Did you delegate and forget to inspect?

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What have you delegated recently that you should inspect today?

If you truly want to be a leader, delegate. However, if you’re going to delegate, don’t make assumptions, especially if the person you are delegating to is someone new or someone you haven’t worked with regularly over time.

I recently had an experience where the dialogue was taking place on Facebook messenger. The problem was, the person communicating was the assistant. I was unaware of this and thought the right party did not see the specific items. The assistant was not given instructions that specific items were to be reviewed and approved. So no one was inspecting the items to assess their condition or to discover any shortcomings.

Unmet expectations are difficult to manage when there was no inspection before delivery.

The common adage, “don’t expect what you don’t inspect” is key here. If you have a goal is it clearly communicated? Does your staff know when to move forward or when to wait for you to examine the work?

There are many reasons why someone may not produce the results you expect. Here are just a few:

  • You haven’t clearly communicated your expectations.
    example: Your assistant gets the information (written or images or video) you ask for. But you don’t look at them for approval. It is up to you to explain to your assistant that they must be approved by you before use.
  • You haven’t clearly communicated your values.
    example: You have an idea in your head and have a conversation about it. Several steps take place after the conversation. Your perception is not clear to you and you assumed they understood your values. You’ll end up being disappointed by the quality or level or excellence of the event and your perception (your standards) were never communicated. You didn’t clarify that details that are important to you.
  • You haven’t clearly communicated why it’s important.
    example: You ask a team member to get the link for a special event online. The link is received but you don’t look at it to confirm the information is what you expect. Your team puts out the word about the event exactly as described on the page. You didn’t communicate what this event was for and why it was important to your team. Had you done so, the team member may have been more alert to how it was worded and may have helped you identify changes you could make in advance.
  • You assume everyone you delegate to will know what and how to communicate to you when there are problems.
    example: You ask a new team member be in charge of your paying clients monthly training. They go through all the steps properly with the information they are given. The experience is not what you want and you complain. As you began to probe as the leader, you discover you had the information a week beforehand but it was you who did not make the approvals. She cannot read your mind. She was following through the motions right from the beginning, and was not told to manage up to make it happen properly to your standards. 
  • You haven’t given them the resources they need (time, money, people, etc.) to properly accomplish the task.
    true experience: Young technician was told to do what it takes to fix problems. He took it literally. Big problem with the network that was 200 miles away up a mountain. Technician had an American Express card and hired a helicopter to fly him up the mountain. He fixed the problem. Although his boss was shocked at the price of renting the helicopter, he was applauded for quick thinking, taking action, and fixing the problem fast. Do you empower your team this way?

This adage ‘You can’t expect what you don’t inspect’ applies to both our personal and business lives. When we break this adage down into two parts we first see the words don’t expect. The act of expectation is really goal setting. What are goals? If you are not setting goals you are limy your ability to leverage your successes to you superiors and stakeholders and even underlings. From a management perspective, if you don’t set goals for your team then they will lack direction and guidance. Since the goals are our expectations, we now need to review and inspect.

If you make assumptions, don’t have an approval process in place, then there can be an unknown amount of irrevocable damage. It is very easy to make assumptions about someone else’s task when your busy (perhaps your planning a big trip and going off the grid with no internet), but when you’re managing people, this is a mistake. Take the time to check out what they’re doing and you’ll save everyone a lot of grief. You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.

When things don’t go as planned, most of the time there is nobody to blame but yourself.

One of my mentors, Dan Kennedy shared an adage that I always remember. I often find myself asking about inspection when I discover something has not gone the way I had hoped. Here’s that adage:

“You can’t expect what you don’t inspect”

This is especially important (1) when you’re working with new people OR (2) if the task/project you’ve assigned them is something they have never done before.

In both of those cases, you need to regularly inspect their progress and work. Not micromanage. Inspect. Get regular updates. Give approvals. Ask detailed questions about various aspects of the task/project. Ask them to repeat back to you what you’re expecting, what you’re hoping for, and why it’s important. Ensure they know to tell you the moment a problem arises or they have a need.

Whatever you do, don’t make assumptions. They aren’t fair to you or your team or others involved.

Whatever you do, don’t make complain or criticize. It isn’t fair to others if they cannot live up to your expectations (they cannot read your mind) when you did not clearly communicate or inspect.

What have you recently delegated that you should ‘inspect’ today?

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Thanks Wayne Hedlund, Brendon Ritz, and Rhett Powers for insights.

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