If you truly want to be a leader, delegate. However, if you’re going to delegate, perhaps the worst thing you can do is make assumptions, especially if the person you are delegating to is someone you haven’t worked with regularly over time.
Often, we assume that since a person has great character, is competent and passionate about your project that you can simply hand them the reins and expect to see amazing results. Many times, that just isn’t the case.
There are many reasons why someone may not produce the results you expect. Here are just a few:
- You haven’t clearly communicated your expectations.
example: You ask a secretary to let the elders know the meeting will start 1/2 hour early tomorrow night. She waits until the next morning and finally shoots them all an email mid-morning. Because some elders never saw the email, they ended up being late. You didn’t clarify that you need her to call them or their spouses today to ensure they all know about the change for tomorrow.
- You haven’t clearly communicated your values.
example: You ask a couple to host a luncheon for new members this Sunday. You clearly communicated your expectations, but assumed they understood your values. The luncheon went fine, but the quality of the food and the excellence of the event was way below your standards. You didn’t clarify that details and excellence were important to you.
- You haven’t clearly communicated why it’s important.
example: You ask a volunteer to update a section of the website that’s designed to communicate a special event online. The volunteer finishes the website, but you notice the content has an ‘insider’ orientation with a lot of churchy lingo. You had just put an ad in the paper about the event hoping to drive a lot of unchurched people to that page of the website. You didn’t communicate what this task was for and why it was important. Had you done so, the volunteer may have been more sensitive to how it was worded.
- You haven’t given them the resources they need (time, money, people, etc.) to properly accomplish the task.
example: You ask a young adult to be in charge of a children’s fun night at the church. When you drop off your own children at the event you discover that there are no decorations at the event, only two volunteers, and not very many kids. As you began to probe your leader, you discover that she only had a week and a half to pull the event together, she didn’t know many of the people in the church so didn’t know who to ask to volunteer and she had no understanding that money was available to purchase decorations. More importantly, she didn’t understand that she could have connected with the church secretary to help promote the event. She was greatly under-resourced right from the beginning, but didn’t necessarily have to be.
- You assume everyone you delegate to will know what and how to communicate to you when there are problems.
example: You ask an elder to run the morning service a week the pastor will be away. Last minute, the worship leader turns up sick and unable to lead worship. He tries to recruit someone else to fill-in who you would have known should not have been asked to do so. You’re assumption was that the elder would notify you if there was a problem. The fact is, more often than not, people tend to try to figure things out themselves rather than connect with their direct report, especially if they feel an obligation to truly lead the event to relieve you from the responsibility of it.
I could go on.
Please note the pronoun at the beginning of each of the above points (you). The fact is, when things don’t go as planned, most of the time there is nobody to blame but yourself. Years ago one of my mentors shared the following axiom with me that I have always remembered. I often find myself quoting it to myself when I discover someone hasn’t followed through the way I had hoped. Here’s that axiom:
Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.
This is especially important (1) when you’re working with people you aren’t used to working with OR (2) if the task/project you’ve assigned them is something they have never done before.
In both of those cases, you need to regularly inspect their progress and work. Not micromanage. Inspect. Get regular updates. Ask detailed questions about various aspects of the task/project. Ask them to repeat back to you what you’re expecting, what you’re hoping for, and why it’s important. Ensure they know to tell you the moment a problem arises or they have a need.
Whatever you do, don’t make assumptions. They aren’t fair to you or your leaders.
What have you recently delegated that you should ‘inspect’ today?
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