Hit and Run: Avoiding Drive-By Assignments


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.

Delegating the Deckwork: Effective Delegation in Your Workplace

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A few years back, my wife asked me to stain our large, backyard deck.  It’s a large task, needing no less than 8 hours to complete, and definitely not the way I had wanted to spend my Saturday.  But she was right: the work needed to be done.  About two hours into my undertaking, my wife came outside to ask me to run to the grocery store.  I pointed out that I was busy staining the deck and not able to go, to which she replied, “Staining the deck is easy—you can finish once you’re back.”  I realized that, from her point of view, staining the deck looked simple because she did not have to do the work itself.

I often think of this exchange with my wife when training new leaders on the importance of delegation.  Oftentimes we underestimate the amount of effort an employee is putting into a task because we are not the ones doing the labor.  Remember: the only thing separating you from your team is a job title.  But with some attention, intention, and education, you can delegate effectively.


The first step to effective delegation is to agree on expectations and responsibilities.  We often do this without thinking, but a little more attention to it goes a long way.  Make sure that you and the employee you’re delegating to have the same picture of what success means.  Be clear and concise about roles in completing the task: who is responsible for what?  Build a safety net should your employee find themselves in need of some guidance.  Most importantly, make sure that the deadline is expressed clearly and enforced.


In order to avoid the dreaded mantle of the micromanager, we often find ourselves inclined to delegate a task and disappear entirely.  Stay involved with your employees throughout their project.  Allow them the room and freedom to complete the work, but stay available to them to help with any concerns or unexpected roadblocks.  By managing with intention, you can help your team succeed without staying immediately involved.


One way you can stay involved in a delegated task is to create and foster learning opportunities.  When the delegated project has been completed, meet with your team and check in: What worked?  What could have functioned more successfully?  Why did these things happen?  Establish that this debriefing will occur from the get-go of the assignment.  It’s important that your team is both celebrated for their successes and held accountable for lackluster performances, and that your expectations are clear from the start.

Not all tasks will be as straightforward as staining a deck.  Still, the basic principles of effectively delegating a task remain the same.  You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding methods, outcomes, and expectations.  Stay involved but allow your employees the freedom to succeed on their own terms.  When the delegated project has finished, call a meeting together to debrief on how things went.  Most importantly, don’t assume that the deck your employees are working on is easy: keep communication open, and your team will soon rise to the occasion.

John Graci is an author, consultant, and leadership adviser with more than 20 years of management experience in production, office, union and non-union environments. Connect with John to speak at you next corporate event.  Phone: 612-708-1939 Email: