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

Setting a Standard of Performance

As I hang up the receiver Mister B is slumped like a sack of potatoes. Perspiration is streaming from his brow. I realize I can't let him call on Mr. Jones in that condition. He needs confidence and buoyancy. "You've got a date with Mr. Jones for eleven-thirty - in just a half hour," I remind him. Not a word. "You realize, of course." I go on, "that your salary is continuous throughout the entire work day, including the time you'll be talking to Mr. Jones." Still no response. "Accordingly, I expect a positive result from the inter­view. It might. therefore, be helpful if I tell you the minimum positive result you are allowed to achieve - if you get yourself thrown out of his office bodily I will regard that as minimum accept­able performance on your part." At first the humour relaxes him. Then the realization that he can easily exceed my standard re­vitalizes him. Figuratively, I've just told him that I'll be waiting outside Jones' office with my arms outstretched in the unlikely event he gets himself thrown out.

Now, Mister B, that we've set our standard of performance, in what ways do you think you might exceed it?

He responds imaginatively. After all, with such a standard, almost anything he accomplished would exceed it. (I'll ask him to impose a higher standard next time, of course). By the time eleven-thirty rolls around he has developed quite a list of "objectives" and has not only regained his confidence, but also has acquired a knowing grin. He gets up to leave. "By when will you let me know the outcome?" I ask him. "I'll call you just before you join Jones for lunch," he replies. By now I'm getting just a bit accustomed to the exhilarating sight of a back receding toward my door with the monkey on it.
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