Many of my CEO and manager friends are constantly busy. Their calendars have no time – sometimes for weeks! Why could this be? Of course, the main reason is that they may not be delegating effectively. While there are many lessons in delegation – what they may also need are lessons in “preventing reverse delegation”.
So what is this reverse delegation?
Reverse delegation is when a subordinate or coworker leaves a to-do under the guise of seeking help or providing update on something they have ownership on.
So how does one prevent reverse delegation?
Here’s a technique I use. Every time an interaction starts, I visualize a gold coin (or any coin). This coin is in the hands of the person who has “ownership” of the subject at hand and the other is there just to help.
Also each time an interaction starts, I mentally make a note if my role is advisory, giving input or actual contributory (meaning I actually do something afterwards).
During the interaction I pay special attention when the coin is being passed. This the other person may do by simply saying something like – “so you will call XYZ on this matter”. Stop and question at that point whether you really need to do this or the other person can do it. Don’t let them leave you with the coin unless only you can do the follow up task.
Even if they need further input or help, you can always say something like – “Sure, I will call XYZ tomorrow around noon. Do remind me of it”. Now you are helping but the coin is with them. But you may say, isn’t it being painful to ask them to remind you of such small task? Not really. The main issue here is “who worries about things moving forward”. You have your own list of things to move forward and you should not add other’s items on it. Why? Simply because you would naturally not be able to give energy to remembering such temporal task. You need to conserve your energy for what you own.
Bring awareness to all your interactions. Own your pieces and don’t take the coin from others on their pieces. Clear ownership at all times is what creates progress and quality.