When your boss delegates a task to you, here's how to set yourself up for success. Follow Get-It-Done Guy's strategy to become a superstar employee.
We like to believe that we’re the hero or the villain, but actually, most of us are minions. And as minions, we’re the ones who get ordered around a lot. To be an effective minion and survive long enough to become a villain requires perfecting the art of being delegated to.
See also: How to Delegate Wisely
Earlier in my career, when I was just a minion, my boss came in and gave me a scathing look. I didn’t take it personally; evil villains have to practice their scathing looks and evil laughs whenever possible. Those things don’t just come naturally, you know. He turned to me and said, “Write a logistics plan for assembling an army of robotic androids to take over downtown Detroit. I want it on my desk pronto!”
The secret to being a good minion is realizing that just because you’re the low minion on the totem pole, you can still take charge of the process to make yourself (and your boss) successful..
Clarify the Time Frames
I rushed to my desk to block out time to work on the plan. And…I didn’t know when “pronto” was. He gave me the instructions on a Thursday. Was “pronto” later that day? Was it Friday? Was it next Tuesday?
When you’re given a task to do, make sure you know exactly when it’s due, both the date and time. If your boss is planning to present the report to your Evil Board of Directors at noon, and you think it’s due at 5pm, there could be serious consequences.
As you have the time frame discussion, make sure to ask if there are any important milestones you should hit. For example, if your boss wants to approve an outline of the report before you fill in the details, agree on a time now. That way, you’ll be able to choose a time when your boss is in town, and not off on a quest to secure the One Ring, whose evil powers you’ll use to power your robotic androids.
If you or your boss wants regular status check-ins, now is the time to agree on those too. Personally, I like regular, weekly check-ins. My first boss told me, “The worst thing isn’t when things screw up. That’s just life. The worst thing is being surprised with no time to fix things.”
Regular check-ins, even just a 5-minute “How’s it going?” give you a chance to head off problems before they happen. You can casually say, “There was a shipping mix-up and we received a 55-gallon drum of zombie reanimation powder instead of the spare android parts. Do you think we can trim the schedule somewhere else to make up the time?” rather than surprising your boss a month later by missing a deadline when you couldn’t find a way to make up the time.