by Rebecca Kocsis

I heard this term twice at a recent national leaders conference. Though I had never heard it before—and didn’t really know what it meant—something about it struck a chord. “What does that mean? I am always busy doing, doing, doing, and yet I am never quite done. Could I possibly suffer from that?”

In my search for answers, I reached out to the two people who had used that term to gain some insight into this dysfunction. Both are well respected leaders in the national homeschool community. Their answers proved to be insightful in many ways.

Tyler Hogan, CEO and President of Bright Ideas Press puts it like this, “As humans, we have limits and the need for rest (as indicated by God’s command for a Sabbath). All too often, we take on more responsibility than we’re reasonably able to handle. This has consequences, small and large.”

At this point I’m starting to feel a little uncomfortable.

He goes on to elaborate on these consequences, “The small scale might include dropped balls or missed opportunities for other (more important) things. The large scale might include burnout, relational tears, and long-term health problems attendant with stress. Further, when we take on too much, we inevitably steal from others the blessing of service they might partake of.”

Ouch. Guilty.

Anne Miller, Executive Director and President of Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) attributes the term to Dr. Dean Radtke of Ministry Institute. She elaborates, “What I was meaning is that instead of leading, many of us have our heads down doing the work. Dr. Radtke calls this the ‘dysfunction of doing.’  When our heads are down doing the work, there is no one focused on leading the team.”

She then shares Dr. Radtke’s illustration of a conductor leading an orchestra. “The conductor ‘knows’ he is the only one who can play the triangle just right, so he steps away from leading the orchestra to play the triangle . . . or the trumpet . . . or the ‘fill-in-the-blank’ because he is the only one who can do it right. While Dr. Radtke was demonstrating how he played the triangle ‘just right,’ he had the camera pan back to where the conductor should have been—and the spot was empty.”


Like so many other dysfunctions, the cure won’t be instant. However, there’s hope. Recovery is a process; a daily discipline. Anne admits, “I am a terrible, but reforming, sufferer of the Dysfunction of Doing. It takes every fiber of my being not to ‘do,’ but to ‘lead.’ My team is also filled with do-ers, so we are reforming together with tremendous results.”

Tyler offers a workable cure to this dysfunction. “Learning to delegate, to automate, to cut, to practice essentialism (see Greg McKeown’s book by that title), and to work on a team instead of as lone-rangers; these are vital practices for the health and prospering of both our organizations, our families, and ourselves. None of those things happen without intentionality on our parts.”

Delegate. Automate. Cut the non-essentials. Teamwork. None of these were new to me. It forced me into a time of reflection on my leadership style.

Focus on the things that only you can do for your organization. Delegate the jobs that anyone can do. How many times do I hang on to tasks because it’s quicker and easier to do it myself than to train someone else to do it? Take a look at your task list. Is there something someone else can do that will free you up to do what only you can do?

This is a tough one for me, because I don’t really know what I can automate. Several of CHEA’s processes are already automated. Maybe using a social media scheduler because it’s really hard to carve out time daily to post? Setting up virtual meetings rather than trying to get everyone in the same room at the same time has been helpful. Along that same line of thought, streamlining processes has helped us be more efficient with “CHEA time.” What can you automate or streamline? How can you better use technology to help you be a more effective leader?

Cut the Non-Essentials
Let’s face it. It’s easier to keep doing the things we are doing they way we have always done them because that’s what we do, than it is to change. Change is hard, but change is essential if we want to stay relevant. What are you clinging to? What program or service is no longer relevant to today’s homeschool community? Is there a long-held position in your organization that you don’t need any more; that isn’t as effective as it used to be? Do you have a dedicated person serving in a spot that’s no longer needed? Redeploy that dedicated servant to a spot where they can use their God-given gifts for the benefit of your group.

Let’s face it. It’s more fun to do things together as a team, even if our teams are pretty slim. Volunteers have become scarce these days. Drawing the team members we have in closer to work together lets them know they are truly valued. It also generates new ideas. Yes, two or three heads really are better than one!

One overarching question you could ask when sitting at your desk with your head down is, “Am I doing or am I leading?” Is what you are doing casting vision for your organization? Does it advance your mission? Or can someone else help you out with this?

Some of us love to change things up; others not so much. I do not have an aversion to change. I like new. True confession? I love it when we get new logos. It’s like getting new shoes. Who doesn’t like new shoes? I know it’s not the kind of “new” we are talking about . . . still it counts.

New is exciting because it’s a little bit dangerous, too. I mean, does anyone really know what’s on the other side of the journey? Then, when I get to what’s been called the “messy middle” of this course I’ve set out on, I wonder what on earth I was thinking. Why? Because change is hard; even when it’s welcome!

(I’ve also felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and ready to plunge head first into to the abyss, but that’s a story for another day.)

The “dysfunction of doing”—I’m guilty—and I suspect you are, too. Let’s reform together, shall we? Head over to the Support Network Facebook page and we can talk.