Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Not Being 'Mikey'

Seven summers ago, I co-taught a summer school History class at Rindge with a guy named Larry Aaronson.

I haven't kept up with him since and I have no idea if he's even still teaching. (I did, however, use his real name in the hopes that he might Google himself one day and see that someone remembered this lesson for his teacher trainees). One of the many lessons of his that I still remember is about the value of not being a "Mikey."

He was describing his role in the school, but he could've been talking about what happens to any enthusiastic go-getter within an organization who is identified as such: People see someone who appears (or is) willing or even eager to take on new 'collateral duties' and then people start to see that person as a dumping ground for said duties.

"Be willing to take new things on, young padawans, but be careful to avoid the 'Mikey' problem," he warned us.

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"You know, remember that kid Mikey from Life Cereal...his brothers didn't want to try it themselves, so they just push it on him because they know he'll do it."

The lesson was learned and I haven't forgotten it since. Whatever the organization you belong to, or work for, regardless of the size, there is a Mikey somewhere. There may be several. It may be you.

If that's the case, the burden falls squarely on you to push back a bit, because whoever is tasking you may just think you're looking for more to put on your plate, or just thinks you need the work. If you think you're a Mikey, or that you're becoming one, you've got to find your way out of it before you find yourself juggling more balls than you can possibly manage.

That, and don't ever mix pop rocks and soda.


C R Krieger said...

Air Force Number 1 rule of management.

If you need it right away, give it to someone who is busy.  They won't have time to play around, but will just get it done, now.

Yes, if Mikey is competent, give it to him.  I have seen that from both ends.  It is flat out truth.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...

And I think that even goes way back, too...there's an old Confucian proverb, "If you need to get something done, ask the busy man." No kidding. Think about when that happens in our own lives, the proverbial semester when you did the most activities but managed to somehow get your best GPA..

..I will also remember that rule of management if/when I become a parent..

Also one funny observation I remembered after reading your always amazes me how the people with the LEAST on their plates are often the FIRST to complain about having their time wasted, or some meeting or tasking to be "a waste of time." I guess they don't see the irony in saying it...I doubt the military is unique in that respect, but that's where I definitely saw it.