In almost all classes on management
training as well as those about time management, we are taught the importance
of delegating. Indeed, it’s something I harp on over and over again in my workshops,
training, and MBA graduate classes.
Yet, this has been the week from hell for
me. It has made me think that sometimes doing it myself is faster and easier.
Ever have that feeling? I bet you have!
So, first let me tell you all my complaints
for the week. They include work, home, and some volunteer work I do, so just bear
My Administrative Assistant
My administrative assistant is a lovely
young woman with a great personality. She is always pleasant and willing to do
any assigned task. Yet, over and over again I find that she pretends to know
things she doesn’t know. Too, she is not nearly as careful as I need her to be.
The latest in a series of frustrations for me:
- Filing in the wrong files.
- Filing not even in file
folders, but loose in the drawer.
- Making a list of what’s in the
file drawer – which does not need to be done.
- Mixing up documents to be filed
with my basket of work to do – and I think she filed some documents requiring
work on my part that I may never find again.
- Leaving half finished work
lying about – for me to put away.
- Not writing down – or
remembering instructions about how to complete a very important document, which
needed to be done perfectly – thereby ruining 40 pages of work which had to be
redone – because she didn’t save the prior draft.
Who’s at fault here? Probably ME. I teach a
funnel theory of management, and yet I made the assumption that she was
smarter, neater, and more careful than I am finding her to be.
- I need to micro-manage
- I need to be slower and provide
her with much more detailed information.
- I need to give her only one
thing to do at a time, rather than a whole day’s worth of projects.
- I need to point out (gently of
course) things she left lying about, and ask her to put them away before she
Of course, all of these require me to pay
attention rather than being focused exclusively on what I’m doing.
My Computer (IT) expert
We are in the process of migrating my
programs and files from my old computer to a new one – and the new one is not
compatible with much of what the old one is attached to. So almost daily I hear
these woeful stories of how this won’t work and that won’t work and how hard it
is to do this, that or the other thing.
I want to scream. “Go away.” “Just do it.” “Leave
me to do the work I need to do.”
I’m also told that I need to buy a new this
that or the other thing – at hundreds of dollars of expense.
Now, being a woman, where would I rather
spend my money? On purchasing computer equipment or clothing and jewelry? You
So, is it his fault for telling me all
this, or my fault? Probably ME.
- I need to realize that his
thinking style (he’s an IT guy) is vastly different from mine. I’m a soft-skill
expert with a background in psychology.
- I need to realize that he
thinks it is helpful and useful to share these details with me, whereas they
seem like minute and uninteresting pieces of information to me.
- He needs social time and
recognition and these pronouncements are his way of trying to obtain both from
- So, what do I need to do? Remember that
people are different and because of the differences in thinking styles, I, as a
manager, need patience and tolerance.
OK, maybe I expect too much of others. I am
doing volunteer work at a facility with Alzheimer’s patients. I have a lot of
materials I use with them that are meant to be exclusively for my project with
them – which is to help them watercolor (which by the way is a lovely things to
do with them). Each time I go to the cupboard where my materials are kept, I
find others have been there and messed things up.
I can tell in a variety of ways – things
have been re-arranged. Paintbrushes have not been cleaned, nor placed in their
proper receptacle. Papers have been shuffled about.
When I ask the staff, they tell me that no
one has been in the cabinet so “I don’t know” must have made the mess.
Since this is not my facility, I have
little or no control about the matter. I cannot ask that the cabinet be locked
because others use it for other reasons. I cannot demand that the materials be
kept the way I want them, because not only am I a volunteer, but they pay for
So, I have to live with it. I have to
change my expectations and not be so critical about neatness, carefulness, etc.
Again, whose fault is the problem? You guessed it, probably ME.
Our expectations of how things should be
done, or should look, or be kept are what frame our emotional responses to how
we find things. Changing our expectations will change our reactions. So, what
do I have to do?
- I need to understand that this
is an open cabinet and like it or not others use it.
- I need to recognize that we are
working with materials that are replaceable – these are not priceless works of
- I need to lighten up and go
with the flow.
So often we react to things from an unreasonable set of
expectations, and by revising those expectations, our reactions will become
I have one theme and two people (besides me
I am not handy. Nor am I a willing
gardener. I found the perfect man to do all of these little tasks for me. He
comes to my home twice a month or so, takes care of my patio, and anything I
need fixing in the house. He’s wonderful and can do anything I ask of him.
So, you may ask, what’s the problem here?
Do you just like to complain?
The problem is silly and simple. He uses my
tools and sometimes doesn’t put them back in the proper place. When I need a
screwdriver I have to search for it since it might be out on the patio, might
be in the garage on the table, but it belongs in a particular drawer in the
So, whose problem is it? Yup, mine again!
- I need to ask him to be more
careful and to replace things where they belong.
- I need to lighten up and not
get frustrated over the little things.
- Delegating, delegating, delegating. In this
case, I can’t even do some of these things myself – so I need to learn to be
grateful to those who can do what I can’t do easily.
How does this relate to those who work for
you in your organization?
My housekeeper has cleaned for me for many
years – possibly even over ten years. She is reliable, honest, decent, and
totally trustworthy. She also overreacts to small things. For example, if she
accidentally chips or breaks something absolutely of little or no value, she
apologizes as though it were a priceless piece of crystal.
But, when she cleans, she moves things. Not
only does she move all the knickknacks to the back of the table or chest on
which I’d neatly arranged them, she moves things from right to left when she
cleans. When I go to find something, it is not in the place in which I left it
for my convenience or aesthetic sense. It drives me nuts.
Sometimes I laughingly and lightly point
this out to her – and she laughs in return, but never changes her behavior. So,
whose problem is it? Probably ME.
- I need to tell her that this
matters to me by being direct and congruent.
- I need to stop giving her mixed
messages by joking and being light about it.
- I need to show her where I want
- I need to remind her when they
Unfortunately, I’m rarely home when she
cleans, and leaving a note around just does not convey the right attitude.
Other women with whom I speak don’t have
housekeepers because of similar frustrations. BUT, I believe in delegating. As
frustrating as this is – and believe me it is – I’d rather spend the ten or
fifteen minutes re-arranging things to my satisfaction that have to spend the
three or more hours cleaning the house.
How do all of these apply to you as a manager?
It’s so easy to blame the other person for
what we perceive as shortcomings. Yet, we as managers need to take more
- How we communicate what we want
from our staff.
- Whom we hire to do a particular
task and how we train them.
- Learning how they learn and understand
and coaching them accordingly.
- How we hold people accountable,
not just at the beginning, but during the life of their working for us.
- Our own over-reactions “don’t
sweat the small stuff” as they say.
I conclude by reminding us all – you and me
– that if you don’t delegate and you do it all yourself, you will never have
the time to do the more exciting, interesting, and creative elements of your
job. The more you can delegate, the freer your time to grow professionally
So, in answer to my own question: Yes,
delegate, but do it wisely.