The most stationary of all stationery items, scissors hate to be hurried. I learned this as a child. You did too, probably. Don't run with scissors. A clear and simple instruction. Pencils, glue, staples... no problem. For them, like us, it's a finite existence. Time is short so don't dilly dally. But don't run with scissors.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

roy castle and the art of delegation

If you’re old enough to remember when Record Breakers was hosted by Roy Castle on the BBC, you might also remember the song he used to close the show with and its assertion that “dedication’s what you need.”

According to Roy, it was what you needed if you wanted to “be the best” and also to “beat the rest.”

Without doubt it is good advice, the kind that will see you well in life. But given a slight twist it becomes what I think is a great piece of advice for anyone wanting to run, grow and develop a successful team or business. Rather than “dedication” though in this case delegation’s what you need.

What am I on about..?

Well, this is my point – most people get promoted because they’ve done well in the job they were doing. Maybe this has happened to you. Almost without fail, someone new comes in to fill the space you vacated and it’s likely you could be managing them. At first it’s bound to be hard resisting the urge to micro-manage them; after all, until recently you were doing that job. And what’s more you were doing it bloody well.

Otherwise you wouldn’t have been promoted, would you..?

But if you are going to grow as a manager you have to focus on what your new role and responsibilities entail and, just as importantly, you have to let the newbie do their job unencumbered by your interfering, otherwise they’ll have a frustrating time feeling like they never get out of the starting blocks.

When I was a senior reporter on the IT trade newspaper Computing, I had the opportunity to interview Joe McNally – the man who brought Compaq to the UK and grew it into a £1 billion operation over the course of something like 15 years. That was in the days when Compaq was a serious player in the business IT market, not some strange left-over brand name HP sticks on some of its consumer goodies.

I asked one of the most obvious questions you could possibly ask such a man – how did he do it, what was the secret of his success. He told me that he had always tried to surround himself with the most talented people possible, and to give them the freedom to not only do their job but to exploit any new opportunities that arose.

On the surface that might sound obvious but those are brave sentiments – they must be, because in the 20-odd years I’ve been in the workforce I’ve rarely encountered them.

So hat’s off to Roy Castle, because dedication is a great thing to aspire to. But the true art of delegation, the kind I think Joe McNally was talking about, that’s not to be under-estimated either.

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