Tell people WHY you chose them, for a hard task.

It can be incredibly helpful to tell someone why you chose them, for a hard task.

This was advice that I heard from Erica Swainson.

Erica was sharing this advice at the CA Technologies Women’s Leadership Summit back in March this year.

We live in a world we so many people are striving to hard things.

Here’s a snippet from President John F. Kennedy talking about hard things back in 1962:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

SIDENOTE: Here’s the full text of the speech and videos.

And who knows where the next hard tasks will take us?

Any reasonably sized endeavor is made up of many hard things. And any reasonably sized endeavor, led by even the most energetic of leaders, requires the contribution of others.

Ergo, we find leaders needing help from other people: people around them, people who work with them or report to them, to do hard things.

It rather depends on the culture that the leader and their people work within, how work is delegated, how people are asked or told do something.

Personally, I have worked for 20 years+ in corporate America and I have seen a spectrum of the way leaders convey work.

There are two types of leader: Ones who tell you WHY a task is valuable and ones who don’t.

Over the years, as a developer, then a Scrum Master, then a Product Owner, Product Manager and now Founder @ WhoZoo, I have seen happier journeys and happier outcomes when people are given the WHY.

However, I found new learning in Erica’s advice.

Beyond explaining why a certain task was valuable, Erica’s advice speaks to the benefit of telling someone why they were chosen for a hard task.

Hard tasks are daunting. Hard tasks carry a risk of failure.

So when someone is given a hard task, their fears and worries can either prevent them from accepting the task, or they can procrastinate on getting started, or it can add to their stress as they try to achieve their task, or disrupt their focus on the task…all of which can contribute to failure to succeed with that hard thing.

But, if you tell the person why you have chosen them for the task: For example, if you can call out the skills or experience or talent or traits or principles that they have…that can be empowering and uplifting for that person.

To feel that you have been selected because your leader believes that you are the right person from the job, because your leader believes in you, is a feeling that can propel you to success in your hard task.

Moreover, rather than an abstract “You got this”, talking to crisp, specific and tangible details of why you chose the person, might be more effective.

So, here are three components you might want to ensure you convey, the next time you give someone a hard task.

  1. Make sure they know what the goals of the task are.
  2. Make sure they know why achieving these goals is important.
  3. Make sure they know why you have chosen them to take on this hard task.

Founder @ WhoZoo
Serendipity. Engineered.

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