Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leave it behind

Bob, the busy boss, always has stacks on his desk, an overloaded email inbox, and working on some assignment that was due yesterday. When you ask him how he is doing, he often responds with a comment about being overwhelmed. Often it seems like there are too many Bobs around.

Reflecting back, were these “busy bosses” really working on important stuff? I was fortunate early in my career to get some outstanding coaching from a seasoned leader. He told me the downfall of many talented people was that they took the parts of the job they liked or were good at up with them when they were promoted. Not only did this limit the leadership tasks for the person replacing them, it also caused them to be busy working on things that were not their job.

Some real examples observed of this are signing authorizations below your level of responsibility, hiring your people’s people and performing quality control on team assignments. This mentor taught me to take every new assignment from a clean slate. Understand your new role and let your replacement be successful.

Do you approach every assignment as separate from your last? Do you leave the old job behind?


Ashutosh said...

To be successful in new assignment, its important to let go of previous responsibilities. One of the engineers reporting to me was promoted and two more engineers were brought under him. Still he couldn’t stop from dealing directly with the workers. He felt comfortable in that role. Ant the replacements get complacent and dependent after a while. The employee development halts.

It happens, and I consider it very natural. People like to be in their 'comfort zones'. I consider that its the responsibility of the next level manager to help such people with the transition. Its the guidance, not reprimand they require.

Anonymous said...

As you move up within an organization, the need to leave behind the previous job is important. Unfortunately, that is not always the case especially when projects are inter-connected with the old job and the new job. Then the reasoning should be akin this was part of my job when I was here, so now that I'm not there I need to delegate that and work on this.

Scott Woodard said...

"...It seems like there are too many Bobs around."

The corollary could be that Bob has let go all "his people" that could ease his load.

~ Scott

Leslie Kohler said...

I'm a sole proprieter, so I don't have to deal with this on a daily basis. But in the past, I've worked with people (or FOR people--worse!) who constantly complained about how busy they were, yet got little accomplished. They then left many of their tasks for others, who really cared about the organization, to complete. It really wasn't that I minded doing those jobs--I resented seeing the wasted time and manpower, and thinking about "what could have been," if these companies been had run more efficiently.

Qian W said...

Bobs may not have enough to do and pretend to be busy. Bobs like to keep that way to justify the pay.

It can also be the information explosion. The information traffic jams

Alex Kersha said...

I am without a doubt guilty as charged. I've often caught myself trying to get involved in something that just didn't need my input or was well below what my focus should've been. This is a tough nut to crack but reminders like this one certainly help. ;P


Dutch said...

OK ... another good one but I am not going to fawn ... and this my last comment ... probably ... but you gotta write for the larger crowd.

I had a client once who said "never underestimate the power of the written word."

regards, Dutch

Felix P. Nater said...

John, you characterize the unfortunate state of many in leadership positions who have never accepted the role of leader commensurate with whatever functional assignment assigned to or promoted to.

In reading this scenario I am reminded of Brian Tracy's Law of leadership from his book entitled "100 Laws of Business Success". He starts his Law of Leadership with Integrity and ends with Foresight. How appropriate? I believe his two principles capture the essence of your Bob's scenario.

Until we return to the type of coach and mentorship you described we will unfortunately turn out an assemly line of your Bobs. Leaders are made not born. As initiative emantes from within.

Felix P. Nater, CSC
Nater Associates, Ltd.

Amer Raja said...

Fundamentals are always same. Never the less, every project has its own specifics and need to be tackled as such. A notion VERY BUSY is used by people who believed in the approach of look busy, do nothing. However, there are some few who have genuine issues because of their apporach. It is mainly because of not delegating the duties.

John A. Hudson said...

I like the story. It reminds me of Monday Morning mentoring. I will have to check out your blog. Thank you.

Have a great day in LA. The sun is out in Seattle, too!

Fred Szibdat said...

Hi John,

A few ideas come to mind here. First, as almost always, is a philosophical comment. Socrates had a great saying "beware the barrenness of a busy Life".

And so many of the previous Pop Management Ideas, leave empowerment behind. What happened to that concept.

I was an audit manager a few employers ago, and Travel was a significant cost. I had a new hire, who was having a struggle with that and often would buy rather expensive tickets, and I would bristle at the expense report time. So, instead of him doing the travel arrangements, he wanted me to do them as I was more seasoned in the games of Airfare. I said, umm, No. That isn't what they pay me for, I am compensated to manage. So.... Here are the rules of buying tickets, when you are about to buy one that doesn't follow the rules, call me to discuss. Otherwise, you manage when and how to get tickets, and I will manage your thought process, and not actually buy all your airfare. It worked.

At my last employer, I was given a nickname of Captain. I wore it proudly. They all learned, that my job was not to look at every sail, or tell them how to row. My task was to get out the compass, and chart the course. Then to ensure they worked as a team, and when it was time to row, they rowed. And when it was time to Sail, we sailed. And we all got there when we should and in good shape.

I would tell them, I am not here to do all the tasks. I am here to ensure that all the tasks get done.


Steven Burda said...

Good read, John!

Peter Bender said...

I smile at your posting John,

My last several jobs have had no interconnectivity to them. Each one was totally new in nature and I had no bearings or relevant experience. I had no choice but to watch, listen and learn. All I could take with me was my character traits.

Thankfully, I have become a good success in each of these jobs but it takes time.

Take care and God bless,


Tobias said...

Thanks, I think I am a busy bob..... I will learn much from your post.

Barry Zweibel said...

Hi John ~ Intriguing topic. Great article on how NOT to be a ‘Bob’ … and more of a ‘MacGregor’, by Arthur Elliott Carlisle ...

John Gray said...

Here are some techniques that have helped over the years:
1) If it is paperwork - try to deal with it on your desk only once. If it is something that can be handled by a subordinate - let them and concentrated on the important matters.
2) Hit the critical material first.
3) Give yourself a deadline with whatever you are working on and stick with it.
4) Something manner world leaders have done as well - keep your meetings short. I have had people lined up outside my office each day. I keep them to a set time, have them summarize the problem, and make a decision. Long, in depth meetings can kill your day and productivity.

Alik Barsegian said...

Bobs don't necessarily need to be high up in the heirarchy to affect the organization's performance. People doing other people's jobs, concentrating only on the tasks they like - it happens at every level in a lot of organizations and the costs of this are not just monetary. Low morale, resentment and loss of loyalty to the organization usually thrive around Bobism.
All of this can be prevented by instituting a simple outcome-driven daily planning system around each role in the organisation.


My jobs are always intersecting but l learnt to always put behind the j job or the position l left behind ,this really gave room for better focus ,understanding of the job and bettre productivity
ls never easy in some sector where the person that take up your job is not coping and all job need team work and will affect the botton line
l always want to be excellent on my new challenge ,reallythe discussion will make me more vibrant
regards and God bless

Gregg Bicknell said...

John, very good advice. I and my current managers are very guilty of what you speak of. I have been trying to figure out how to motivate my junior people to take over these roles that I have moved up from. Rather than they ask well what are you doing and why can not you do it.

I am very overwhelmed and do need to leave those jobs behind.

Alan Desrocher said...

Hi there John,
My strategy was to really understand where the owners of the company and or the CEO wanted to take it.

Understand what they thought were the reasons they couldn't get there for that was usually why they hired me in the first place.
I would then meet individually with the talent in the company and try to understand their point of view, for surely it was tried with either my predecessors or the talent in particular and that failed as well.

Once I understood the talent and their personalities that always gave me a head start on which technique to pull out of my toolbox and which person to teach it to and flow it out.

I rarely got involved in the day to day stuff in the beginning, it was usually to many details that was slowing everyone down and in order for me to make the greatest impact was to allow the Team to continue to fail in the small arenas and I would focus on the bigger picture. The reason I was hired.

I worked very hard to make it appear that I was only there to help the Team and I was just standing around appearing as though I had nothing to do but spend time with them, showing them how to prioritize according to what was important to the company and the customer. Spinning that into what could be what is important to them as well was always the challenge in my opinion.
Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
Dale Carnegie

Cathy Curry said...

I actually brought this up in a staff meeting where my supervisor told me that one has to learn to let go. She proceeded to tell a story about when she was promoted how the gentleman that took her previous assignment kept going to her for assistance to do the job. When it came time for the annual review, he met and exceeded his expectations where as she didn't even come close because of having to constantly work with him on her old job. So I would delegate the work, make it part of their PM and move on. Once the ownership belongs to them, they have no one to blame for their failures than themselves. If they are lucky, they will learn from their mistakes.

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