I’ve previously mentioned my mantra of "I don’t need to know if I know
where to go." Frank Patrick, an experienced and battle-hardened
manager, has even validated the mantra (gratis, Frank).
So here’s the next step for the intrepid Slacker Manager in-training:
give away all your work. This is incredibly challenging for lots of
managers. Our tendency is to hoard tasks, put up walls and make ourselves "indispensible." ‘Course, everyone is replaceable, so let’s just get rid of the indispensibility myth right up front. Sure, replacing some folks takes a little more effort, but there are no sacred cows here.
Giving away work doesn’t equate to giving away responsibility. You train folks and show them how to do your stuff but ultimately, the responsibility remains in your lap. You’ve got to be ready to take work back, if needed. Sometimes you’ll just need to step in to help out someone else’s workload, sometimes you’ll need to shift tasks around.
But overall, I’m convinced that giving away your work is a great tactic for the Slacker Manager. First of all, giving away your work means you’re freed up to focus on the stuff you’re passionate about. You can devote more time to the stuff you really love to do. Second, there’s no need to wonder about what you’ll do with all the time you’ve freed up–we all know that work expands to fill the time available (or the time you make available). Finally, giving away all your work means that your job is full cross-trained. That doesn’t mean you’re ripe to be fired (unless you are); rather. it means that you’re ripe to be promoted, reassigned or otherwise given yet greater responsibilities.
The hassle of giving away work is that often you’ve got to map out what, until now, has only existed in your head. You’ve got to communicate it to someone else who may have zero grasp of the foundations. In which case, you’re starting from scratch. I still maintain that the effort is worthwhile. In this most extreme case, by doing such in-depth training, you’re building goodwill and loyalty within your trainee, which is invaluable. Also, you’ll be secure knowing that your managerial descendant will move ahead with as full a measure of knowledge as you can dish out. With all your knowledge, if they screw up, chances are you’d have screwed up too.
I know this is unfamiliar territory for a lot of managers, but I’m firmly convinced that the reward is fully worth the effort. Like I mentioned in passing above, though there are plenty of quantifiable reasons to give your work away, there are just as many intangible reasons, like goodwill, from which you’ll reap just as much benefit.