Cathy Lucas | Crain's Denver

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Cathy Lucas


Established in 1965, Metropolitan State University of Denver is a public university based at the Auraria campus in downtown Denver. Cathy Lucas oversees the university’s marketing and communications activities. She was recently named “PR Person of the Year” by the Public Relations Society of America’s Colorado chapter.

The Mistake:

I bit off more than I could chew.

At my first job out of college, I tried to do it all. I really wanted to prove that I could to myself and others. I was hungry to demonstrate how effective I could be. In other words, I was not good at delegating.

The job was at a credit union, and we would put on these big events. It would be things like a car sale on a Saturday. We would have vendors and members of the credit union look at cars and we would provide the financing for any purchase.

At one particular event like this, I just took on all the minutiae, all of the details, because I thought I could do it all. I remember I even volunteered to go to the local King Soopers the morning of this particular event to get breakfast for like 50 people.

Unfortunately, there was a traffic jam that morning. I was supposed to be there to open the credit union so people could get set up, but I was late.

In my mind it was a half hour; it was probably only like 10 minutes. Either way, I still remember the feeling I had – a horrible pit in my stomach – when I pulled up late and saw about 10 people waiting outside.

I still remember the feeling I had – a horrible pit in my stomach – when I pulled up late and saw about 10 people waiting outside.

The Lesson:

You really have to delegate. That’s my leadership approach.

If you need help, you have to wave a white flag and ask for it.

I lead a team of 22 people now, and it is just really helpful to be able to delegate and empower.

Just today, something like this happened. I was in a meeting, and someone asked me, “Should we do it this way or should we do it that way?” I just flipped it back on her and asked what she would do.

It’s so important to empower people to do their jobs like that. You end up not micro-managing people or getting too far into the weeds. Most importantly, you won’t get stuck in traffic and make a mess.

Cathy Lucas is on Twitter at @parkhilllucas and Metropolitan State University of Denver is at @msudenver.

Photo courtesy of Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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