“I’m a little disappointed,” explained Ruben. “Disappointed in myself.”
“How so,” I asked.
“Since I was promoted to manager, everyone said I should delegate more stuff. So, I tried.”
“What have you tried?” I prompted.
“Well, I bought three books on delegating. I finished one and I am reading the second.”
“So, what’s changed, for you?”
“Nothing really. I mean, they are really good books, but I still do everything myself.”
“Ruben, delegation is a skill, a skill that can be learned. Every skill has two parts. The first part is technical knowledge. That’s the stuff you have been reading about in those books.”
“What’s the other part?” Ruben asked.
“The other part is practice. You actually have to get out there and practice. I really don’t care how much you know. I am interested in what you can do.”
“But habits can help and habits can kill,” I said.
“I don’t understand,” Muriel replied. “We just talked about how competence and habits go hand in hand.”
“Yes, they do and like many things, your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness.” I could see Muriel’s face scrunch up, mixed in resistance and curiosity.
“Competence requires a set of habits. Habits help us, habits hurt us. Think about a new problem that must be solved, like that change in production last month.”
Muriel winced. “I know, I know. We practiced hard on producing that left element. We were really good at it, and it was difficult. Then we got the machine. Using the machine was even harder, so my team kept doing it manually. Someone even sabotaged the machine configuration that kept it out of the loop for two days. All in all, it took us three weeks to become competent on the machine, when it should have taken only five days.”
“Habits can sometimes be a powerful force in resisting change. Habits are grooves in the way we think. They can be helpful, but sometimes, we have to get out of the groove and it’s tough.” -Tom