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Are You the Primary Value Creator?

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

You likely have more work on your to-do list than you can possibly complete today. Or this week. Or this month. In fact, if your to-do list is anything like mine, then crossing something off the list (or, in my case, checking the complete box in Omnifocus) has the strange of effect of causing two items to take the place of the one you just completed. But some of the work on your to-do list doesn’t really belong to you.

Here is the one question you can ask yourself to know whether the work belongs to you, or whether you should give it to its real owner.

The Test for All Work

The one question you need to ask yourself before you commit to doing the work is this: “Am I the primary value creator for this work?”

If you are the person that needs to create the unique value necessary to completing some task, then by all means, do that work. But for a lot of tasks on your to-do list, you aren’t the primary value creator. Someone else should really being doing that work because they can add more value to the work than you can. Or someone else should be doing because it really belongs to them. In this case, you’re probably only doing the work because you’ve rationalized it by telling yourself that by the time you trained someone, you could have done it yourself. Or maybe you’ve told yourself the big lie that there is no one can do the work as well as you can.

If you aren’t the primary value creator, you should give the work to the person that does create that unique and special value. Give the work to its rightful owner. By giving away the work in which you aren’t the primary value creator, you free yourself to do your real work, the work that only you can create the unique and special value required.


For what work are you the primary value creator?

What work on your to-do list really belongs to someone else?

How do you determine when and what work to delegate?

How do you invest the time teaching others to do work so you can delegate it completely in the future?

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  • Saul Fleischman

    Sounds like a great planet – where the beings can “give” (assign?) work to someone, work that might have been “given” to you – like, you know, by someone who can fire you…? Just saying – we don’t all get to be the guy at the very top.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I don’t about that, Saul. I see a lot of salespeople doing work that really belongs to their operations team or their customer service team. I see solopreneurs doing work that they’d be better off paying someone else to do, since they it isn’t how they create any real value. What do you think?

      • Saul Fleischman

        Okay, I see your point. With the bootstrapping startup founders I work with and also, those I network with regularly, we don’t have those luxuries. We don’t have the funds to pay people, though sure, we’d be better off in the long run if we did (and know it full well). And then, when I’ve been an employee, when I was given work to do, there was no handing off to who “should” do it; it was mine to do.

      • S. Anthony Iannarino

        I feel ya! Even though I have some people I can hand off to, I still can’t get enough off my to-do list.