Mrs. Durden reminded me of one of my favorite delegation stories. This one happens to come from the Office, but has implications to your CEO career as well.
Years ago, I switched from a highly stiffling corporate environment (building of 1200-1500 and many many layers of management) to the far less formal group that I still reside with today. I went from that hyper-corporate environment to a team of about 25 people (at the time) and nearly no oversight at all.
A few months in, I needed to get a demo model done out in the shop for an upcoming conference. It involved taking an existing piece of equipment and carving on it so that people could see all the little widgets inside move.
My first instinct was to start an email to the shop manager, who I'll call Barry. The email to Barry started with good intentions, but as I continued to think through how I wanted the model to look and act, the longer it got. Cut here, paint this, remove this ... paragraph after paragraph of instruction and requirements.
I was about to hit send, but I sat back in my chair for a second and said "Gawd, what a mess. This is Barry, he knows this crap better than I do. I'm writing this like it's the old office."
I selected the entire email, hit delete, and then said typed (paraphrasing):
Need a demo model for the conference for product XYZ.
Recommend you carve up one of the carcasses in the scrap pile. Needs to be onsite before the meeting and look good enough for sr. customers. If you need help, let me know.
Otherwise, go do something cool.
A few things happened:
- Barry thought the task was great and commented repeatedly on the chance to get to "do something cool." He was truly excited about getting full control over the demo model.
- The result far, far exceeded my expectations, came in quicker than needed, and was a hit at the conference. In fact, the demo model has attended every conference since.
- A year or two later, we were having a discussion about delegation and team management and I told this story to the other Leads. "Go do something cool" has become sort of a catch phrase around the office, a code word for getting "management" the hell out of the way and letting people be creative instead of stifling them with unnecessary requirements.
Now, I could continue to type and sell this as some sort of a feel-good fluffy story about delegation and trust, and how Delegation is a good thing. And I could probably milk that for another 2 or 3 paragraphs and be done.
Instead, I'll just say that "Go do something cool" is about delegation, but it's MORE about trust and ownership of a problem. When you have a good, seasoned, veteran crew that truly want to do a good job, just define some high level expectations, trust them, and then get the hell out of the way.