Our Cleaning Ladies: How to Delegate for Endless Amusement

At home, we delegate some of our housekeeping tasks.

Our cleaning ladies do a great job!

Dishes washed, counters clear, sink disinfected, oven, refrigerator, and bathrooms disinfected, floors vacuumed or mopped and sparkling, random housewares put away.

However, there’s one little problem.

lady mops the floor. Photo by rawpixel on UnsplashWhen they put things away, we can never find them.

Like any other house guest, they haven’t learned Lori’s semi-random rules about “where things go”. (The drawer where the “round lids” go, the scissor drawer, the drawer where the “non-round lids” go.)

We find lids for protein shaker jars in the scissor drawer. Salt ends up in the pantry…Plates in the pan drawer…Pans under the oven. Aghast!

We find bowls with the pans. (What were they thinking?!)

Lori clears her entire bathroom counter to avoid searching for her toothbrush or hairbrush after the cleaning ladies visit.

Never can we find the missing things in the places we expect to find them. Sometimes we search for minutes. Sometimes we don’t find them for days.

Delegate and lose control: Cost of receiving help

I’ve concluded this is one of the less understood costs of having help: other humans do things differently than me.

If I want it done “just so”, I may have to do it myself.

Short of paying them for hours to train them in the “house rules” of kitchen and bathroom storage, I’ve learned to expect them have different priorities and expectations.

It’s a rare human being who has the same “common sense” I’ve built over years.

Delegate and try to keep control: drive all creativity, incentive, and motivation out of the help

An alternative approach is trying to have others do the work, but micro-managing them to the point where their every action and result is dependent on guidance or feedback from you or someone else.

In the short run, this works, and can seem like a good idea.

However, very few people enjoy having their every move monitored and their every action pre-ordained.

Managing people or an organization this way ultimately leads to good people leaving, because they don’t want to be held back by over-intrusive “leadership” who exhibits no trust and low self-control.

It also leads to low morale because anyone who stays learns their contribution isn’t valued all that much… If their contribution was truly valued, and if they were truly a trusted member of the team, would they be micromanaged so much?

Delegate and expand your access to expertise, skills, experience, and resources

The flip side of losing control or micro-managing, is gaining additional resources when you invite others to help.

Well-trained individuals eventually “personalize” their role and behavior to suit their own preferences and the unique characteristics of the situation as it evolves.

Furthermore, everyone knows and has different expertise, skills, experience, and resources than everyone else.

As a result, a team brings multiple types of expertise, skills, experience, and resources, compared to any individual on the team.

Delegate and give yourself the benefit of not only your team members’ expertise, skills, and experience, but also their relationships, time, and maybe even their money.

Examples

Another benefit of delegation: The cleaning ladies provide a constant source of fun when something goes missing around the house

Papers piled on desk, Steve Baker, (CC BY-ND 2.0)So it went when Lori’s car registration expired recently.

She asked me if I knew where it was (we’d both talked about it as we looked at incoming mail a few weeks ago).

I told her I’d sold it for $400.

She asked me for her $400. I told her it was my $400: after all, I found it and I worked to earn it.

I admitted I hadn’t sold her car registration and I didn’t know where it was.

I told her maybe the cleaning ladies had sold it for $400.

We quickly moved past that theory. (Really, we joke about the cleaning ladies, but we know we’re the likely cause of most missing items — except in the day or two following their monthly visits.)

Lost, Forgotten, Misplaced, or Stolen?

She’d already scoured the “mail counter”, so she was pretty sure it wasn’t there.

Then she looked at her office space. “Maybe I put it here…”

As she did so, I wondered whether she’d taken it out to her car, the obvious place to move it, but I was making breakfast and our banter continued, so I lost the thought before I shared it.

As though by mind reading, Lori asked if she’d put it out in her car.

I said that would be the obvious place to put it.

Then she asked where in the car she might have put it.

I told her it probably wasn’t in the glove compartment. “Why would you ever put it there?” (Sarcasm is a skill I learned early and am still perfecting, though it gets me in trouble too often.)

Forgetfulness or mishandling is the common causes of things getting “lost” (“the help” is generally not to blame)

Animal themed birthday postcard vector. Image by rawpixel.comThen I recalled a collection of “homeless bags” she put in her car a couple of years ago. They contained socks, food, and hygiene items for people who wave at her at stop lights. She gave away most that year, but there are still several in a box in her back seat. The remaining bags also contained dog food, for the street people with pets.

I told Lori maybe she’d put the registration in that box, since that does seem to be a place she puts things, then promptly forgets about them.

The gift that keeps on giving

As she continued cleaning her desktop, she found a card she’d bought me for my birthday (a week prior), then forgot to give me.

She said maybe she’ll just give it to me next year. She said she’ll put it away, then she can forget to give it to me next year too, when she’ll probably find it a week after my birthday again.

I told her I can’t recall how many I’ve bought and never given away. (It makes me sad.)

I suggested she give it to me immediately, so she can avoid all the regret of never giving it to me.

She didn’t respond.

Be consistent: build a habit and misplace fewer things

Then I suggested she put it out in the box of dog food, with her registration, since that’s been a great a place for storing forgotten things.

She walked over and gave me a hug.

Consider this:

  • What areas of your life or responsibilities do you currently delegate?
    • How often do you delegate?
    • Do you trust others to get the job done?
    • Which of your current responsibilities are you willing to delegate?
  • Recall a time you “broke a habit”, or, more likely, created a new one.
    • What was your motivation?
    • Do you recall how you did it?
    • How would you create or eliminate another habit if you had to start today?
  • Is there a connection between things that amuse you, objects of jokes, and sources of irritation in your life?
    • What are the common sources of amusement in your household or workplace?
    • Who or what is the object of jokes around your house or office?
    • What are the constant sources of irritation in your life?

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