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The phone rings: It’s your boss with a killer to-do; one that NO ONE is going to like.

You know it’s a great developmental opportunity for someone, though, so you delegate it. Not surprisingly, the reception is lukewarm – frigid, actually. What do you do?

If it IS a hill to climb, don’t pretend it’s NOT one

Many bosses try to sugar-coat such this type of assignment by making it SEEM like it’s less difficult than it really is. “Oh, it’s not that bad,” they’ll say. “You’ll see.”

Or maybe they try another old favorite: “Would you do me a favor?”

And if all else fails, they just blame their boss. “Oh, you know how he (or she) is. Just do it and be done with it.”

But these are all faulty strategies.

  • First, they each encourage staff to underestimate what’s needed to do a job-well-done, which can be problematic for all sorts of reasons.
  • Second, they make you, their boss, look either disingenuous, at best, or incompetent, at worst – or, quite possibly, BOTH.
  • And third, they actually encourage people to whine and complain whenever there’s some difficult work to be done.

Let it be what it be

So rather than trying to ‘spin’ a challenging assignment, I prefer you make THAT it’s a challenge the whole POINT of the exercise:

“Look, there are some days where we basically get paid for free,” you might say. “We come in, do what we love, go home, and we’re done. No fuss/no muss. But there are other days where we really have to earn our paycheck – each and every penny of it. Today just happens to be one of those days. So get ready to dig in and really enjoy the challenge of the challenge I have for you, today!”

Helping your staff develop the confidence (and competence) to tackle new and more challenging tasks is key to increasing their value-added back to you. And if you review their Lessons Learned after each assignment, you’ll help them see that they are both learning and truly earning their paycheck which, contrary to popular belief, is something that most people are proud to do.

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