Do you ever find your eye involuntarily twitching when you see the waffly, rushed comms your team members submit for approval? Or the dull as dishwater presentations you have to patiently critique?
I recently debated the tricky topic of standards with a coaching client. And how to set them with your team.
His benchmark was higher than some of his team. But he didn’t want to be too prescriptive. He still wanted them to do it their way… but sharper. He’d given them feedback and resisted getting out the (virtual) red pen to re-do it for them. But the problem kept occurring.
Now, this wasn’t about the quality of information, accuracy or errors – it’s easy to set expectations about those and this was an experienced team.
This was much more subtle. It was in the layout, thinking about the reader or receiver and in the look and feel. Those hard-to-describe things that give you the feels (or not, as it turns out).
My question to him: do you provide too much of a safety net for them, so they don’t have to worry about those things?
My guess: as long as they know you’ll think about those things and patiently give them feedback each time, they’ll rely on you doing their quality control.
Make it their problem
So, how to remove yourself as the quality control gate?
Option 1: remove yourself from the chain completely
This is a #highriskstrategy and you may want to warn your stakeholders it’s coming… but if you ask a team member to send ‘x’ report directly to *important person* because you ‘don’t have time to review it that week’, or ‘you’re out of the office that day’ you’d be amazed how much more attention goes into it!
Now that it’s going, unedited, to someone outside the comfort of their team (whose opinion counts), the thought and quality will kick up a gear.
And if it doesn’t, they’ll get constructive external feedback they’ll remember.
Option 2: the psychology of standards
Note: this fix assumes you’ve given yourself a bit of lead time on the deadline.
A casual question when you receive the email with the work attached to say: ‘Great thanks – hope it’s been a fun / good piece of work that you’re proud of?’. The phrase that’s doing a lot of work in that sentence is ‘proud of’. It has an impact, doesn’t it?
The response to this message may resemble the written version of looking down and shuffling your feet. It goes something like: ‘Well it’s been crazy busy, so I’ve not been able to check…’ or ‘I’d like to have more time on it, but that issue meant I’ve not done as much as I’d want to’.
Then you come in with the clincher: ‘Well why don’t you take another couple of days on it and show me the version you’re happy with?’. Mic drop.
There’s no excuse now. They have to do an amazing quality control job on the next version – because whatever they have the guts to send you next better be brilliant!
For my client - it worked like a charm. His eye is much less twitchy.
Don’t fall into the trap of personally maintaining the standards for your team. Just think of the hours (& twitching) you’re going to save.