Leaders: When you have a goal or project to achieve, ask who not how.

“If I had to do it over again, I’d ask for help.” Anonymous

I wish I had read Dan Sullivan’s book, Who Not How, fifty years ago when I started my career. It’s a simple but significant message: When you have a project to do or a goal to achieve, don’t ask “How do I achieve this task or goal?” Rather ask, “Who can help me achieve this?”

I’ve always been a high achiever with a good work ethic, which is admirable; but often it’s been counterproductive—I work hard, but sometimes I don’t work smart. Even to this day, when I identify something that needs to be done, my first thought is often, “How can this be done?” I may even take it one step further and think, “How can this be done and when can I do it?” So instead of asking for help, I do it myself. For instance, I have a hard time paying someone to do house repairs that I can do myself (I still trim my own shrubs), but at times that’s not the best use of my time and energy. 

This mentality was set early in my life. I grew up in a low-income family and we didn’t have money to hire work done, so we did everything ourselves. This has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that I’ve learned how to do a lot of things myself; I’ve learned how to get things done (process thinking), and I’ve saved a lot of money.   

But there’s downside: I tend to do things that I should delegate to others. If I delegated more often, I would have more time to focus on things that only I can do, and, with professionals doing the job, the result is usually superior.  

I continue to wrestle with the financial aspect. If I had unlimited funds, of course I would ask who instead of how, and simply contract others to do the work. But I don’t have unlimited funds.

Can any of you, my readers, offer a solution to this conundrum? Do you struggle with the same thing? 

I should probably heed the advice of author Greg McKeown: “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everything, can you make your highest contribution toward the things that really matter.”