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Get on the Balcony

by Leadership Participant

Stop Getting in Your Own Way

My big takeaway from our first set of meetings has to be to “get on the balcony.”  Related to getting on the balcony, I recognized through our reading and activities that I need to delegate more, give work back, and say no more.  Once I condition myself to make a habit of doing these things, I will have carved out the time for me to be on the balcony. 

I have known for some time that I was too busy doing tasks that I should really be giving to others, work that I needed to give back to others, and learn to say no tasks and projects that do not fit with the vision, mission, and goals of our organization.  What I didn’t realize was how much of my identity I had wrapped up in the doing.  In our meeting, I spoke of feeling guilty about giving up doing in favor of leading.  I realize now that there are at least a couple of reasons for this. 

Do leaders get to wear capes to work?

The main reason I can think that I feel guilty is because, many times in our industry, we equate value to an organization in direct proportion to the technologies we know directly and can act upon.  If we can write a shell script to automate a task or configure new server infrastructure to support our organization, we have value to the organization and by extension, can justify our existence.  Everyone can see what we created.  No one ever bragged about leadership on Slashdot (well, not that didn’t get down voted anyway…).

Secondly, being able to do in technology becomes part of our identity.  We get internal value from being able to solve a problem that no one else can.  After a few times of doing that, people start thinking of us as technology as technology superheroes.  We can swoop in wearing our superhero cape and save the day.  That can be a powerful feeling and we can start to believe the hype.  Soon, the only way we can think to feed that part of our identity is to continue to do (and do more). 

Are we superheroes or villains?

Here’s where the realization came in for me.  While reading about getting on the balcony and later discussing the topics of giving work back and delegating, I finally understood that if I ever wanted to have greater influence and be able to get more done, I was going to have to break the cycle I had created for myself.  Currently, I do so I can feed my identity, feel good about myself, and show that I provide value to the organization.  That is a vicious, unsustainable cycle of continuously trying to do more to provide value.  In addition, I realized that the cycle is not only robbing me of time to lead, it is robbing others that I could delegate to of an opportunity to expand and grow in their position.  I learned that I need a new cycle that gifts instead of robs.  

Obviously, I don’t have all of the answers, but my eyes have been opened to the need to lead.  All of the topics we discussed started to fall into place for me after the second day of meetings.  I realized the importance of leading.  I also realized that to lead, I have to free up time to get on the balcony.  To free up time, I have to delegate to others, give work back, and say no to projects that don’t fit with our vision, mission, and goals statements.  When I delegate, I am going to free up tasks that others can learn from.  They can use these opportunities as a learning experience, which will make them more valuable assets to our organization and, in the case of student employees, tie their work with us more closely to their academic career at IUPUI.  This was the biggest realization for me.  I saw the blueprint for a new type of cycle that gifts time for leading to me and new experiences to others.  My entire department can grow out of this cycle. 

I know I do not have all of the pieces in place yet.  I have a lot of work to do to move from my current cycle that robs to this new cycle that gifts.  I also know that I have to continually work on myself to find the value in leading as much as I have valued doing.  I know I will have a lot of help in reinforcing that idea through the coaches we have and the new colleagues I met at the Information Technology Leadership Program.  


Nathan Byrer
Technology Director
Division of Undergraduate Education, IUPUI