Does this sound familiar? You rely on a novice colleague to finish an important task on time. The clock is ticking, but you can tell that they haven’t even started. They avoid the subject or make a joke to deflect your look of concern. You are getting nervous.
What are your options?
1. Take Control: Remind them of the goal, the deadline and their commitment. Ask about their progress. Supervise closely until they demonstrate their own momentum and good judgment…at the risk that they will resent your micro-management and feel even less ownership.
2. Give Up Control: You’ve already delegated, so treat them as capable adults who will assume ownership and ask for help if needed. Empower them while remaining available…at the risk that they won’t come through after all.
These are two bad options. They are both rooted in the drama of a power struggle, which just sucks a lot of energy.
Consider a third option that changes the game:
3. Let’s do the first one together. Suggest a 15-20 minute meeting to work through an example, or the first step, to set the pace for further work. Instead of taking control or giving up control, join them to launch a good start.
Why? Most people delay starting a new project because of anxiety. They aren’t sure what to do, or how to do it. They may look bad or fail. So they avoid the unknown and find refuge in the routine or familiar.
When you relate to them as a co-worker, literally working alongside them, you bypass all that anxiety and just start working. You use Newton’s First Law of Motion:
An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. You are that force to get them moving.