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It's Obvious!

I have a big problem when I delegate a task. Once I mention the topic of the task, I believe the needed result, the needed methods and resources, and the needed empowerment are all obvious. Part of my personality type (ENTP, for those who know Meyers Briggs typing), is that everything seems obvious to me. The problem is: what’s obvious to me isn’t obvious to others.
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Leadership

Vision is Knowing Where You Want to Be

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It's Obvious

I have a big problem when I delegate a task. Once I mention the topic of the task, I believe the needed result, the needed methods and resources, and the needed empowerment are all obvious. Part of my personality type (ENTP, for those who know Myers Briggs typing), is that everything seems obvious to me. The problem is: what’s obvious to me isn’t obvious to others. I may be stuck with my personality type, but I can recognize the effect of that type on those I work with. I have to be conscious of and conscientious about my thinking everything is obvious. I have to take the time and make sure I communicate clearly, completely, and comprehensively.

When I delegate, I also assume my role in completing the task is also obvious. Of course, my role isn’t obvious to anyone but me. What role might I have in completing the task? First, I may have no role. The task is yours. I don’t even need to know the result. Second, I may need to know the result. My role may be an approval role or just a need-to-know role. Do the task and let me know what you did. Third, my role may be the decision-maker role. Do the task, give me your recommendation, and I decide. Fourth, my role may be a veto-power role. Do the task, you decide, let me know before any action, and I reserve the right to veto your decision. Fifth, my role may be a coaching role. Do the task, bring me frequent updates, and I’ll input my advice as needed. Sixth, my role may be the active role. You fetch me the needed information. I’ll use the information to do the task myself.

You can probably think of several other possible roles I could play. With so many options, clearly my role isn’t obvious.

I’ve been told that a problem I have with delegating tasks is letting people know whether I want their input or their output. When I give a person a task that I want done the way I want it done, I want output. When I give a task that I want the person doing the task either to suggest a solution or to use his or her own judgment in developing a solution, I want input. Some people who work for me have learned to ask me whether I want their input or their output. Knowing that makes a big difference in my pleasure with their work. Unfortunately, I think whether I want input or output should be obvious to the delegee!

Consider also the psychological concept of overfunctioning and underfunctioning in any dyadic (two people) relationship. Overfunctioning means I will do it myself, thank you. Underfunctioning means I’m happy for you to do it yourself, thank you. The psychological concept is that when a person overfunctions, there will be at least one other person who will underfunction. The more you do the work, the more I’m willing for you to do the work. I think you can see where I’m headed here relative to delegation. It’s obvious.

But, it may not be obvious to everyone. The overfunctioning and underfunctioning practice in a dyadic relationship forms a vicious reinforcing cycle. The more I overfunction, the more you underfunction. And, the more you underfunction, the more I overfunction. And so on. For those of us who haven’t been good at delegating, we have to break this reinforcing cycle. We have to stop overfunctioning—that is, doing the work ourselves. The people we delegate to have to recognize we’re stopping the cycle and they’re expected to receive and carry out the delegation. Breaking a cycle isn’t easy, but it’s doable.

For completeness, I’ll mention the consequences of the overfunctioning and underfunctioning cycle. For the overfunctioner: the more I overfunction, the more I feel resentment. And, believe it or not, the more I feel resentment, the more I overfunction. And so on. Finally, for the underfunctioner: the more you underfunction, the more you feel inadequate. And, the more you feel inadequate, the more you underfunction. And so on.

The significant problems that arise from overfunctioning and underfunctioning come from the several reinforcing cycles that work together to make the relationship more and more difficult. Do you have work relationships where you either overfunction or underfunction? If you do, you can affect the relationship by reducing your overfunctioning or underfunctioning enough to be noticed. When you change, the other person has to change. You may not have power over the other person. But, you do have power over yourself. And, in changing yourself, the other person must change.

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