Education Opinion

Other Duties As Assigned

By LeaderTalk Contributor — April 21, 2009 2 min read
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I’ve been hearing that phrase quite a bit lately -- especially from people who aren’t happy with some of the “other duties” they’ve been assigned because the other duties are not aligned with 1) their job, 2) their skills set, or because the other duties take so much time away from their core job duties that they aren’t able to perform their core duties. I now work in the central office (I am hearing these complaints from people on campuses), but I have been on a campus in an administrative position and I know all too well the pressures that come with the job. I know that too often decisions about duties can be made quickly without much thought about who, when, where, and why.

In the book “Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” (Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, Charles Burck), the authors list one of the “building blocks” of getting things done as “Having the Right People in the Right Place.” In fact, in the title of the chapter on this building block, the authors describe this as the one “job no leader should delegate.” The authors state:

An organization's human beings are its most reliable resource for generating excellent results year after year. Their judgments, experiences, and capabilities make the difference between success and failure. Yet the same leaders who exclaim that “people are our most important asset” usually do not think very hard about choosing the right people for the right jobs. They and their organizations don't have precise ideas about what jobs require--not only today, but tomorrow--and what kind of people they need to fill those jobs.

As I read that passage I also reflected on the idea that in some cases, on some campuses, the wrong people are assigned to the wrong duties because the leaders really aren’t clear on what the core jobs of those people really are -- so the leader assigns “other duties” that conflict with the core job simply because they don’t have the knowledge that they need about the person’s core job.

The authors go on to explain that:

Common sense tells us the right people have to be in the right jobs. Yet so often they aren't. What accounts for the mismatches you see every day? The leaders may pick people with whom they are comfortable, rather than others who have better skills for the job. They may not have the courage to discriminate between strong and weak performers and take the necessary actions. All of these reflect on absolutely fundamental shortcoming: The leaders aren't personally committed to the people process and deeply engaged in it.

Do you know all of the strengths, weaknesses, talents, and interests of all of the people in your organization? Do you understand what their core job entails with regard to information processing, time, energy, and critical thinking? Do you know who on your staff really is the “right pick” for the multitude of “other duties”?

Or do you operate in what I refer to as the “warm body zone” where other duties are just assigned randomly with no deep consideration of which team member might really be the best fit for the job?

How do we become deeply engaged in the people process to ensure that we are putting the right people in the right places?

• We must take the time to know our people...
• We must take the time to understand what their current jobs are and what those jobs demand of them...
• We must know our people well enough to understand their strengths, areas for growth, talents, interests, and career aspirations...
• We must understand what each “extra duty” requires and what skill sets are essential for each duty...
• We must become good “match-makers” between people and tasks...

What else would you add to this list?

Do you have a successful process for “match-making” in your organization? How do you put the right people in the right places?

Stephanie Sandifer
Blog: Change Agency
Author of Wikified Schools

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.