How to work less – the 1 step challenge

Take the following situation.
Boss hears about an issue. Or has an important project he wants to assign to someone.
He delegates the issue by email. Then the subordinate wants to talk more about it.
Enter meeting 1.
Boss has a lot of experience on the project, but too little time to transfer the know how to the subordinate.
Enter tracking update meetings two, three, four …up to exasperation.

If you’re the subordinate in the equation, you’re probably frustrated for being micromanaged.
If you’re the boss in the above, you’re probably too stressed out and have the feeling everyone is hunting you down for your time. ┬áIt’s time to recognize that your subordinates might know how to do the job – or actually learn something, even if they screw up.

There’s one thing I’ve learned that makes a HUGE difference in working more effectively. This is more than delegating – it’s eliminating yourself as a bottleneck from the equation.

The one-step-challenge to working less is this:

Define a threshold for which you are to be involved in your business. For everything else, discard or eliminate.

This is the nicer way to say “I can’t be bothered with that”.

Tim Ferriss, in his “4-H Workweek” tells about his outsourcing experience. At first, his team would call him for any detail, just to get his ok with the next step. He would have to understand the situation, think about it, maybe even give the customer a call to get another view. In total, each call would request at least two or three actions, and a lot of time invested.
What then Tim did was to set a clear threshold. He told his people “For any operation that requires cost from our side below 100 $, you’re free to make a call. For any cost above that, you can contact me.” Apparently most calls required actions that would have cost less than 20 $.
(click here for a video of Tim Ferriss at the TED conference where he talks about the learning process) bottleneck

Most managers set their threshold so low, they end up duplicating the jobs of their subordinates. They go into sales meetings with them, support them with their pitches, evaluate their progress and analyze their reports together with them. That makes them feel important and, well, bosses.

If you’re as smart as your subordinate, and doing their job together with them, why are you paid more?
What do YOU do, that justifies your title?

How can you – paradoxically – eliminate yourself from the equation of your subordinates jobs, and focus on the more important stuff?

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