"What happened?" I asked.
"She didn't do it," he sighed. "I told her she was in charge of making it happen and to let me know if she needed help. The whole thing fell apart."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"I confronted her and told her she didn't meet expectations," he said.
"Then what?" I asked.
"Well, I can't trust her anymore and can't afford for it to be done poorly, so I just do it myself."
Cue management meltdown.
You may have experienced a similar thing. Perhaps it was delegating lesson plan development, lunch or bus duty, tutorials, after-school programming, and so on. In fact, this is one of the most common management dilemmas I coach people on: What do you do when you’ve delegated and it falls through?
The first thing to consider – brace yourself – is that 99% of the time the problem starts with you.
I know, I know. It can’t be you. You’re diligent, focused, and always communicate clearly. Me too.
And yet, the research shows quite the opposite. Successful leaders embrace this maxim:
“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” -Arnold H. Glasow
When a team member fails to perform, it’s on the leader for not effectively activating that team member. What's activating? It's essentially setting them up with everything they need to be successful.
See, people don’t drive to work thinking, “Today I’ll wreak some havoc, drop the ball, and be really bad at what I do.”
And yet most of the people I coach who struggle with effective activation point the finger outward. “I don’t know why they won’t do what they’re supposed to. They’re just deviant.”
People want to feel successful at work. They want to be good at what they do. They want to be praised for what they do.
Start with this assumption.
Assuming, then, that all people want to be good at what they do, why don’t they do it?
Typically it’s because they don’t know what to do, how to do it, or why they are doing it.
Enter effective activation, which looks like this:
- Tell them why they’re doing it
- Tell them what they’re going to do
- Show them how to do it
- Let them try
- Observe them doing it
- Praise their progress or reset to steps 1-3 if they still aren’t doing it
Regardless of the type of assignment, the process is the same. Sell the vision, tell them what, show them how, then set them free to do it. Observe, provide feedback, rinse and repeat.
Effective activation doesn't just set them up for success. It is also a long-term investment in your sanity. You can't afford not to do it.
So what's your next step? Well...
1. Leadership is all about empowering others to take responsibility. Imagine what life will be like when you let go of more stuff, empower others, and get better results!
2. Here's what I need you to do: Start delegating. Today.
3. How? Start by choosing an assignment that you plan to delegate at your next check-in. Then map it out using the six steps above. How will you sell the why? Explain the what? Show them how?
4 & 5. Now go do it and let me know how it went so that I can...
6. Praise you for being an awesome leader!
See what I did there?