Yes, and . . .

Yes! (and . . .)How many times have you said “Yes” to a request, only to regret it later?

Many of us like to please our coworkers (and especially our bosses), but always saying “Yes” to a request puts you on the fast-track to being needlessly overburdened and overworked.

And yet when you say “No”, the listener almost always stops listening immediately and prepares for a fight.

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A Charles Dickens Management Lesson

"Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball", from A Christmas Carol

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a ghost grants Ebenezer Scrooge the chance to look back into his past and see a company holiday party that Fezziwig, his employer at the time, threw one year. Scrooge observes Fezziwig and his family, the employees and their families, the apprentices (including himself), the household employees and even some of the neighbors as they prepare, arrive and celebrate.

For nearly four hours this party rages on and on. There was dancing and cake and food and beer and music. Scrooge observes every minute of it with glee. He “acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation.”

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Getting over the hump

Getting Over the Hump

Getting Over the Hump (apologies to Jessica at

I had lunch with a colleague this past week and the subject of long, large-effort projects came up. Projects with a big “hump” keeping you from finishing easily and quickly. (see graph)

He manages a small team of folks who are all pulling toward the same goal. He articulated where he was in relation to the goal and what was needed to get there.

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dialogAs a hiring manager, I’m very interested in many things about a candidate. I always use an interview team (or panel) during this process and assign specific aspects of the interview to individuals on that team. I do this for multiple reasons.

First, I find that multiple ears, eyes and wits give a better overview of a candidate than I get with a single interviewer. I long ago stopped being amazed at how something would get missed by a portion of the interviewers but would get picked up by one or two others.

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High Authority / Low Responsibility

Low Responsibility - High Authority

Low Responsibility / High Authority

Leading up to this last week’s post on the Responsibility/Authority Ratio, I was challenged to think about a special (and unlikely) case of responsibility/authority imbalance: high authority and low responsibility.

I agree with @IAmRoot that few would admit to being in this situation. It’s tantamount to being overpaid and under-worked. But what would it look like?

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Responsibility/Authority Ratio

High Responsibility - Low Authority

High Responsibility / Low Authority

It’s not uncommon for me to hear the lament that someone (usually the person lamenting) has too much responsibility.

On closer examination, however, I frequently find what’s really happened: They have been given too little authority. Their responsibility level is appropriate, they just have too little authority to get the job done.

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Managing in the White Space

A few years ago, I was given the task of improving an internal process at my company. Before this assignment, I had successfully managed groups of ten-to-twelve people: Unix administrators, web infrastructure experts and internet security technicians.

But I managed them—I had positional authority over them. There was a natural inclination to do what I would tell them to do. (That’s not why I was successful, but it helped in getting things done.)

In this new organization chart, however, there was this blank white space under my name: I had no staff, no people working for me. There was no one to tell, and yet I still had to get things done.

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