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The Damage of Changing the Rules Too Late

Remember back to when you were a kid and sometimes a friend would change the rules of a game while you were already playing? Usually it was in order to gain an advantage for winning, but regardless of the reason it was always super annoying and unfair.

Don’t do that to your employees.

Don’t change the rules after the game has already started.

A frequent topic that gets addressed with my clients is delegation. How it works and how to do it well.

Delegation is like a complex little onion. It has many layers, and sometimes it makes you want to cry.

When working through challenges I’ll hear something like, “Joel delivered the work but it was still not up to par. He just doesn’t do it the way I would.”

And when I inquire further it turns out that Mr. Joel delivered exactly the work that was asked of him. But the leader wanted to see some added flair… something extra.

> That my friends, is changing the rules after the game has already begun.

As a leader, if this situation feels all too familiar then I must point out the elephant in the room. It’s name is not Joel… It’s name is [insert yours].

This situation occurs when there is a missed step in communicating expectations. If you’re not clear about ALL expectations then you’ve kept secrets. And there’s no way Joel can know that you want something extra without either reading your mind or making an assumption (and we all know what happens when we assume…).

Solution #1: You can express the expectation that you want to see something extra, and absolutely give permission to an employee to add it where they see fit. Let them run with it. They might really enjoy that creative freedom.

Solution #2: You can also tell them exactly what you expect in its entirety including extras. I recommend trying solution #1 first – sometimes our employees pleasantly surprise us and that helps to build trust.

If you change the rules after the game has already begun, then you are setting your employees up for imminent failure and yourself for certain disappointment. That is unfair to your employees and to yourself.

Next time delegation is not going the way you imagine, take a minute to make sure you are not changing the rules after the game has started.

And if it seems like something else getting in your way but you are not quite sure what – send me a DM and I am happy to brain meld with ya.


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