Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Never Reverse Delegate

When your boss asks you to do something, simple or complex, they are doing you several favors. Favors? At its most basic level, they are giving you a job to do so you can earn your pay. Assignments and responsibilities described in your job description give you a chance to prove yourself and your value to the organization. Each assignment, every project, is an opportunity to show what you can do. All of this is self-evident to any professional person.

One of the points I want to make about reverse delegation is that giving your job back to your boss is essentially giving away your job and your opportunities.

If you are the boss, be aware when reverse delegation is happening. In a moment, it might even feel good that one of your direct reports is essentially saying that ‘you are the only one who can do this’. Don’t buy that for a minute. Reverse delegation often comes disguised as a request for help, which turns into you doing the job, and if the reverse delegator is good at it they will make you feel important in the process.

Worst case, reverse delegation happens when the person you gave the assignment to simply doesn’t perform, and you have to take it over. No doubt you feel the frustration of that situation. How much of that are you willing to tolerate? How much of that can the organization tolerate? What is the best thing for the organization? My advice is to take care of business, take care of the organization. Assignments are opportunities for your folks to prove themselves or not. Make the call if someone can’t do the job.

Another form of reverse delegation is - If the boss has to think about and remind you to do your job and when to do it, they are doing your job for you. Any time I have to remind folks to do their job I’m doing their job.

Reverse delegation comes in your door quietly. Often staff will come to you with a problem – but no solution. This is a subtle form of reverse delegation – expecting you, the boss, to come up with the solution. Either because of your experience or creativity, you may be able to come up with the solution yourself. Again, this is not the time to let your ego get in the way. Grow your people by making it clear that if they bring you a problem, they also need to bring the solution or at least some options. The job includes both problem identification and solution generation.

This applies to collaborative team work. Most of the time folks will agree with the boss. If the boss always has the solution, then the organization can grow lazy and lose out on all of the stored up innovation within the team. Force your team to develop solutions. You will grow a much stronger organization in the long run and have much more creative solutions in the short run.

A few remaining thoughts - Life is a writing and speaking contest. Look at every opportunity to develop a written product or make a presentation as your chance to shine.

Writing something? Edit it yourself. Don’t make your boss find and make edits that you should know to make. And for heaven’s sake, remember and internalize feedback your boss gives you so he/she doesn’t have to repeat the same edits again next time.
Reverse delegation comes quietly.

Managing Up: Take the Initiative! - Never Make Your Boss Wonder What You are Doing - Manage Expectations Around Deadlines - Never Reverse Delegate

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