The ROI of Unimportance – A New Year’s Resolution

Regardless of our role in the hierarchy of any organization, whether it is the board chair, the Head of School, a teacher or an administrative assistant, there are always others who need our efficient and timely accomplishment of tasks to enable them to do their jobs more easily. Whether it’s a teacher waiting for an administrator’s permission to undertake an extraordinary project, an administrator waiting for a staff member to turn in a required document, or a board chair waiting for the Head’s input to finalize a board meeting agenda – jobs are made so much easier when others meet deadlines, respond quickly to requests for information and submit material in the required form. Those who expect things from us are grateful when we provide them the right way, and resentful when we add to their work by being late, or having to be reminded, or providing things in the “wrong” form.

While we may underestimate the importance of our efficiency in such “administrivia,” it could not be more important. We assess others by how they impact us. We are most assuredly judged by how we affect others. Being a good teacher, or administrator, or board chair, is very hard. There are difficult decisions to be made, complex problems to be solved, tough classes to teach. Being efficient about administrative requirements is relatively easy. It is the “low hanging fruit” of whatever position we are in.

I try to help my pre-service education students understand this. I tell them that a critical differentiator between those who are valued in any teaching or administrative position and those who are not, is how they affect those around them. I go so far as to say that an “average” teacher who makes everyone else’s job easy will likely be more highly prized that an “outstanding” one who is uncooperative, and creates work and difficulties for others.

Let 2018 be the year we focus on attending to those simple, “unimportant”, routine matters meticulously. We probably couldn’t do anything more helpful for our careers. The return on investment will be phenomenal!

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