Dick Davis


Stop Assigning Work to Your Team

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Stop assigning work to your team.

This requires taking a leap of faith for most leaders, because assigning specific work items to a subordinate really can seem like the most efficient manner of ensuring that everyone stays busy and the targets are getting hit. The "I'm telling you what to do, you figure out how"-style leadership that pervades most offices appears at first to be a fair compromise between the requirements of the business and the worker.

But here's the hard truth: every time that you tell someone to do something, you are expending leadership capital. You earn that leadership capital back when both your decisions are correct and team morale improves, but you lose it when either condition proves false.

And you aren't just having to earn it back from the people you are ordering around; you are constantly winning or losing leadership capital from your own leaders and peers based on your effectiveness as a leader.

To ensure that you are making optimal decisions and improving the team's morale, you should empower your subordinates to take control of their domains. Give them the power over their own work. Treat them like professionals.

Professionals are capable people who don't need someone to tell them what to do. They know how to take care of business when provided the right information at the right time, given the tools that they need to perform the job, and having the obstacles removed from their path.

Instead of telling people what to do, bring them the problem. Work with them to come up with a solution, and then make sure they have everything they need to implement it. Once your team members take action, it is your job to fight like hell to protect them.

You will still need to speak into priorities, and sometimes these won't be negotiable. That's fine.

You will sometimes need to pivot, or shift priority away from a project your team was committed to. That's fine.

Professionals understand. They are willing to give a surprising amount of grace to people who they feel have their best interests at heart.

Stop assigning work to your team; empower them instead.

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