plus about 20 hours a week of special projects, plus a full time MBA on the weekends.
I started to change my strategy, and it's paying endless dividends now. When I was sought out for my analysis skills, I slowly started shifting from doing, to teaching others how to do. Instead of being known for my output, I started to be known for my ideas. Of course, this takes lots of research and effort to stay up to date with modern, efficient ways of working - but who doesn't spend all their time reading hackernews for new python tricks anyways?
If you are only known for your output, you are limited by the 40 (or 60, or 100) hours a week you have to spend on work. Instead, be known for your ideas, and focus your time spreading the gospel to others. Ideas are contagious. Output is finite.
This starts small, but here are a few strategies:
  • Take interns under your wing from other parts of the org. I spent a TON of time early in my career coaching every intern in our finance organization how to think about data and automating work in their day-to-day.
  • Show up to the meeting early and pick up the whiteboard marker first. Instead of being responsible for distributing notes, you become responsible for curating the conversation
  • Don't offer to share your screen on zoom, instead ask the team member you are working with to share, and guide them through how you would do it.
Of course, know your audience. If your boss asks you for a deliverable, do that. This strategy works best right on the turning point of your career where you are given more flexibility to choose how to spend your time.
The best way to move from individual contributor to leader is to outsource your hands.