The Art of Delegating – don’t take the monkey!
Batting the Monkeys BackMister C enters and sits opposite me. "One of these days it's going to have to be decided what I am supposed to be doing. Right now I'm up to my neck in one crisis after another without knowing where either my authority or my responsibilities leave off or begin. When things go wrong I wind up being the fall guy even though, by rights, the responsibility should have been someone else's. When things go right, somebody else winds up being the hero. Not that I care who gets the credit, but I'm just about fed up being the indispensable man with no charter to work from."
"You won't believe it," I concur, "but this situation has been as disturbing to me as it has been to you. And I know how to correct it. The first step," I advise him, "is to develop a list of things you are now doing."
"What's the point of that? It would be better to develop a list of what I should be doing." "That comes later. In order to start doing what you should be doing you will have to stop many of the things you are now doing. Since it's difficult to stop doing things that other people have learned to depend on you for, the process of disengagement has to be at least as carefully planned as the process of engagement. That's why an accurate and comprehensive inventory of the things others are right now depending on you for is the all-important first step. Maybe this illustration will clinch the idea for you. Let's say you and I want to go to San Francisco. To plan the trip it will do us no good to know only where that city is. To get anywhere you have first to know where you are. In short, you can't arrive at any predetermined destination unless you know where you are leaving from."
"I am so far behind in my work now I don't see how I'll get the time to do this. I know what I'm doing, of course, but I'm not good at putting it into words. A job like this really can't be described clearly on paper."
"Then let me offer a few suggestions," I put in encouragingly. "This is going to be a list of the things others are depending on you for."
"But I also do a lot of things that nobody is depending on me for but which still have to be done."
Include them too. Now let me suggest how you should write them. Each item on the list should start with the personal pronoun "I" followed by a transitive verb and ending with a noun. A good example of such an item would be "I review cost reports."
"I get it," he brightens up. "Others would be: I schedule the weekly training sessions, I screen the incoming mail, and I follow up on the grievance procedure."
"That's it," I nod, "and in each case write in the right hand margin the name of the individual or individuals who are depending on you for it. If you're the only one who's interested, put your own name there. Now, by when will you have the list ready?"
"A week should do it."