Everyone has the Best Intentions (that backfire)

You had a shotgun marriage in Vegas. It’s cool, we’ve all been there. But now the time of reckoning has come! You’re meeting your new mother-in-law for the first time (yikes!). Things start out well. You guys get along. So she asks you to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. You want to impress her so of course you say, “No problem!” You hop in the car, back out the driveway, and start driving.

Suddenly, you realize that you’re in a town you’ve never been to before, and you have no idea where the grocery store is. You also have no idea what she’s wanting to cook for dinner, so you have no clue what “ingredients” actually mean to her. You panic. That sinking feeling appears in your stomach. Do you turn around and look like a fool in front of your new wife and mother-in-law? Do you just continue driving and hope you pass a grocery store? If you do find one, do you just pick up random things that might be something she’d want to cook?

Of course, this situation sounds a little far-fetched. But what is far more common is putting your employees in a similar situation within your business. Think about how your team feels when you ask them to do something, sending them blindly on their way, without telling them where the destination is or what the company is building/doing/selling/etc… They’re guaranteed to get that same panicked and sinking feeling in their stomach.

Your employees don’t want to do a bad job, and they want to impress you, so what typically happens is they pick their own direction and run for it.

I think you can guess where this goes next…

They return with their work completed (in their mind) and as you review, you realize this isn’t even close to what you were expecting. It’s the complete opposite direction of where you hoped it would go and has nothing to do with what you’re trying to build as a company.

You’re frustrated because it’s their fault and they’re frustrated because it’s your fault.

This has happened (many times) to the best leaders, so if this sounds familiar, you’re in good company. It’s easy to visualize the end result in your head, but it’s even easier to forget that you usually have a TON more context in your head than the people you are delegating tasks to.

How do you solve this? It’s simple: Communicate the vision.

Task + Purpose always wins over Task

If you ask someone to stack sandbags (task) for no reason, they are probably not going to be very motivated to do so. Most likely there will be no attention to detail, the work will be sloppy, and there will be frustration in just being asked to do such a menial task.

But, if you ask someone to stack sandbags (task) so that the potential flood coming in a few hours won’t damage the products (purpose), it’s a solid bet they are going to be motivated, do a great job, and pay lots of attention to detail.

While this example is an exaggeration, it doesn’t diminish the concept that it’s always important to provide a purpose – even for the smallest of tasks. The purpose gives context and the context can be the difference between amazing execution and a job that needs to be redone (and often expedited because the initial task was a disaster).

The Magic in “So That”

There’s a simple formula to follow to make providing and communicating purpose extremely easy:

[task] so that [purpose].

That’s it. If you start using this structure in your projects, requests, to-do lists, etc… you’ll find that better questions get asked, and jobs will suddenly be performed at a much higher success rate.

Communicating the Vision

Task + Purpose is a great starting point but it’s not enough in the long run. You can task + purpose all day long and still have all your employees running in different directions.

Micromanagement suffers from this. A micromanager will try to control everyone’s tasks and ends up thinking “hell, this is more work than if I just did it myself!”

Again, there’s a simple solution here: Communicate the vision.

If you have the task + purpose taken care of, you’re ready to work on macro-management and focus on outcomes and objectives. Letting a team know that we’re aiming to achieve a specific outcome gets everyone pointed in the right direction. Tasks and purposes will be identified (and they’ll be correct) far more easily and the jobs will be executed with the goal in mind, not just the task in mind.

Vision + Purpose + Task

Elevating the team’s perspective to a bigger vision, goal, or outcome will help provide massive context as to why all the tasks need to be done and done correctly (the first time). In addition, micromanagement isn’t needed because everyone already knows which way to go, and outcomes can be measured with metrics, not hand-holding (also another future article to come!).

Ready to Delegate

With the vision clear, the desired outcomes defined, and the teams armed with the resources needed, your organization will feel like it just got a fresh coat of paint. Putting these things in place will make delegation far more effective and far less painful. You’ll go from thinking “this is easier to do myself”, to, “holy moly, this is better than I could have done it myself.”

Empower your teams to grow your business. Support your teams to scale.