Think back to the days of grade school. When you had a substitute teacher, did you continue with the regular curriculum or did you just color? If you rejoiced on sub days (like most of us did) and saw the absence of Miss. Whatever as a chance to color and goof off, you were the lucky benefactor of poor planning. You see, Miss. Whatever should have left lesson plans for the substitute so that you could continue learning the times tables. When she didn’t, she failed the substitute (team member) and the student (the consumer).
Think now to your business – there are probably tasks for which you are solely responsible and you are undoubtedly very good at them. But what happens in your absence? Is your team just sitting around coloring? If you know you will be out of the office (sick days, planned vacation, whatever) make sure someone has instructions to move forward on your behalf. That way, regularly scheduled tasks don’t get neglected and you don’t return to an overflowing inbox upon your return.
Seems really simple, right? Well, don’t make (too much) fun of me, but I just recently learned this concept. You see, I am responsible for Task X here at Plain Sight. And let me tell you, I rock at Task X. In fact, I rock so hard Tasking that X that no one else does it; there’s no need, you see, for I am the Queen of Task X and as long I’m around there will be severe rocking of the world of Task X. And two weeks ago when I not around due to being deathly ill, Task X went untouched and unrocked and this made me very sad.
I was sad for many reasons: I was disappointed that Task X wasn’t getting done and would not get done until I was well enough to do it. And I was disappointed in myself that I let my pride in the being the ultimate X-Tasker get in the way of me showing anyone else how to do the job. Would they have the love and finesse for Task X that I do? No. But it would have gotten done and that would have been better than what I produced, which was nothing.
I should have left lesson plans. And when I didn’t, I failed not only my team, but clients too. And that, of course, is the most sad of all.
I now have detailed instructions documented in case this happens again. And it will. And it will happen to you; you will get sick, or your kid will get sick, or your house will flood or a million different other things will happen that will keep you from work. And if you are the only person who can do something, that something will not get done, and that could very easily be a problem.
I absolutely believe in specialization, but I also believe that one person’s absence shouldn’t affect the company’s bottom line. And it’s not always life or death issues you should look out for either. If your receptionist is the only one who can work the CoffeeMaker 9000 by Black and Decker and she calls in sick, guess who’s not getting coffee.
What can you do to make sure your team isn’t left clueless if you can’t be available?
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