Delegate to Upgrade a Position

Many years ago, a friend was offered a promotion. The position carried great prestige but the workload was enormous and the pay raise minimal. The previous person who occupied the position always looked haggard with so many responsibilities. At the time, my friend was just a member of the rank and file, and this was his chance to move up the corporate ladder.
Another difficulty was that the department was so disorganized; turning it around would not be easy. After a couple of weeks weighing the offer, my friend decided to turn it down partly for health reasons—he wanted to have some time to sleep.
A colleague was promoted instead and became his boss. To my friend’s dismay, his new boss proceeded to radically change the responsibilities of the position. Much of the work was delegated to him so his boss reaped all the advantages while having much less of a workload than before.
It turned out that although the job description of the position states the responsibilities, there were few details on how they should be accomplished and the new boss thought of a better approach. My friend committed a terrible blunder in not accepting the promotion. His mind-set was fixed on the old ways of doing things and he did not consider the possibility that there could be a better way.
Even after what happened, my friend did not look kindly at his superior. Instead of seeing the light, he chose to describe his boss as lazy, incompetent and a credit taker. No doubt a large part of his negative bias was his bitterness in making the wrong decision. In fact, only a few of his co-workers disapproved.
The truth is, much depends on the situation, as there are instances where it is not possible to pass on the duties. However, in this case, it seems that his boss made many wise moves. From my conversation with my friend, I learned that his boss did the following immediately upon taking his new office:
He fired two subordinates for insubordination. In a move straight out of the book “The Art of War,” he terminated two of his most uncooperative staff. This was a shocking decision, as during the time of the old boss, no one was fired for anything less than armed robbery. This bold action had a chilling effect on the remaining hard-headed staff and resistance was dramatically reduced.
Two factors made this dramatic decision feasible. First is that since he was new to the post, changes were expected. Second is that the department was performing poorly and was in fact being considered for outsourcing if the situation did not change. So there was nothing to lose by taking the risk since he would likely be out of a job anyway if there was no improvement.
He delegated many of his old functions. The old way was to do everything you could and to delegate what you could not. Unfortunately, this tradition of being hands-on translated to micro-managing, which stifled self-initiative and delayed the work because even trivial things were subject to approval. At first there were problems, but to the surprise of many, there were more things accomplished and morale improved as their own ideas were implemented. Although some of the tasks that were delegated were not done as well as before, there were improvements in many other tasks because there was more time to do them. The lead time for decisions was cut in half because people had more authority to decide on their own.
He focused more on planning and control systems. Previously, almost nothing new was conceptualized. All the effort was exhausted on just the day-to-day operations. If there ever was a new policy or plan, it was forced to be done in a crisis. With the new administration, this was reversed. Instead of just fire fighting emergencies that cropped up, more time was allocated to planning. Instead of just waiting for problems to occur, modern control systems were set up that were able to prevent them from occurring. The control systems, too, were essential to prevent some people from misusing their authority.
He developed better relationships with his superiors. Actually, the words chosen by my friend were far less diplomatic; he said his boss was a world class bootlicker. Whatever the truth is, his boss was in such good terms with his superiors that they gave him their full support and a bigger budget.
Looking back on the offer, if only my friend had known what to do, then he would have chosen a different course of action. Not only would have his position and pay been better, he could also have had a better work load. This story had a happy ending though. After a few years, since his boss was very effective, he was again promoted.
My friend once again was offered the post. This time, despite his hidden disgust with his boss, he adopted most of his methods. From that point on, he was able to begin his rapid rise to a very senior post in that giant corporation. And to think that a large part of his success was probably due to his hated boss’ fondness for delegation.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. C-6, Sunday, July 22, 2012. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.