Delegation: Who else can do this?

I have a vague recollection that I used to get paid better for working a lot less, although at the time I thought I worked very hard and felt Very Important about it. Whether that image is distant memory, an alternate reality or a complicated dream from late-night bean burritos, I remember learning an important lesson there.

My senior executive boss, who loved to see himself as a Benevolent Dictator/Mentor, importantly preached to the management underlings that the number one question for any task is, “Who else can do this?” This noble doctrine was borne of his high-level Fortune 100 training, rigorous graduate program in business, and most of all, his Excruciating Laziness.

As my boss overdelegated heavily (and sometimes irresponsibly) I found myself walking his dog, reorganizing departments, toasting his bagels, and deciding who was to be laid off. To his credit, he took the fall for my occasional failings on important things (knowing he’d be shamed for having his EA take over his core responsibilities).

Through those clumsy, exhilarating, painfully nail-biting experiences I came to realize the teaching of this slothful bigwig was entirely true. After that job, I was ready for anything, and could demand a real grown-up salary. I could handle people, big budgets and had tons of big-picture knowledge in consumer products.

So, when I’m slave driving my kids, it’s not just about picking up this house right now so I don’t go INSANE! No. Of course it is much more transcendent than that.

Rather, this experience is what I owe my kids–the chance to learn a lot, get dirty, mess up, try hard things, succeed, and do that again. Apparently, now that I’m fairly well into it and it’s too late to back out, it has finally been made clear to me that it is (insanely) difficult to run a home and raise a family well. My goal for my kids is to grow up and run their families well, preferably far better than I am. So, it only makes sense to delegate and give them some of that hands-on experience, even if it does appear to be my job.

So, all together now. The next time you are with your kids and looking for something in the store, cleaning a toilet, peeling potatoes, watering plants, and yes, making your own bed–ask yourself: “Who else can do this?”

And call out that name!

Our grandchildren will thank us. And if they don’t? Yep, you guessed it, we’ll blame their parents.

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