Have you heard this term before? Working yourself out of a job?
Think of it as effective mentoring. Many of us are EXCELLENT at what we do; we are the one everyone calls on or leans on when a job needs to be done WELL. If you are the point-person in any aspect of your life, then it’s time to work yourself out of a job!
Welllll….Let’s take work, for example. You are a manager (or an independent contributor) and people who do not even report to you are seeking your expertise. It is time to impart knowledge and wisdom to those who show signs that they are willing and ready to take on the challenge. Let’s face it, you will retire from your job someday or you will be promoted to do other work. You may even change employers or start an entirely different career path. You should want to leave your position knowing that someone is able to take your place someday and carry on what you have started. They may even improve on it (that happens), but the groundwork is already there. What I have observed is we allow knowledge to walk right out the door (or pass away unexpectedly) then the company is left in a lurch. Someone is left to flounder as they get up to speed on what Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All knew or could do.
You may ask: Suppose I don’t want to teach someone what I know? After all, if I am the expert then I will lose my competitive edge if I share my knowledge. But I have a counter-question: What happens if the company is planning to promote you to another assignment? What will happen to the work you have done with care and precision? I have learned that when my hand is open, I am giving but I am also in a place to receive. When my hand is shut tightly, then all I have is what is in my hand.
Another example is family. What pearls of wisdom have you learned in life that can help your nephew stay out of jail or help to prevent your daughter from hanging with bad company? Will you warn, teach or guide? Or do you say (as I’ve heard many times) “I learned the hard way, and so should they”? Lessons learned are never meant for us only. You never know whose life you can save or who you can help to stay sane in the midst of personal turmoil if you would share what you know.
“They should ask if they want my help.” Oh, I’ve heard that one too. But if you have the ability and the wisdom and you see someone who NEEDS what you have, do you really have to wait for them to ask for your help? It is possible they do not know what you have experienced. Even if they know some of your story, how do they know that you want to help them? Many people just need someone to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Can I encourage you for a minute?” You never know how much you can impact someone for the rest of their lives.
“Maybe I need to sell what I know.” As in a book? A seminar with registration fees? Maybe. But did you know that when you are willing to give back freely you will never really be in need??? Why not give without expecting a return? Try it! The profound impact of free advice and counsel is yet to be measured.
My last example: Your legacy. Your beliefs. Your passion. Your position.
Do not hold out on those who are coming up behind you. Let them understand WHY you do what you do. Why do you believe the things you do? Why do you oppose certain things? What makes you jump up out of bed and rush out the door with excitement? What have you learned from your apprentice days that took you to your VP position?
Work yourself out of a job. Mentor someone. Teach them what you know – not from books, necessarily, but from life’s experiences. There are nuances and sub-cultures everywhere we turn. If we are uninformed we will make wrong choices and look like idiots. If you see someone trying to do the right thing, encourage them. If someone is really messing up, try to stop them.
We are our brother’s keeper. What we do for someone else, someone else will do for us or for our sons, our nieces or our daughters. We reap what we sow.
So, mentor someone. Work yourself out of a job.