Jedi Productivity 7 of 11: R2D2, C3PO and the Power of Delegation

This post is part of the Star Wars Jedi Productivity blog post series.  There will be 11 posts coming weekly every Tuesday for… yes… just counted it… the next 11 weeks.  These posts will guide your journey from a wilful, novice young pretender who is controlled by time…  into a magnificent Jedi who uses time as her own power.  The full set of posts are available from here.

R2D2, C3PO and the Power of Delegation

“I am so busy” everybody’s excuse

You Don’t Delegate Tasks, You Delegate Responsibility

If you are just asking someone to do something for you, you are not delegating.  Delegation requires that you transfer the full emotional responsibility to get something done.

If I am thirsty and I say “Can you get me a coke?”, I am not delegating.  If I say “I am thirsty.  What options do we have?” I am giving a little bit more context and engaging the other person’s problem solving capability.

When Princess Leia programs R2D2 with the short video “Obi-Wan, you are my only hope”, she achieves very effective delegation.  She lets him know the danger of the empire completing construction of the death star and she offers him the resource of the architectural map of the enormous weapon.  She has a strong past relationship and knows that Obi-wan will take responsibility to mobilise a rebel response.

Ken Blanchard told me that if a company is in difficulty and the entrepreneur is the only one having sleepless nights, then the entrepreneur has a delegation problem.  Each employee should feel a level of responsibility for the company’s performance.  It is the leader’s job to foster this feeling of responsibility through the means with which they engage those around them to perform the work.

Princess Leia Delegates the Mission to Obi-Wan; Photo Credit: interestedbystandr

Princess Leia did not give Obi-wan a task.  Princess Leia gave Obi-wan a mission.  He took on this mission as his purpose until his death.  Not all delegation will be of such serious and life threatening levels!

Get the Right People on The Bus

If you say “I have a problem delegating”:  I often say “No, you don’t.  You have a problem attracting “A” players”.

Delegation is not just moving the task to someone else, it is moving the emotional effort and the responsibility to that person.  If you don’t feel the shift of both task, responsibility and emotional pain to the other person – you are managing this person.

Management is not delegation.  Management is a useful thing, but it is not scalable in the way that delegation is.  A manager keeps a list of things to follow up on from other people – they have passed the task, but they remain emotionally responsible for the work getting done.  This is management and we do need managers – but it is not to be confused with delegation.  A leader cannot be a great leader if they are not delegating.  A leader can delegate to people who are good managers – and they can manage others to get work done – but the leader needs the manager in the middle.

A leader can only lead other responsible people.

Managers can create a system in which people without discipline, without personal responsibility can get work done in a regular manner.  However, the manager remains fully emotionally liable for the work.

The bottleneck of leadership is emotional responsibility.  If you can’t move the emotional responsibility for something to another person, you have it.  It doesn’t matter who does the work, it matters who owns the emotional liability for the work.

Problems are Like Monkeys

Problems are Like this Monkey; Photo Credit: rogersmithpix

My friend and entrepreneur Jonathan Davis says that “Problems in a company are like monkeys in a forrest.  They will climb to the highest point that they can reach.”  If you solve all the problems that come to you, all the problems will come to you.

If an employee comes to you and says “I have a problem”, say “Excellent.  That’s why I hired you.  What options do you see?”

If you see a blank face, send them away and ask them to come back in an hour with at least 3 good options.

If they have 3 or more options, ask “what criteria are important in deciding?  What risks do you see?  What else?”

Don’t allow them to push the selection of the option back to you.  Use questions to help them think through the process.  Use questions to help them decide on a winning option.  Use questions to help them develop an action plan.  Use questions to help them identify resources they will need but are currently lacking.

Delegation of Quality Control

One of the areas that I have often been challenged with is team members using me as the quality control for documents.  They bring a document that is pretty complete and assume that I will do the final round of edits.

If someone brings me a document to review, I put my hand on top of the document and look the person in the eyes.  I ask “On a scale of zero to ten, what is the quality of this document?”  They sometimes might say “what do mean?”.  I say “imagine that ten is perfect quality, the best our company could produce;  zero is terrible quality…  where on your scale of zero to ten does this document live?”

This is a wonderful question as a delegator – If the person says “seven”, then I will pass the document back to them and say “what will it take to make it an eight?  a nine?  Ok.  Bring it back when you’ve got it to nine.”

If the person says “five”, then I will say “don’t ever bring me a 5 quality document.  What will it take to make it better?”

If the person says “ten”, and I find that the document is not up to my idea of a “ten” quality, then I know that I need to help the person develop their own quality scale.  If they still say “ten” – I realise they lack objective criteria and it will be very difficult to ever delegate this type of work to this individual.

Don’t Delegate…

don’t delegate to people who don’t take notes

If you delegate to someone and write down a note in your diary to follow up next week, you haven’t really delegated.  Delegation can only be done to people who you know will get it done.  If not, you still have anxiety and the whole point of delegation is to get the mental and emotional effort off of your own plate.

don’t delegate to people without personal discipline and order

If someone is regularly late to meetings, don’t delegate to them.  If someone is often forgetful of their own deadlines, don’t delegate to them.  If someone cannot stick to their own goals and their own deadlines, they will not stick to goals and deadlines that I give to them – no matter how good my delegation ability might become.  They can’t stick to any goals until they develop self-discipline.

Goodbye Ad-Hoc, Hello Systematic

In order to be a full Jedi time manager, the novice must learn to use proven tools such as:

  • Prioritising
  • Goal Setting
  • Deadlines
  • Delegation
  • Planning

That’s what this post series is all about.  You will become a master of the force and a power user of the tools of systematic, habitual action.

Are you a Jedi guided missile?  Are you systematic in how you set goals and make daily progress on what is important?  Or, are you more of an ad-hoc novice?

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Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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