Whose Job Is This?

There are lots of details about ThatCon I’d enjoy getting deeply involved with, but it turns out that, as con chair, most of those details are not my job. It’s more important to make sure that someone’s on top of them and get myself out of the way of the process, thereby leaving myself free for the few things that no one else can do.

This turns out to be easier to say than to put into practice. For all kinds of reasons, I’ll resist delegating a task.

I’m guessing that overall the two biggest obstacles to delegating are “no volunteer for a job” and “lack of trust in someone who’s volunteered but with whom I don’t have a track record of success”.   Close behind this is “I don’t understand the thing that needs delegating well enough to make a job description.”  But yesterday’s delegation difficulties were more subtle. I found myself being the go-to person in a bunch of small decisions when really any of a number of solutions would have sufficed.   Why me, I wondered, how did I get here?

  • It was something I was interested in and actually have strong opinions about though not necessarily expertly informed ones.  So, when asked, it was gratifying to put in my two cents and see the ideas put into practice.
  • Relatedly, it was something where I could see the ideas in practice.  There was a direct result between decision and result, whereas many of the things I am doing for the con are more about influencing the shape of events and setting up processes where people can work.
  • At first I wasn’t sure that there really was someone in place to delegate this topic to in the future.  After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there was a person, P,  nominally in charge of this area but not engaged in the conversation.  That’s interesting!

That last point led to a whole other set of questions.

  • How did P get left out of the discussion?  Well, theyd originally been included but never responded, and eventually wound up dropped from the cc list.
  • Is P interested in this conversation?  Does P think that the outcome of this decision is part of his job?  I realized that I was assuming that the answers to both of these were “no” but that  I didn’t know that for sure.

It’s hard to ask those kinds of questions in email.  So I picked up the phone and, luckily, reached P right away so that I could ask for what I wanted, support in getting myself out of the loop  of future decision making on this topic.  Confirmation that we agreed about the scope of the job responsibilities, and that we agreed P should follow up in the future.

And so after the phone call,  I answered the pending question, having my own little bit of fun in molding the universe to the Whim of the Con Chair,  but made it clear I’d defer to P for future decisions in the same area.

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