I’m sure you’ve read the Biblical story about Moses taking on too much (Exodus 18:13). I think every leader can relate to his situation at some point in their career. It doesn’t take long for the issues to stack up in a growing ministry/business. Before you know it, you are surrounded “from morning til evening” just like Moses. I too have heard the figurative voice of Jethro in my head saying, “what you are doing is not good” and it has led to an intentional delegation and leadership development strategy.

However, effective delegation is just the beginning of this leadership challenge. As soon as you begin to feel comfortable delegating, you are then faced with another dilemma: in addition to dealing with escalated issues from those you have given authority, you also need to discern how best to spend the remainder of your time.

In his bestselling book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber states,

A true business opportunity is the one that an entrepreneur invents to grow him or herself. Not to work in, but to work on.

Mr. Gerber is obviously talking to the entrepreneur, but I truly believe that the opportunity exists for every senior leader in any organization as well. Gerber talks about how we need to wear three different ” hats ” in order to be successful and grow our business: that of technician, entrepreneur, and finally manager. Spend too much time wearing any one hat and it’s a recipe for disaster.

So, with that in mind, how much time should we spend “in” versus “on”?

First, it’s important to identify those activities that fall into each category. I recommend literally making a list. If the result of a task is a product or service that your organization provides for it’s constituents, then you should consider it an “in” activity. Any time spent thinking about what to do (as opposed to how) or building, planning, strategizing, or developing relationships other than your direct staff, can be considered “on” activities.

Chances are your list will surprise you. I know mine did. The “in” activities are typically our sweet spot. They allow us to demonstrate our gifting and work within our strengths. For this reason, those activities are super important. But if you are a business owner, ministry founder, or senior leader, I would encourage you to spend the majority of your time on average working on your “on” activities. Why? Because if you don’t it won’t be long before you will lose sight of the bigger picture and become caught up in what you are doing instead of your long-term vision.

Decide for yourself what ratio of in vs. on works for you. Maybe start with a 60/40 approach and see how it goes. Reevaluate after a month and see if you can push it to 70/30. Spending more time on vs. in is sure to pay off.

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