I was listening to a podcast the other day and the interviewee was talking about consulting and an interesting conceptual framework that just made sense to me.
The story went like this.
Imagine you have a baby. And I’m your babysitter.
Is the baby my baby? Or your baby?
Of course it’s yours.
Now imagine I’m babysitting your baby and your baby gets sick. And I have to take it to the doctor.
Is it my baby or your baby?
It’s still your baby.
Just because I’m taking care of your baby doesn’t mean the baby is mine. It is still yours.
The same concept applies to a consultant.
If you’re helping a sick business turn itself around. The CEO and management team are still in charge of the results of that company.
It is theirs.
Just because the consultant is helping with advice, direction, and maybe helping out in specific areas, that doesn’t make it the consultant’s company.
The consultant is still just the consultant.
The key point the consultant on the podcast was making is he gets the CEO involved and makes sure the buck stops with the CEO.
Any issues that need to be resolved, the CEO owns. Not the consultant. The consultant is just an adviser to help the CEO.
The issue was when CEO’s wash their hands of things and don’t support the consultant. Then blame the consultant when the results don’t come.
They’ve basically thrown the baby out with the bathwater. They’ve assumed they can hand off responsibility for their business to the consultant.
It just doesn’t work that way.
And so it is whether you’re a CEO or an employee at a lower level on the food chain.
You need to own your shit. But they need own theirs too.
Don’t let them dump their responsibilities on you and then blame you for not delivering.
This is often easier said than done with managers and coworkers often dropping their issues on your plate.
You can’t always avoid taking on their troubles. But often you can help without just adding it to your workload.
Here’s some questions to ask.
“How would you approach it?”
Rather than solving their problem for them, get them into the habit of solving their own problem first. Or at least pre-thinking several solutions and then getting your opinion on the final direction or option they are thinking is right.
By helping them think better, they’ll grow their skills and not need you to make as many decisions for them. This is especially important for new managers as they often are great doers but struggle with getting things done through others.
“What do you need from me and when do you need it?”
Being specific on the ask when someone needs your help is important too. How many times have you had something dropped in your lap only to deliver what you thought was needed or was working on it when the originator of the task shoots you a nastygram email about you dropping the ball.
What happened is you thought they wanted something else or that it wasn’t as urgent as they thought it was.
A communication disconnect.
Don’t let that happen. Ask a few follow up questions. And also that way you’ll know in advance what you’re getting yourself into and if it isn’t an appropriate use of your time you can address it then.
“Do I need to get these emails?”
Email is a Hell people often get mired in. Asking yourself if you need to be included on an email is often critical to cutting down incoming email messages and reclaiming your time to focus on more important tasks.
Emails tend to be something that ever expands. The only way to reduce it is to take an active role. Yes, you can create autoforward rules to move them to a folder you won’t see. But that doesn’t really address the problem.
Go through your inbox and note down which email subjects don’t really need your involvement or awareness. Then email the originator and tell them you don’t need to be included on future emails of that specific type.
Doing this once a quarter is like spring cleaning for your office life. It is amazing how good it feels to chop 100 messages a day down to 50.
So who’s baby is it? Make sure you know.
Looking for other ways to get more done in a day? Check out these 74 productivity tips to get more from your day.