Put It In Writing John was complaining about how his employees weren’t completing any of the work he had delegated to them. He would tell them what he wanted done, and when the work was needed. Two or three days later he would discover that they hadn’t even begun working on it.
To say that he was frustrated was an understatement. Here are six productivity-improving techniques I offered to John. He implemented these changes, and many of his problems have disappeared.
Put It In Writing – No More Verbal Instructions
When you give someone a task, make them write it down, and watch as they take the notes. If you’re speaking with someone by phone, ask them to read back what they have written.
I know this sounds sophomoric, but it’s important to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. By making someone write it down and have them read it back it guarantees that they understood what it is you wanted them to do. If you don’t believe me try this the next time you leave a telephone message with someone’s assistant or their receptionist. After you leave them the message, ask them to read it back to you. Don’t be surprised if the person says something like, “Oh. Did you want me to write it down?
Putting It In Writing – Create Deadlines – Give Them Due Dates
Tasks without deadlines never get done. (Take a look at the stack of ‘stuff’ on the corner of your desk that’s been sitting there for the past month.)
When you assign a task, state the specific date – and time, if necessary – you need it by. Tell the person that you need it by 9:00am on Wednesday, or by 3:00pm on Thursday.
Let them know that this is IMPORTANT! Create a sense of urgency.
Putting It In Writing – Get A Commitment
Get a commitment that they can get it done.
In Coach K’s book “Leading with the Heart” (Mike Krzyzewski of Duke) he tells a wonderful story of Duke’s overtime win in an NCAA Regional Championship game against Kentucky.
Kentucky was leading with 2.1 seconds left. During the final time out, Coach K said to Grant Hill, I want you to throw the inbound pass to Christian Laettner who will be at the top of the key – 75 feet away. He said, “Grant, we need a three-quarter-court pass. Grant, can you make the pass?” “Yea, Coach. I can do it.” [He got commitment.] Coach K then said, “Christian, you’re going to flash from the left corner to the top of the key. Christian, can you catch it?” Laettner nodded that he could. [Coach K didn’t get a strong enough commitment, and didn’t let Laettner off the hook.] Coach K pushed harder, and got his commitment. Laettner said. “If Grant can throw it, I can catch it and hit the shot.” Hill threw the pass. Laettner hit the shot. Final score: Duke 104, Kentucky 103.When you delegate work to someone, get a commitment from them that they can do it, and get a commitment from them that it will be completed by a specific date.
Give Yourself Plenty of Lead Time
Things don’t always go as planned, so build a cushion, a margin for error. If you need something by Friday. Tell the person who is doing the work that you need the delegated task by Tuesday afternoon. That guarantees that you’ll have time to review it to see if it was done properly.
You may even want to call them on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, just to remind them that you need the work done by Tuesday afternoon. (Don’t be surprised that they’ve forgotten about it.
That’s why you’re calling in the first place. To give a ‘gentle’ reminder.
Follow-Up On Delegated Work
Just because you’ve delegated a task to someone else doesn’t mean you can forget about it. You must schedule a task in your contact manager, i.e. Google Calendar, Goldmine, Outlook, or your smartphone, so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks. Otherwise you’ll wake up at 2:30am some morning and realize that you never got the report you were expecting three days earlier.
Assume Things Won’t Go As Planned
Always be diligent. Assume that things won’t go as planned. Then you won’t be surprised when there’s an unexpected problem you need to deal with. And when things get done – as they are supposed to – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Use these six techniques and you’ll find that more things get done in less time and with less effort. Your stress levels will go down and your productivity will soar.