October 24, 2011

Leadership Limerick: Divide and Delegate

Every Monday, I offer a leadership limerick, highlighting an idea or strategy about effective leadership in limerick form. Searching for leadership limerick will identify previous posts.

They say the loneliest number is one
And while working alone may be less fun

Lots of ones becomes ten
And that quickly means then

A great deal of work can get done 

I facilitated a strategy conversation recently in which participants developed an action plan for more quickly welcoming and engaging new members of their organization.  One idea that excited them was having each new member personally welcomed within 72 hours of joining.  However, they quickly dismissed the idea because they could not envision how the organization's limited number of staff members could execute such an approach.

They probably couldn't, but they also weren't the only people available to do the work.  We are too quick to initially dismiss great ideas that seem impossible or difficult to execute.

Instead of fixating on the aggregate work involved, we should identify ways to break it into manageable chucks and to coordinate the involvement of a larger number of individuals in doing it.  While the initial recruitment and coordination efforts might be a bit cumbersome, the payoff can be significant: (1) the great idea gets actually gets implemented, and (2) more individuals make a meaningful contribution to the work of the organization and share in the pride of its accomplishment.

Many years ago, I was one of hundred of volunteers helping with recruitment for my alma mater.  We were each assigned to call 10 high school seniors admitted to the university, talk about our campus and career experiences, and learn more about their interests.  Training consisted of some brief reading material and an online video of a typical conversation.  We had 30 days to make our calls and to provide notes and suggested follow-up on an online form. 

It was one of my favorite volunteer responsibilities, and I felt like I made a very meaningful contribution.  And it didn't require that I travel to any meetings, and it gave me some flexibility for how and when I completed the assignment.  The only thing I would have done differently is to have found some way to connect all of us calling so that we felt a sense of community in what we were collectively achieving.

So the next time an idea gets set aside because it might overwhelm the existing resources for getting things done, look instead to ways to effectively distribute the workload among a greater number of volunteers.  Doing so allows more people to make a contribution and to deepen their connection and commitment to your organization and it efforts, and that's the ultimate definition of engagement.

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