Monthly Archives: November 2009

If you can delegate, you must

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith has a great sidebar titled “If you can delegate, you must” in which they say:

If you can delegate a task to someone else (or to a machine, for that matter) in order to save either time or costs, it is your duty to do so.

Their argument is about productivity and work quality, but for a community organizer there is another element to this. When you delegate to volunteers, you strengthen your organization by increasing buy-in and improving the connections the volunteers have to your group.

This relates to Saul Alinsky’s Iron Rule of Organizing, “Never do for others what they can do for themselves.”

For me, this is a case of something that’s easier to blog about than to do. Whether it’s tweaking our database, developing a flier, or creating a website for a coalition, I have a tendency to do things myself.

So my challenge to myself and my challenge to you is to share the load, delegate what you can, and strengthen you organization by doing so. It’s smart, it will help your work, and it’s good organizing.

Why you need to have that conversation you fear

One of the best things I learned in my fellowship with the Center for Progressive Leadership was the value of having difficult conversations.

That lesson was reaffirmed in a recent post by Peter Bregman titled How to Talk About What You Most Dread. He writes:

Here’s a general rule: the more you fear a conversation, the more you probably need to have it. Think of fear as an indicator of a problem that needs to be addressed. [emphasis added]

Bregman then goes on to give some top-notch suggestions for how to have those conversations.

Having the courage to have  difficult conversations will transform your leadership. I’ve seen it.

Since the CPL training, there have been countless times in which I’ve remembered that lesson, summoned up my courage, and spoken to somebody to deal with inappropriate behavior, clear up misunderstandings, or to apologize for my own mistakes.

In every case, they apparently ‘easy’ thing to do would be to just ignore the issue. What I’ve found is that the value of speaking up and listening is much greater than the discomfort of avoiding a conflict.

Read Bregman’s article. Think about the conversation you most dread. Try dealing with it directly. It will work wonders.

Are we too “feel good”?

Want to get better? Learn from, dont avoid, your mistakes.

Want to get better? Learn from, don't avoid, your mistakes.

It seems to me that the often progressives are very affirming.

Maybe instead we should focus more on our mistakes

I’ve known people to avoid language of “what went wrong” to choose instead of “what should we have done differently.”

Often we avoid talking about “mistakes” because we worry that that will create a hurtful, negative vibe.

(Of course, we can also end up with the circular firing squad where we attack potential allies because they don’t have the correct position on class, race, economics, or strategy, but that’s another post).

In Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Cialdini describes a study on two different training program for firefighters. One study focused on how others had made good decisions in the past; the other one focused on other firefighters’ past errors.

Focusing on past errors was much more effective in training the firefighters to make good decisions.

This tells me that we need to create environments where it is OK to honestly asses and learn from mistakes, our own and those of others, not evade them to make sure nobody’s feelings get hurt.

If we don’t do that, well, that would be a mistake.

What’s true for you may not be true for everyone

I’ve been reading Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Cialdini (I’ve blogged before about his previous book, Influence), and he gives a great story that warns us not to assume that what works for us will work for everyone.

He gives the example of efforts to try to get hotel guests to help save the environment by re-using their towels.

How would you promote that kind of program?

Well, if you’re like me, you would be motivated by environmental arguments, so you would be inclined to write a sign along the lines of, “You can help save water by re-using your towel.”

But here’s the rub–there will be a lot of hotel guests who don’t care about that message.

So Cialdini and his co-authors decided to test an alternate message that tells guests that “a majority of guests choose to re-use their towels at least once in their stay.”

There are two lessons here:

1. “Social proof” is a powerful way to influence people;

2. Don’t assume that the messages that work for you will work for everyone.