Why Do It Yourself...
by Bob Rosner
Whenever I think of overworked people and plates, I always think of those plate spinners on the old Ed Sullivan show.
The late comedian, Joe E. Lewis, once described Ed as "a man who could brighten a room simply by leaving it." Well, the same can be said about your workload. You can brighten or at least lighten the load by leaving some of it to others.
In other words: Delegate. And just to show you that I walk my talk, this week I delegated the task of answering your question to Bob Nelson and Peter Economy, authors of Managing for Dummies. From accounting to Theory X, they've collected everything you need to know about managing. The following questions have been adapted from it:
What kinds of projects should you delegate?
Nelson and Economy recommend that you take every possible opportunity to delegate repetitive assignments, information gathering and attending meetings and presentations where your presence is not essential. These are ideal opportunities for your employees to gain new skills and for you to put your efforts elsewhere.
What shouldn't you delegate?
Don't give away employee performance appraisals, discipline, counseling, politically sensitive or confidential matters, jobs that your boss asked you to do personally, or long-term vision and goal setting. These are assignments that require your own personal stamp and are too darned important to give away.
Once you've screwed up your courage and done the big D, ensure your employees' success by asking yourself these questions:
Were you clear about your expectations?
The more specific you are about the outcome you expect, the more likely you are to get it. Don't ever expect people to read your mind. (Heck, I don't even assume that people can find mine.)
Did you provide sufficient background?
Even a simple assignment has its unique history, circumstances and personalities. It's important to explain the five "w's" who, what, when, where and why to the person you're delegating the job to. In fact, I'd add a fifth "w": what if. What if complications arise? Talk with the employee about possible corrective actions.
Did you give her the authority and support to get the job done?
Once you've identified potential obstacles, give the person you're delegating to enough authority and support to get around them. Remember: you aren't doing the job, someone with a lot less clout is. Arm her well.
I suggest you follow these tips pretty quickly because, as you're discovering, overwork can be deadly. And you wouldn't want to match this description of Ed Sullivan (from a recent article in Vanity Fair): the Ed Sullivan show is "the only live show with a dead host."
Bob Rosner is the author of Working Wounded: Advice That Adds Insight to Injury, a speaker and a regular contributor to myprimetime.com. Check out his website at Working Wounded.com