The organization that I work for is about to unveil a new logo in a few days. While going over the checklist, I was reminded of an incident that took place a decade ago during the last logo change.
The head of administration walked into my office unannounced and asked if I had time to see the new logo board they had designed. Curious, I agreed to take a look. After seeing the board, I said it looked great! A couple of days later, the board was put up, and it was only then that we realized it had mistakes. Can you guess who did not have to take the responsibility for the mistakes?
By agreeing to "take a look," I had unknowingly transferred the responsibility for the logo board to myself. This kind of behaviour is still common in the workplace, even almost 50 years after an article in the Harvard Business Review first addressed it. The article emphasized the importance of understanding who "has the monkey" in any given situation, or who is responsible for a particular task or decision.
Based on my experience, I have set some rules with my team members to prevent me from unknowingly taking on someone else's responsibility:
- Schedule a formal meeting (via email or shared calendar) to discuss any topic. Walking in unannounced (unless it's an emergency) is not allowed
- Team members must come prepared to a meeting with a brief overview of the problem, 2-3 probable options and their recommended options with reasons and timelines
- Emails asking for "advice" on a problem will be ignored. The email must contain a specific request for approval, that can be replied to with a simple “approved” or “not approved” (pro tip: we have created Gmail templates for the 15 most used cases and this saves a ton of time)
- Adding my email ID to CC in email chains is not encouraged. If a team member wishes to discuss anything specific, it must be as per one of the above points. (pro tip: if you are unable to get out of a long back-and-forth CC list, use the mute feature in Gmail )
This article also touches upon many other important points, such as the importance of time management, delegation, and empowering your team to make decisions. These practices help to create an efficient and productive workplace.
I look forward to addressing these other points in subsequent posts and until then I hope this helps you Shoot to the Top!