Several weeks ago, Adam Bryant of the New York Times interviewed David Rosenblatt, chief executive of 1stdibs, an online marketplace for high-end goods. He asked Rosenblatt about some of the key lessons he has learned in his career. Rosenblatt talked about struggling to determine how he should allocate his time during his early days as a chief executive. He then explained that he had established some rules that helped him in this area. Here's an excerpt:
I learned Rule No. 1 from Irv Grousbeck, who teaches an entrepreneurship class at Stanford Business School. And that is, very simply, “You can hire people to do everything but hire people.” Rule No. 2 that I think about every day is, “Only do the things that only I can do.” So if it’s someone else’s job to do it, I try not to do it. If I find myself doing too many of those things that are actually someone else’s job, then it relates back to Rule No. 1 — I probably don’t have the right person in that role. But just like anyone in any role, it’s important to understand, where is my comparative advantage? What am I better at than almost anyone else?
The article contains more on this subject. I recommend taking a look. The two rules are a great start though. I think the second one needs to be an explicit question that each leader poses to himself or herself. As the leader on a major program here at Bryant University, I know that I need to address this question. As I launched the program, I was doing many things. Now, as the program matures, I have to think about the way I'm spending my time. I'm clearly not playing to my comparative advantage. Many leaders find themselves doing a bit of everything when an organization is in start-up phase. Then, as the firm grows, they need to focus on that comparative advantage question. It's hard to let go, but you can't make the organization successful without addressing this issue.