Assigning tasks appropriately




Effective leaders are amazing at sizing up the various personalities in the team and assigning tasks appropriately.  To achieve this, they intimately understand important properties of the tasks they delegateThen, they match up the right tasks with the right people. 

When I worked for State Bank of India, my most challenging assignment was to take over from an official who was moving on with his promotion as Branch Manager.  This person’s promotion had been delayed and he was in a “why do I care?” mode for about six months.  He was simply “parked” in the branch awaiting his real assignment as Branch Manager.

When I took over, I found the work in shambles and needing a lot of clean up.  There were too many things not properly documented, loans not properly followed up, a number of payments outstanding, etc.  Needless to say, I had to spend the best part of two months, simply getting the house in order.

That got me thinking.  This person was quite intelligent, smart and career-oriented.  He could have made a choice of continuing to be an ideal employee and kept things in perfect order.  But he chose not to.

The reason he made the other choice was that he was not motivated by any particular incentives for performance in the previous role.  He was simply biding his time.  He had been promoted.  His reward was waiting for him in his next assignment.  This was just a stop-gap role for him.  An outstanding performance was not going to affect his compensation, recognition or performance.

He was simply baby-sitting.

A baby-sitter’s role is just that.  Take care of the baby for a finite period of time, doing just enough to make sure the baby is OK and not cause any damage.  The baby-sitter does not own the baby and is not responsible for any long-term growth or well-being of the baby.

On the contrary, the parent is completely invested in the baby.  Not only does the parent take care of the baby, watch it grow and acquire new skills, but is also proud to be associated with the baby.

Parent-Babysitter Attributes

Parent-Babysitter Attributes



In other words, the parent’s mindset is promotional, i.e. try to get the baby to move from zero to one.

The baby-sitter’s mindset is preventive  i.e. don’t let the baby to slip from zero to minus 1.

Both are at zero, but focused in two opposite directions!

As a leader, when you have to assign certain tasks, you should check on the importance of the task.  Ask simple questions like “Is the task critical?”, “does it need care?”, “will it affect your reputation?”, “is this operation important to the company?”, “will it help your customers?” and so on.  If you feel the answers to such questions are in the affirmative, then you must assign these tasks to a “parent” with a promotional mindset.

Any other activity can be assigned to a baby-sitter.

In an earlier post, we saw two different personalities in a race-horse and a cart-horse.  This is a different distinction.  As leaders, and even as indispensable team members, we need to be aware of these distinctions and develop our sense of engagement with such personalities.

Have you experienced any dealings with such personalities?  Please share your thoughts using the comments below. 


Parenting Image: © Pkruger | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Attributes Infographic : © Kay Leadership Academy


1 Comment

  • Kumar Subramanian (1580 days ago) Reply

    Thanks to Kay--This is new learning---- baby sitter word perfectly applies on many idle leaders and managers.

    "baby sitter" word will wake up many leaders and Managers. Everyone of us need to show continuous improvements and progress in whatever we do.
    Good one Kay--keep it up

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