When I was in college, I played on the rugby team for four years. Halfway through my senior season, our coach passed away. At the time, I was the captain of the team and a fairly decent player. Given we did not have time to take on a new coach for the final 6 games of the season, I attempted to be both captain and coach. Playing in the game and trying to manage the game at the same time.
Needless to say, this did not turn out as well as I had planned. Trying to focus on both things at once left each of them wanting. I could see it degrading, but I was convinced the team needed me on the field. What I could not see at the time, what I was blinded to in my drive to make everyone happy, was how much value I was leaving on the sidelines.
We all have natural abilities, the value we can bring to the world. These are our strengths, our passions, those things we are really good at. When people see our value, they ask us to do things that will bring them value. If we are good at organizing, we could be asked to be the scribe for a team, if one of our strengths is strategizing, we will get requests to help create varying types of plans.
There are immediate rewards that come with these requests. They make us feel wanted, seen, and valued. At the very same time, if we aren’t being diligent about it, that desire to feel value can be the exact thing that keeps us from creating the type of value we have the potential to deliver.
As a player, I was good. But as a coach, I was probably the best on the field given the circumstances. Yet, because I really enjoyed scoring points, being noticed by others, and being the MVP, I failed to see how much I was actually holding the team back. Every time I was on the field, I was actually leaving the potential higher value delivery on the sidelines. Instead of focusing 100% on the highest value role, I did both at 80%.
So many people I see struggle with the same choice. They have a client that wants to pay them to do something that the individual can do and, at the same time, they get a request from a client for something they can do really well. But, instead of focusing only on the one that they will be best at delivering, that they can create the most value with, they take both, and dilute their own value. Others choose a job or assignment because it pays more or it sounds prestigious but it’s not in line with what they really enjoy and they burn out quickly.
Because being of any value is such a good feeling, it becomes quite difficult to focus on our highest value, those opportunities where the world’s need and our unique passion aligns. We get so excited to play that we accept any position on the field and risk leaving better opportunities on the sideline. And, if this continues, we can lose touch with where our higher value actually lies because we are doing too many things and struggling with burnout.
Had I chosen to stop playing, the other 15 players on the field would have had more direction and won more games. By choosing only the client we are best suited for, even if we could deliver that other thing for them, we can bring 100% to doing that thing that we know we can do better than anyone else, and open the door to do more of it. By picking only the jobs and assignments that are right for us, instead of the ones that are right now, we have more capacity to add a higher level of value on a more sustainable basis.
So many of us have boatloads of value on the sideline waiting to be utilized. Sometimes this comes from taking on too many tasks outside of our highest value, sometimes it comes from not knowing what our highest value opportunities look like, and other times it’s simply allowing someone else to make that decision for us.
Whatever the reason, if we want to pull more of our value in from the sidelines, we are going to have to start making some tough decisions. Forgo that immediate reward, the thank yous and recognition that comes from getting any job done, and get focused on the bigger rewards the come from doing those things only we can do well. Get really clear on where we can provide the most value and commit to making that more of what we do.
And, when we pull in our value, we allow others to do the same.