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
Yet, some weeks are harder than others. It has made me think that
sometimes doing it my self is faster and easier. Ever have that feeling? I bet you have!
Let me share with you some of what I have recently had to deal
with. They include work, home, and some volunteer work.
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:
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.
- Filing in the wrong files
- Filing not even in file folders, but loose in
- 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.
Of course, all of these require me to pay attention rather than
being focused exclusively on what I’m doing.
- I need to micro-manage more.
- 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 leaves.
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
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 guessed it.
So, is it his fault for telling me all this, or my fault? Probably
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.
- 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 me.
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 the materials.
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?
So often we
react to things from an unreasonable set of expectations, and by revising those
expectations, our reactions will become more benign.
- 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 art.
- I need to lighten up and go with the flow.
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
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, or might be in the garage on
the table, but it belongs in a particular drawer in the toolbox.
So, whose problem is it? Yup, mine again!
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.
- 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.
How does this relate to those who work for you in your
My housekeeper has cleaned for me for many years – possibly even
over ten years. She is reliable, honest, decent, and totally trustworthy. She
also over-reacts 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?
Unfortunately, I’m rarely home when she cleans, and leaving a note
around just does not convey the right attitude.
- 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 things placed.
- I need to remind her when they are
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 responsibility for:
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 yourself.
- How we communicate what we want from our staff
- Who we hire to do a particular task and how we
- 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.
So, in answer to my own question: Yes, delegate, but do it wisely.
Labels: accountability, coaching, communication, delegation, management, setting expectations, training