Had I been asleep or was I still awake? That (very) early morning call brought delegation into sharp focus. And it shaped my management forever.
It was 2.30 am. It was cold and dark and I’d been in bed for just a half hour when the phone rang.
“Alarm Center here, are you the keyholder?” – (in a very lively(!) south London suburb store). Grumpily, I replied in the affirmative. My wife didn’t even stir.
“The alarm has gone off and will need your attendance – when will you be there?” I told them that it would take me 40 minutes or so.
The 45 miles through the empty streets would not take the 90 minutes typical during the morning and evening rush hour.
I grudgingly got up and put my clothes on, vaguely aware that I had only been in from the neighbors Christmas party for a short time – and not entirely clear how much I had drunk at all, but it would be close.
About 10 minutes into the drive, the car hit a patch of black ice and slid down a 12 foot bank into a field. It was bumpy, but amazingly, nothing was damaged, except for a few scratches. Even I was OK.
Indeed, it sobered me up pretty darned quickly. As pure chance would have it, I was in a field where there was a gate about 200 yards away which would get me back onto the road.
Quickly, I opened the gate and drove through, up to the Store and did my duty.
Over the next three months, I made sure that my recruitment process brought in some key people, who would be able to deputize for me fully. It was no way for me to be, driving in at all hours.
That wasn’t my role.
My role was to manage the business, drive strategy and change and above all, grow profit. I couldn’t do that unexpected driving in at all hours. And ending up in a field. And luckily surviving.
In that moment I understood the value of delegation and getting a team in, to work right by me with everyone doing what each of us did best – and with some of them living nearby!
I knew my place.