A colleague once asked Albert Einstein for his telephone number and was surprised to see Einstein reach for the phone directory. “You don’t remember your own number?” the man asked. To which Einstein replied, “Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?”
Einstein may owe some of his genius to his ability to prioritize. While he certainly had the capacity to memorize large amounts of trivia, he knew that this wasn’t the best use of his talents. He reserved his brain power for solving complex problems and used other resources to help him with the less complex.
I’ve found that great managers do the same with their time. While they are certainly capable of making copies, shuffling paper or solving routine problems, they recognize these tasks for the traps that they are. Less-discriminating managers become entangled in a web of administrivia and find that they have no time left to work on more important priorities. Often in an attempt to appear like a “team player” to their direct reports, these managers waste their hard-earned experience, knowledge and training on tasks that could be handled more effectively (and less expensively) at a lower level.
Don’t sell what you’ve worked so hard to gain so cheaply. The most effective are not always the most popular, but they spend their time like they spend their money – where it will bring them the greatest return on their investment.