We MGSCC coaches often work with organization leaders on improving their delegation skills. Probably the most useful delegation tool I’ve ever encountered arose from personal necessity.
In a former life, I managed the Portland and Seattle offices of a large international law firm. My boss was located 1,500 miles east of me and had another dozen city offices to oversee, in addition to tending to his own thriving law practice.
When I sent him requests for action, the typical response was silence. A follow-up would be followed up by a follow-up. In the meantime, pressure at my end to act continued to build.
Frustration and necessity inspired a new practice. I began sending messages to my boss along the following lines:
Today’s date: __________
Subject: Lobby remodeling
I’ve received several bids on remodeling the lobby. On Tuesday morning, I plan to go with Bid “X” because I think it’s the best option combining price with quality.
Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to discuss this.
Assuming I didn’t hear from Chuck by Tuesday, I went ahead with the planned action.
Note: Chuck had the opportunity to weigh in but wasn’t required to do so.
This became a standard practice involving pretty much everything in my domain as office managing shareholder. I called it “per-giveness”, meaning it splits the difference between before-the-fact asking for permission and after-the-fact begging for forgiveness.
- You let the person know what you intend to do;
- By when;
- Why; and
- You invite but don’t require a response.
This approach gives the recipient three options. He or she can say: (a) “great!”; or (b) “hold on; we need to talk;” or (c) he or she can do nothing.
This tool became so effective in my leadership role, I taught it to my office administrator and encouraged her to use it with me. “When something comes up,” I said, “decide which of three buckets it falls into: (a) permission; (b) forgiveness; or (c) per-giveness. The first means you don’t act before I weigh in. The second means you just do it. The third means you share with me in advance what you plan to do but you don’t request or require a response. If you haven’t heard from me when the time comes, act.”
Since those days and my transition from the legal world to the executive coaching and consulting world, per-giveness has become one of the most valuable things I’ve shared with my clients. If you’re in a leadership position, I highly encourage you to adopt this practice. Whether managing up or down, it works. Teach, train and coach others to use it. I predict you’ll notice a marked improvement in delegation effectiveness.