In modern business, it’s easy to get pulled away from where you really excel. Leaders advance because they’re good at their work, but managers have to become generalists. And that creates a problem.
You see, generalists have a nasty tendency to gravitate toward areas where they don’t belong. They want to try every niche, and they often know just enough to be dangerous. My advice: Try recognizing what you’re good at rather than what excites you. Because even if you’re really excited to go play in that new sandbox, you might end up just making a mess.
If you’re a leader, try relying on those core skills that made you successful. And when you’re not in your area of expertise, rely on your team who does this for a living. You don’t need to know everything; just be aware of what you don’t know and let your specialists fill in the gaps.
I saw this a lot in my years in the newspaper industry. An ad director would get promoted to run a newspaper, and without fail, the first thing they did was go into the newsroom and decide to be an editor. Reporting on real news had always been off limits in their field, so they were excited to try this new area. But, as you might guess, being an ad director didn’t translate well into being an editor, and there was a lot of frustration from the editing staff who had to slow down their processes for the new boss.
A better route for them would’ve been to stay in the world of ad directing, where they excelled, and left the editing to the editors, perhaps with some check-ins and discussions. That’s the difference between working with your strengths and working with your interests, and believe me, that distinction will change how your business runs.
If you’re really interested in this subject, I’d recommend So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport. It’s insightful, gives actionable advice, and delves deeper into this topic than I can swing in a weekly newsletter.