Let’s look at two scenarios. A busy and stressed-out entrepreneur is on the run. He stops by the desk of a colleague and says the following, “I need some PowerPoint slides for a presentation about our XYZ product. This is a top priority – I need it ASAP.” Now, let’s contrast that with the same encounter but different characters.
A busy and stressed-out entrepreneur is on the run. She goes to the office of a colleague and sits down to explain what she needs. “We have an opportunity to make a presentation to the ABC Company for potentially one of the largest orders of our XYZ product ever received. We’ve been building a relationship with ABC for the past year and they called last night and said we could have 30 minutes on Tuesday. Could you please help me put together this presentation? I’m going to work on exactly what I’m going to say – would you be able to put together eight PowerPoint slides that show how the XYZ product is different than the top competing products? I’m wide open to any ideas you have to be creative here. I realize that this will require some juggling on your part – what is a reasonable time line to get this completed? What can I do to help?”
The difference in approaches isn’t hard to spot. In the first case, the entrepreneur performed the Dump and Run maneuver flawlessly. If Olympic judges were grading him, he would have nailed a perfect 10. In the second case, the entrepreneur used the Delegation technique. She too would have received high marks. So, if you were on the receiving end of this encounter, which of these entrepreneurs would you prefer to work with?
Dump or Delegate. Both start with the same letter but that’s where the similarity ends. Which is more efficient and effective? Some might say that from the entrepreneur’s perspective, handing off an assignment and quickly moving on to the next task is indeed efficient. And there’s no doubt that there are many things that simply can be “dumped” with a minimum of explanation. The problem is that some of us tend to make this the default practice rather than the exception. When I discussed this with another business person at some point in the past, he told me that “if my people aren’t smart enough to figure it out for themselves, then I have the wrong people.” I think I disagree . . . strongly.
Delegating work in a true sense requires collaboration. I’ve found the collaborative approach to be much more efficient and effective. Why? Because by spending the time necessary to bring others up-to-speed the chances for an error-free outcome increase substantially. Further, the odds also improve for a higher quality result. This happens because people are actually able to engage their brains in a much more comprehensive manner when they have a full understanding of the situation at hand. It stands to reason that if I just give someone a “snapshot” of what is needed without the broader context then I’m likely to get a narrowly-focused work product.
Here are the steps I’ve found most productive when delegating to others.
- First, I try to provide the whole story – not just snippets. In doing so, I’m showing respect to my colleague by making sure they have the same information as do I.
- Second, I try to be as specific as I can about what I need. But I also encourage my colleague to be innovative to the extent the situation warrants. This sends a message of flexibility as opposed to rigidity. It also enables the colleague to “personalize” the finished product.
- Third, I make sure my colleague understands the overall timeline. It’s important that the colleague understand when I learned of the assignment. How many times have we seen someone sit on a project then do the last-minute mad dash to finish in time? The last thing I want is for my co-worker to think I’m doing this to him or her. I also want my colleague to set the deadline for completing what I’ve asked to be produced. If his/her timing doesn’t work for the assignment, I can always negotiate a tighter date.
Our team grows stronger when we Delegate every chance we get. While it may take a little longer at the front end, the final result is usually much better than what comes from the Dump scenario.
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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.