Why not ‘Phone It In’?

Of late, I have personally been involved in a number of projects which are incredibly time-consuming, require multiple opinions and approvals, and are not always tied to personal or collective ‘revenue reward’….yet they are non-negotiable in the need to ‘get er done’. Sound familiar? Yes….this describes a large percentage of what life requires of us at times! You know, those icky jobs which we have to do – and they may or may not ever result in tangible ‘reward’.

Does it also sound familiar to have folks say things like: ‘keep me posted, sounds like you have this under control’, or ‘there’s no need for me to be involved as I would just be duplicating what you are doing’, or ‘it makes no sense to have all of us doing this work, so just let me know how it is coming along’? Yes….again, these comments (or similar rationalizations) are not unusual.

Sadly, situations like this are not unique. ALL of us have been on the receiving end of comments like this…and by their nature, we are almost always left holding the proverbial bag. Before I offer my ‘rant’ on situations like this, lets be clear, I am not referring to appropriate delegation in a work situation or a justified hierarchical professional engagement. I am referring to personal or volunteer responsibilities where there is no hierarchy or defined role. Everyone shares the responsibility and any associated reward equally. Folks run for cover or hide behind their ‘busy lives’ – as if their ‘busy-ness’ is busier, their jobs are more demanding, or their priorities are simply more important than someone else’s.

So…one may ask…does this really matter…..this is life, isn’t it? I mean, get real, Kristin, when we are engaged in a personal project do we have to stay involved in every aspect….and who really cares?! Well…..I have strong opinions on this subject, and, yes, there is relevance in BOTH our professional and personal lives..

  • First, when engaged in any project, regardless of how large or small it is, which involves multiple individuals, where each and every one of those individuals will benefit from the outcome, it is absolutely and unequivocably important for each individual to stay actively engaged. I am NOT talking about being ‘passively’ involved. In a word – this is what we call teamwork.
  • Teamwork spans families, volunteer committees, and of course professional engagements. When a team is functioning at its highest potential, tasks are divided equally. One person does not have the luxury of barking orders or making ‘honey-do lists’ for others to perform. Every one has equal responsibility to do the ‘heavy lifting’.  Sure, the ‘heavy lifting’ may (and probably will) be different for each person involved – yet, not one member gets a ‘pass’ to minimally engage or do their fair share of the work. Nor can they avoid making their fair share of sacrifice to get the work done.This may mean taking off work, traveling when they don’t want to travel, or even doing the ‘work’ they don’t enjoy. This may seem like standard block and tackle for any project; however, I have been amazed to observe how often folks will ‘sit back’ and let others do the heavy lifting – with zero inclination or even a gnawing conscience to step up and help. My clients continue to voice concern to me when this happens to them – both personally and professionally. Resentment will foster and ultimately anger erupts.
  • Secondly, it is dumbfounding when someone who equally owns the outcome of the situation says ‘just let me know if you need or want my help’. Really?!! What happened to taking the initiative? Now, before you object, this is not in reference to a mutually agreed upon approach to managing or accomplishing a project. I am referring to a situation where one or more individuals is angling for a ‘pass’ to avoid having to do the unpleasant or time-consuming work – and rationalizes their lack of involvement by saying ‘you never asked’ or ‘it does not take everyone to get this done’. Let’s get real: after a certain age (let’s conservatively say 16 years of age), we know right from wrong. We know what is expected and what are our responsibilities. We know when we have onus in a particular situation. It is not enough to ‘ask’ if our help is needed. We need to show up, be there, and engage in the heavy lifting before OR even in lieu of being asked.  It is not enough to ‘phone it in’ – all this does is placate the ‘phoner’ that they have ‘offered’, ‘weighed in’, or ‘given the actual doers their B12 of support’. This has not helped the situation at all….as the work still has to get done.

So, the next time we have a tendency or selfish desire to sit back, and ‘phone it in’ versus offering  a literal set of hands.….we need to think again. What can we do? If we were on the other end – what would we want (or need) from other parties involved? How can we be in true, authentic service to the other party? Regardless of ‘what is in it for us’ (the ultimate WIIFM), if we have a responsibility  – and yes, as adults we KNOW when we have a responsibility – we need to own it. We need to do our job – without being asked, coerced, or ‘guilted into it’. That is what true service is. That is honoring our responsibilities. That trumps ‘phoning it in’ every time.