Should I or shouldn’t I? (Article)

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Derek Stockley is a training and performance management consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. He conducts in-house and public training courses.(Google+).

This free article explores the age old issue of expediency - should I develop someone else to do a task or should I do it myself?

Sometimes it seems easier to just do it yourself

Most of us would have said to ourselves: "It would have been easier if I had done it myself".

Communication is a difficult process. It is easy to forget to tell someone a key piece of information when passing on information or giving them instructions. Consequently, people may not do exactly as you expect. So is this a reason to stop trying? No - I believe it is a reason to get better at communicating. Both parties should learn something.

I remember an incident very early in my career. I was asked to do an accounting task. Apparently I did not do it correctly. The manager concerned redid the task, without telling me. I found out from somebody else. The manager was angry. I was angry too because I had not had the opportunity to learn. I was also upset that I had made mistakes. I did not want to do that either. It was a no-win situation. I should have asked for more guidance. The manager should have had better controls in place. We both should have learnt from the experience.

This article is about allocating tasks as well as delegation. There is a difference, see: What is effective delegation? - effective delegation is defined and discussed.

The long term benefits

A useful parable is:

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime - Author unknown.

Most of us have seen this parable before. Yet many choose to ignore it. Why?

As explained above, communication difficulties causing frustration can be a starting point. Another reason can be a lack of appreciation of what the parable is saying. Sometimes it takes a little longer to explain or train someone in a task or delegation. But if it is a repetitive task, the time saving in the long run can be very substantial. This increases personal productivity. It can also have motivational effect which also increases performance.

Recently, the power of this parable has been brought home to me. In a world where there is so much to do, it is essential that we pass on our knowledge and skills to others, so they in turn can pass on that knowledge and skills to others as well. The parable can be taken at face value as a story, but it also applies literally. We really should be teaching people how to fish.


Our time is such a critical resource. Failure to concentrate on the more important things is a waste. It is easy to work on the more straight forward tasks, but if you have people that you can delegate these tasks to - do so. Do it for their sake. Do it for your sake. Show people that you trust them. Allow them to develop their skills further. Take responsibility for your actions. Start doing it today. Make the world a better place.

Related reading

What is effective delegation? - effective delegation is defined and discussed.

"Feed a man fish" - variants - short (humorous?) variants on the feed a man fish rule.

Although this article is specifically about management, other articles under the following topics may also be useful:

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in both Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.

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