I’m the smartest person in my business. It’s a problem.

You’re probably the smartest person on your team too. You’re most invested in your success and most familiar with the way your business provides value.

There’s a quote that goes, “the reward of work done well is more work.” And that’s the trap of being competent.

Yesterday, I hopped on a call with a client and found out that one of our projects was going off the rails. The client was happy with our work, but they were requesting changes that ran counter to their goals. My project manager recognized this, but she didn’t have the clout, strategic understanding, and ability to communicate why what they wanted was a problem.

I was engaged with objectives that will impact the entire business, but now they’re competing for my attention with operational work. Unless we make changes, our project manager will always pull me into client calls to fix things when clients push the project into unproductive areas.

When you’re highly competent in a domain, the people around you who are less competent will rely on you to fix problems and make decisions. Their capability will stagnate as they push their challenges to you.

When you face this trap, you have three options:

1) Eliminate scope. For whatever operational need requires your attention, remove it from your value delivery process. For this situation, we could sell ourselves as technicians only and not responsible for strategy.

2) Source help. For this situation, we might find a contract digital strategist or hire a general manager with domain experience.

3) Develop capacity. For this situation, we might improve our project systems to continually reinforce strategy or train our project manager on how to challenge clients in a way that is productive.

It’s gratifying to be relied on and feel important. But it also creates a bottleneck in your business that limits its capacity to grow.

If you’re getting sucked into operations, which of these strategies will have the best impact in extracting you?

Featured image is of Odysseus tied to his ships mast to avoid the call of the sirens. By Siren Painter (eponymous vase) – Jastrow (2006). Used under public domain.