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The wonder of Delegation…

by | Sep 18, 2020 | Art Blakey, Delegation, wonder

Watching my grandkids, you watch as they slowly begin to control the world around them.  Their first tool is crying, which puzzled young parents eventually figure out the difference between a tired cry, a frustrated cry, a hungry cry, or a bored cry.  As they get older, a new thing has been the phrase “Use your words” to help them start to say what it is they want.  I was teaching Basic Communications to a group of Pastors, and we were working on how to make Clear Requests.  We were practicing, which included using all 4 answers.  The pastor said her Request, and I responded “Yes!”.  She smiled, and I asked her to say make her Request again, and this time I said “No”… and she burst into tears…

… clearly I had some work to do.  Most of us learn to communicate with each other in our Family Systems, but don’t really have a good grasp of the rules.  Sure we are taught grammar, etc in Language Arts, and I know I was taught about modals, but not sure I ever actually knew what to do with them.  We learn to control and eventually manipulate our world through language, but so much else comes into play – tone, body language, context, shared meaning – all of which can cause basic communication to not actually happen. It is starkly true in leadership where sadly those direct reports or team members who “read your mind” – are not your friend.  Yes it is easiest to Delegate to them… but they are like weak crutches that you can never get rid of.  You actually need people who communicate differently than you – the ones you have the greatest difficulty with – they help you the most as they drive your crazy 😉 

It is interesting how many groups are started by the Drummer, and how integral they are to the development of the band.  Art actively sought out great players, and encouraged them to move on as they developed their own abilities and skills.  Chris Kelsey summarizes  “He started every performance full-bore and went from there. His accompaniment style was relentless, and woe to the young saxophonist who couldn’t keep up, for he would run him over like a fullback. He differed from other bop drummers in that his style was almost wholly about the music’s physical attributes. To him, jazz percussion wasn’t about tone color; it was about rhythm — first, last, and in between. Blakey’s drum set was the engine that propelled the music. But he did one thing exceedingly well, and he did it with genius, spirit, and generosity until the very end of his life. “

Coaching all happens around “language and communications” and so the first day of our first class was spent on the basics – the elements of Speech.  It seemed basic, and yet as I sat there I realized what a lazy communicator I was… leaving so much unclear in what I wanted.  To make a “Clear Request” I had to be clear Who I was asking ,What I wanted, IF I had any specific “terms of performance”, and by When did I need it done.  And then, I had to be ready for 4 different Answers – Yes (great), defer (date to get back with an answer), negotiate (a new Request), and my favorite 1 word sentence – No.  It is a wonder that as leaders, we rarely hear that last one – probably the most important response…. so our Delegation is more like being a Dictator… 

.. and many get away with that style… and what is developed are weak followers typically.  Having always been told exactly what to do with no chance of input, they follow your orders, and their creativity and clarity are lost along the way.  It is self-fulfilling as Delegation trophies into all your ideas, and as we have said before, great leaders are right about 50% of the time.  As you listen today to Art and his team, wonder about your own Requests – are they Clear, and more importantly, as you Delegate, are they getting the music you want?  As great suggestion is to ask your tea, particularly the ones that “challenge” your style: what can I improve in Delegation to you?  You might be surprised with some input that while like the tears of the Pastor, will lead you to greater harmony… Politely. 

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