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I Told Them To Do It

Telling Is Not Leading

I Told Them To Do It

By: Ross Paterson

(Part 3 of our 4 part series on leadership in the SMB space)

We had a rising star on our team that had just been promoted to team leader when we hired a new Administrative Assistant. During a leadership huddle I asked our newly minted leader about progress on a couple key initiatives. When we found some things missing, she made a rookie leader comment, ‘Well, I told her to do it.’ Have you ever thought or said that?

First, it is an easy defense mechanism. If we are not careful, we quickly default to our Three Lies from last week’s blog. (It’s just easier. I’m the only one. They don’t care.) Second, delegation doesn’t work without ACCOUNTABILITY. For many leaders this is a high-conflict conversation, so we avoid it because we aren’t comfortable or effective with the process.

XM Truth #1: Accountability is impossible without clarity.

Simple job descriptions, effective meeting routines, competent feedback are essential to making accountability work. Most leaders haven’t done this baseline work, so they avoid accountability to their own detriment.

What if we redefined accountability?

That doesn’t sound like a high conflict process, and it doesn’t have to be.

XM Truth #2: Telling is not leading. Teach them how to breakdown a larger objective into a plan. Then, set hard calendar meetings for midpoint check-ups. Use these sessions to ask questions, listen, coach, and encourage.

Remember leaders, it is our responsibility to provide INSPIRED ACCOUNTABILITY. If our direct reports don’t meet their objectives, we don’t meet ours. Even if we…told them to do it.


Download our Xtra Mile Project planner, complete with simple instructions. This is a great tool for you to work through when delegating bigger projects to your leaders and teammates. Use it as a foundation and modify it so it works even better for your business.