The Art of Delegating – don’t take the monkey!

George, the Trouble Shooter

I'm Regional Manager in Atlanta, and I have four assistant regional managers who will be represented here by George, Mike, Valerie, and Dave. Our territory is the Gulf States and all of the state of Georgia, and we sell to J. C. Penney, Sears Roebuck and all the other retail outlets. Let me introduce George to you.

George is Assistant Regional Manager for Traffic and Transportation. That means that he has a string of warehouses, some of them owned and some of them leased; and a fleet of trucks, some of them owned some of them leased. His job is to make sure that deliveries occur in accordance with the promises made by the sales force. (I can only ask you to imagine the kind of vocabulary he uses in describing the sales force!) Therefore his job consists of incessant trouble­shooting, no two days are alike for him, and he loves it. He often says to his wife, "I've got the most interesting job in the company. You can never tell what is going to happen next." And he keeps things that way by refusing to plan. And because I built this region practically with my bare hands back in the Depression years, together with our glorious founder, there's no problem that comes up in our region that I haven't got the vast experience to draw upon to help solve. So when he encounters me in the hallways or in the parking lot with the opener, "Hi, Boss, we've got a problem," it stops me dead in my tracks.

He tells me, "I have two truck drivers in Mobile, Alabama crammed into a phone booth on long distance asking what to do with some merchandise. Sears Roebuck has turned the trucks away. They claim they never ordered it. I don't know what to do with the goods, and I need the trucks like I can taste them. I called the warehouse in New Orleans, and they said, 'Don't ship the stuff here.' I called Baltimore, 'Don't ship the stuff here.' I called Miami, 'We're up to our ears in the stuff.' And trucks! We need the trucks. What do we do?"

So I pick up that monkey. Then I say, "I'll get back to you and let you know." And he says to me, "What'll I tell the truck drivers? They're still in the phone booth on long distance." I say, "Tell them to take a coffee break. We'll get back to them at two o'clock."

One hour later he corners me in the elevator shaft, and says, "Fred, we've got another problem." Right away I reach for a little piece of paper, or a bit of the back of an envelope, and ­get ready to write down what that one is.

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