Do You Bite Off More Than You Can Chew?

By Linda Tancs

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” Herb Caen, Pulitzer Prize-winning American columnist

Delegation bedevils a lot of people in business. We know we should do it but often we don’t or else fail to do it effectively. Do you bite off more than you can chew? If so, you’re in great company. Moses was terrible at delegation, remonstrated by his father-in-law for taking all the tasks of governance upon himself. Through his wise counsel he advised Moses on the finer points of delegation, exhorting Moses to share the smaller duties with others while retaining authority over bigger matters (Exodus 18:13-26).

So who’s who in your responsibility matrix? A responsible person is one (individually or as one designee of many) who bears responsibility for performing a task. Accountability relates to that person who ultimately bears the burden for the outcome of the task—the phrase “the buck stops here,” famously adopted by President Harry Truman, comes to mind. Accordingly, there can only be one accountable person per task. Consultants are those who have some input on the performance of the task. Therefore, they communicate with those who are responsible and accountable. On the other hand, informed folks are those kept in the loop on a project but not generally expected or required to offer an opinion (think of the “cc” and “bcc” folks on your letters and emails).

Delegation was well understood in the first century. After all, Jesus appointed 12 apostles and gave them power over evil spirits and power to heal every kind of disease and sickness (Matthew 10). Later, Paul reminded Timothy (in 2 Timothy 2:2) to entrust Paul’s instruction to faithful men who would then teach others—an ancient equivalent to our “train the trainer.”

Remember, you have employees, subcontractors, consultants or virtual assistants for a reason. As a British expression goes, don’t keep a dog and bark yourself.