There is some irony in the fact that one of the secrets of being a great leader is that sometimes you need to act like a spoiled five-year-old. And by that I mean that you need to embrace the idea of saying, "I don't want to!" Let me explain.
Anyone who has kids or spends any time with them knows what I'm referring to. Inevitably, you will get to a point where a young child learns to express him or herself by being very vocal about what they don't want to do. You know what happens, too, when you make the child do something that don't want to anyway: they grumble, they slouch, and they drag themselves along as slowly as they can. In short-they're a real pain to be around.
Guess what: adults are just like this-including leaders. While maybe we aren't quite as dramatic as our kids, there is a real lesson in understanding the power in saying "I don't want to" when it comes to certain tasks involved in running your business.
This behavior is something I talk a lot about in my recently published book "Great CEOs Are Lazy". The point in saying "I don't want to" is not that you're lazy, but that you should spend more time on the tasks you want to do instead. What you say "no" to defines you more than what you say "Yes" to.
The trap is that you probably believe that because you're the leader of your organization, you have a responsibility to tackle tasks that you don't want to undertake. You might even be pretty good at doing them. The problem is that if you really don't want to do them, there is a real price to pay.
First off, you will dread tackling the task, which might lead you to procrastinate and put it off longer than you should-which adds risk to the equation. Second, anyone who looks at your body language will immediately know you are miserable. Three, you simply don't have the energy you used to. These are the early warning signs that you should find someone to delegate this task to. Why? Because when you actually start doing the work, your negative energy will begin to infect the rest of organization. People look to their leasers for cues and if yours are low energy and miserable-they will take this very negatively.
That means that rather than infusing the organization with energy and inspiration like you should be doing, you are literally sucking the life out of the room. It's not just you who is suffering; you are making the rest of the organization miserable along with you-just like the little kid throwing a tantrum. The most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur and a leader is to protect your energy for the business.
Case in point: I recently worked with a CEO who headed up a manufacturing operation. This CEO was an engineer and had an amazing gift of driving quality, design, and efficiency into the operations of his facility. And he loved working on projects like this. But when I met him, he had just lost his vice president of sales. Rather than replace the VP, the CEO decided he needed to add sales to his plate as well as a way to save money. And he was actually a pretty good salesman because he had a passion for his products. The problem, though, was that he hated selling. He just didn't enjoy the process or the fact that he had to talk to a bunch of people all day.
The result was all too predictable: he slowly became more and more miserable, which began to seep out into the rest of his organization. Rather than having the happy and excited CEO to look up to, his team now began to avoid him and his cranky mood. The company's performance began to suffer.
The solution we eventually arrived at was simple: he hired a new VP of sales. Once he did that, the CEO's energy miraculously returned, as did his good mood, and the company's growth began to surge once again.
Believe me, I understand that there will be times when you have to suck it up and tackle something you're rather hand off to someone else but can't. We have all had those moments. But the goal should be to minimize how often those experiences happen. Then be sure to reward yourself by doing something next that helps you recharge and replace that lost energy.
So the next time you're faced with tackling a task that causes you to swallow hard with dread, be selfish about protecting your energy and channel your inner five-year-old by embracing the idea of "I don't want to" and find someone else to tackle it instead.