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How to Accept Delegation

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.

By
Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #341

Define Deliverables

You also want to make sure to clarify what your evil boss expects. If it’s a logistics plan, do you just have to think everything through? Does it need to be typed? Formatted? Duplicated? Is your boss expecting it in black and white? Color? Inked in the blood of a virgin superhero? These details matter!

You want to clarify what your Evil Boss expects.

If possible, ask your boss for a sample of a past logistics plan he considers exceptional. You can model yours after it and see for yourself if those stains are superhero blood or just ketchup stains from an over-enthusiastic lunchtime excursion. My boss wanted a logistics plan that was color-coded, in a 3-ring notebook so we could easily add and remove pages.

Of course, I still didn’t know what should be on those pages. I’d never seen a logistics plan. I wouldn’t know a logistics plan if it bit me. I’d probably just think it was a really weird spider bite.

Agree on Coaching Levels

I was going to need help. 

If you’re given a development assignment–one where you have to learn a new skill–have that discussion up front. Since you know the timeframe, estimate whether you’ll have time to learn what you need to learn quickly enough to be able to meet you master’s demands. If not, ask what resources and training you can count on and what you’ll have to do on your own. 

We’re living in an age where most of the skills you need can be found online somewhere. If you want to develop a reputation as a real go-getter, learn to get up to speed on new topics yourself. As my insufferably competent intern MG once told me, “Stever, if I have to ask you how to do something, you’ll just Google it. I can Google it just as easily and save you the trouble.” His competence may be insufferable, but he's worth his weight in gold as long as it makes my life much easier.

But my early career was pre-internet, so I didn't have the benefit of Google. My boss gleefully informed me that he was providing no resources to help me learn what a logistics plan was, so I was on my own. And no, there would be no extra time in the schedule for me to learn. He was assuming I would hit the ground running.

What could I do? I muddled through and created a logistics plan for his android army to take over Detroit. Unfortunately, something went wrong. When I told the androids that “Proper execution matters,” they kidnapped my boss and…well, it’s too terrible to describe. I was left with a 55-gallon drum of zombie reanimation powder, a warehouse full of android parts, and a logistics plan that could easily be scaled up. The rest, as they say, is history.

When you work for someone else, you need to learn to be delegated to. Consider it your responsibility to drive the process so you can deliver what’s needed, when it’s needed. Clarify the deliverable due dates, major milestones, and frequency of status check-ins. Get the specifications up front, so you deliver the right thing.

If you can get an actual sample, even better. And if you’ll need a learning curve, agree on the time and resources you’ll need to learn what you need to fulfill your boss’ desires. In no time at all, you’ll be making the leap from minion to evil super genius. Think of it as a simple exercise in logistics.

I'm Stever Robbins. I help people develop the people and interpersonal skills to transform their careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

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About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.