It was a delegation trainwreck.
The CEO brought in a new head of sales. The direction was straightforward: “The need is urgent. We’ve got to hit 25% sales revenue growth this year. Get on it.”
The head of sales got on it. She allocated some time and resources to hunt for new clients, but focused primarily on farming existing accounts to expand sales, capitalizing on the company’s reputation and relationships.
The end of the year came and the metrics were in line: they had achieved 25% sales revenue growth!
However, instead of the kudos she expected, the CEO was upset, and the head of sales was shocked.
A Lack of Clarity
The delegation trainwreck began with a lack of clarity. What the CEO said was “We are targeting 25% sales revenue growth.” That was it. What the CEO did not say was “I want 50% of the revenue growth to come from new clients because we need to expand our customer base.”
That changes everything. If the head of sales had known that, her entire strategy would have been different. As it was, she made plans and measured her team’s success based on one metric (total revenue growth), whereas the CEO had a combination of metrics in mind (total revenue growth + percentage of new clients).
Trainwreck Avoidance Tactic #1: Be crystal clear about what the assignment is, why it is important, and how the outcomes will be measured.
A Lack of Dialogue
The lack of clarity was compounded by a lack of dialogue. The CEO delivered the (ambiguous) task and target and that was that. He did not ask for understanding or engage in conversation to ensure that the head of sales was aligned on all points with his expectations and goals.
It is astonishing how many delegation trainwrecks could be avoided if the person delegating and the person being delegated to, simply spent a little more time talking through the assignment and – this is key – identifying the assumptions that both parties are making.
For example, all it would have taken to uncover the hidden assumption in this scenario would have been for the head of sales to say, “Okay, you want to increase sales revenue by 25%. I think there is a good opportunity for us to get most of that by tapping our current client base.” At this point, the CEO would have realized the disconnect and supplied the missing information about prioritizing new clients.
Trainwreck Avoidance Tactic #2: Take the time to dialogue about the assignment, identify assumptions, and ensure understanding.
A Lack of Follow-up
Finally, this delegation trainwreck could have been mitigated or eliminated if the CEO had simply checked the metrics he had in mind regularly and followed up with the head of sales. At the end of one quarter, he should have been raising questions about the low number of new clients. Such follow-up would have allowed the head of sales to do a timely course correction in her strategy and planning.
Trainwreck Avoidance Tactic #3: Schedule regular follow-up meetings to review the process and progress against the desired outcomes.
Keep Delegation on Track
This scenario shows that an employee may be an outstanding worker and do their absolute best to fulfill an assignment, yet fail to achieve business objectives because of a lack of clarity, dialogue, and follow-up.
As a leader and delegator, the primary responsibility for keeping delegation on track is yours. Be sure that you are clear about any assignment you are delegating. It can be very helpful to write out exactly what is involved, why it is important, and what you want to see accomplished, including any relevant metrics. Putting the specifics down in black and white helps you see any gaps or unspoken assumptions. But regardless of how clear you believe you are, engage in dialogue to assess understanding and ensure alignment. Then, follow up regularly to check on the process and progress.
With these three trainwreck avoidance tactics in your pocket, your next delegation will speed on to success!
- Be crystal clear about what the assignment is, why it is important, and how the outcomes will be measured.
- Take the time to dialogue about the assignment, identify assumptions, and ensure understanding
- Schedule regular follow-up meetings to review the process and progress against the desired outcomes
If you have issues delegating in general- you may need to