If you want to do something right, do it yourself… Yes. I know it well.
But this is also a trap when running a project or company. If you don’t find and develop people who can and will, you will be stuck forever in that rut. It is also an Achilles heel for those with excellent technical competence for two reasons. Both reasons have to do with the psychology of high-performing technical people and is common with engineers, scientists, and such.
First, such people are competitive, even hyper-competitive and driven. This makes it hard for the hyper-competent to find people better than or equal to themselves – both because such people aren’t common, and because competitive people tend to unconsciously dislike people who might surpass them.
Second, for people that the most competent hire, the experience can be difficult. This is because the hyper-competent boss tends to feel threatened by people who are too competent. And because of that position, the very competent boss can set himself (or herself) up to win. This is a particularly difficult problem with managers because the competitive psychology needs to win, and feels best of all when winning against a competitor the manager unconsciously feels is better than themselves.
As a result, top technical talent tends to have three management issues. A. The unconscious selection of people less competent than they are because it makes them feel better. B. Beating and finding fault with people equal to or better than they are because that makes them feel better, and they are the boss. C. Driving out the most competent because they feel threatened.
There are also mammalian endocrine issues. Mammals who are higher in the hierarchy are faster, stronger, and have better cognition. It’s automatic. Those rising in a hierarchy also display these characteristics. Those who have a negative experience will have endocrine effects to match that tends to slow cognition. At the extreme, this “beta-status” manifests as depression. These effects play out in corporations and projects as well.
This is why it is fairly common that people who have some talent as con-men, or who know they are not in the same league, but have high emotional intelligence, can be so successful. Such people don’t compete with those they hire. And they tend to be quite good at spotting talent.
So, when you find yourself in this situation, while it may be true, it is something to spend some time pondering how to change it. It’s good to ask yourself:
“Am I competing with my staff?”
“If I’m not, why did this happen – ask that question 5 times.” e.g. If someone failed, why? And why did that why occur? And why did that why of the why happen? The “5 Why’s” method was coined at Toyota, because it generally got to the root cause. Sometimes it’s deeper, sometimes not 5 deep. But it’s a good rule.
“What do I need to do to change the root cause? To change the parts of the causal chain?” e.g. Perhaps it’s training. Perhaps it’s a money problem. Perhaps it’s more sleep. This is an exploration.
“Is there something I can change? If so, how?”
It is also good to remember Edward Deming’s first rule. Everything that happens is by definition the fault of management. His philosophy of management, which was very successful, is that with rare exceptions, staff want to succeed and do excellent work. So management needs to figure out how to let them do that. On that foundation, implement continuous improvement.