If you’re doing it from scratch, you’re doing it wrong

Blog | June 14, 2022

“I don’t understand it,” said Rishi. “My team has some of the company’s top performers. But we barely move the needle when it comes to our big plans—the ones the board and investors are really waiting on.”

As SVP of People Operations at a fast-growing tech startup, Rishi was a C-suite leader in all but name. As the company looked to attract top talent with a greater focus on DE&I, his initiatives were eagerly accepted by the board.

A quarter on, many of those initiatives were in limbo.

“What do you think is holding them up?” I asked.

“Well… I’m juggling a lot,” Rishi admitted. “So I can’t get to everything as quickly as I’d like. In the meantime, I’m laying out some new strategies. When that’s done, I’ll bring them to the team for their input, and then implementation.”

I tilted my head. “Tell me more. What does that look like?”

Rishi described how he was coming up with new approaches and putting decks together to convey them to his direct reports. 

“I’m worried we won’t make a mark before the next investor call,” he fretted. “But what more can I do?”

I waited for a beat, then asked gently, “Why are you putting a presentation together? Why are they waiting on a solution from you?”

Rishi looked up from his hands, which he’d been twisting in his lap. He asked, surprised, “Isn’t that my job?” 

“You are responsible for the vision,” I confirmed. “But anytime you become a bottleneck, something needs to give. Something needs to come off your plate.”

“What if you described the vision in broad strokes to your team in a quick meeting,” I suggested. “It would give them an opportunity to brainstorm and share their input.”

“Let your team do the research. Let them put the deck together,” I continued. “And then, when they’ve put it all together—you’re the one to react, not them.”

Hint: As a leader, if you’re doing it from scratch, you’re spending time and energy in the wrong place.

Delegating (the sexiest word in the English language) isn’t just about saving your time. It’s also a developmental opportunity for your team. It sharpens their skills and gives them the hands-on knowledge they need to deliver value independently from you.

Here’s a red flag to let you know you’re missing an opportunity to delegate: If you find yourself in PowerPoint, or creating anything from scratch, just stop

Back away from the keyboard.

Your job is to have the vision. Execution happens through your team. 

For Rishi, we made this real by creating a checklist. It helped him recognize in a snap whether he was leading or doing. At first, it was hard—he would ask me (and himself): “Who am I if I’m not contributing?”

After you see the results, it’s easier to understand the truth: The vision is your contribution. Your response is what keeps things on track. And through those experiences, your team learns and grows.

It’s time to get off PowerPoint and take the lead. If you want to get more from your people—and use the power of delegation without worry or guilt—contact our coaches for a complimentary discovery call today.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant