Hit and Run: Avoiding Drive-By Assignments

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It goes by many names: drive-by assignments, the dump and run.  We may call it something different, but we know it when we see it.  Maybe we’ve had it happen to us, or we (though we may not want to admit to it!) have done it to our employees.  A leader leaves an assignment with one of their team members and tells this employee to figure it out, then disappears as suddenly as they appeared.  The chances of this task being done correctly or promptly have just slimmed down to the faintest glimmer of a chance. 

Sometimes things even as miniscule as different acronyms might throw a wrench in the works.  For instance, I see ASAP and think it’s a top priority—but for some of my employees, BEE (Before Everything Else) is given top attention.  So how to cut through the miscommunications and streamline delegating in your workplace?  The good news is that it’s fairly straightforward to avoid.  We as leaders need to slow down and make sure to answer a few questions before moving along:

·      Who Will Do It?  Who is the person responsible for completing this task?  Make sure that your employee is clear on the fact that this is an assignment and not simply an afterthought.  Give your task the weight it merits.

·      What Has to Be Done?  Are expectations clear?  If you don’t have a clear picture of what this completed task should look like, why do you expect your employee to have one?  Define clear parameters for your employee to follow.

·      How Should it Be Done?  You’ve established the what, now make sure your employee has a handle on the how.  Different tasks demand different approaches.  Share your ideas on these approaches and see if your employee has any thoughts to contribute.  Make sure everyone is on the same page.

·      Why is it Done in This Way?  You’ve gone through the what and the how, now make sure your team member understands your thought process.  Sometimes it’s hard for us to connect with a task that is purely theoretical.  Again, clear communication goes a long way in assigning tasks.

·      When Should it Be Completed?  Nothing motivates workers like a good, old fashioned deadline.  If you don’t have a firm deadline in mind, make sure to at least give them a ballpark.  Otherwise, it’s easy to put off completing a task in favor of other assignments which may feel more pressing.

·      Where Will You Be?   Make sure that you’ve made yourself available and accessible should your employee run into any questions, road blocks, or problems along the way.

By making sure you’ve addressed these questions when assigning a task to one of your employees, you can ensure that things are being completed in a timely, competent matter.  No matter how much we wish it was different, our employees aren’t mindreaders!  We can’t expect them to give us what we’re looking for unless we’re able to communicate exactly and precisely what we want.  But with a little intention and a lot of clarity, we can become better leaders of more efficient teams.