Tag Archives: busy

Said He Was Too Busy

“I was surprised,” said Janet. “Barry is my best guy. I just assigned him a task and he said he was too busy, told me to go find someone else. He always does such a great job. I thought he would be the perfect person.”

“Who else could you delegate to?” I asked.

“Well, there is Simon and Rachel. But what if they screw it up?” Janet scrunched her nose. She didn’t like the idea.

“Janet, what is the purpose for your delegation? Are you looking to save yourself some time or are you looking to develop some of your team members?”

Janet knew it was a loaded question. “Okay, so I am trying to develop some of my team members. I know it’s a learning process.” It was the kind of unenthusiastic, politically correct response I knew I would get.

“Good answer. You must have attended the seminar,” I chided. “Look, Janet, of course they are going to screw it up. Tell me. Do people learn more from doing something perfectly or making a mistake?”

Janet wasn’t sure where I was going with this. “I suppose people learn more from making a mistake.”

“Exactly. If delegation is your most powerful people development tool, then part of delegation is people making mistakes. Count on it. Plan for it. Budget your time for it. But remember that it’s still worth it. That’s what learning is all about.”

Everybody’s Busy

Crystal looked across the table with a grimace on her face. She had a project to delegate and just returned from a circle of the office looking for a candidate.

“As I walked around, everyone looked so busy,” she said.

I smiled. “And you let that fool you?”


“The fact that everyone looked so busy was a trap you set for yourself.”

“A trap?” Crystal was curious, but she wasn’t sure she would like the answer.

“As you walked around looking to hand this project out, what was your purpose?”

“Well, it’s a project I have been doing over and over for the past two years. It would save me a couple of hours a week if I could find someone to do it for me,” she replied.

“So, your primary motivation was to save yourself some time?” I didn’t wait for the answer. “So, tell me, what’s the major benefit for the person you would delegate this to?”

Crystal hadn’t thought about this, but she responded quickly. “Well, they would gain a new skill.”

“And what else?” Over the next few minutes, Crystal made a list of 12 benefits to the team member. The list included:

  • A sense of accomplishment.
  • Feeling a greater part of the team.
  • Feeling more valuable to the team.
  • A sense of contribution.

“Crystal, do any of these things have to do with saving you time?” I asked.

“No. Most of these things have to do with challenge and development.”

“So, get out of your time trap. I want you to make the circle again, but this time, think about the person who would see this as a positive step in their professional development.”

Crystal didn’t move. “You know, I don’t have to make the circle. I already know who needs this project. You’re right, she is busy, but this would be important to her.”

Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

In your last post, Easy Now, Hard Later, you talked about the addiction curve, the procrastination curve and the busy curve. More, in depth, please.

The addiction curve, easy now, hard later works in several scenarios. It’s a simple principle to understand addiction recovery, but applicable to any situation where you need to kick the habit, replace a habit, or kick-start a new habit. The first step is hard, but what is hard now, is easy (easier) later.

The procrastination curve is identical. It’s easy now, to put off something difficult. Wimpy used to say he would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Easy now is the first step to procrastination.

But the busy curve is harder to get our arms around. Easy to spend our time responding to email (looking busy), checking off random items on the to-do list (thinking we are busy), when we are stalling on the most important projects that are hard now. Projects that require thinking, sharpening a skill, acquiring rare materials, enlisting the aid of others. A project is any task with more than one step. Get started. Next Tuesday, the hamburger will be gone, but the bill comes due.