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Habits of Hyper-Growth Sales #7: Delegate Outcomes, not Inputs

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn here)

There are two types of delegation: of input where you assign tasks to others, and of outcomes where you delegate ownership to others. They are fundamentally different.

If you delegate input to others, you keep the ownership for the outcome. As a result, the team member will NOT feel ownership for the outcome but just for delivering the input, e.g., a product demo, a test implementation.

If you delegate outcomes, you leave the decision on what input to perform to others and they will feel ownership for the result, e.g., the sale of a new product as an outcome of a demo or test implementation.

Delegating input means the input will be provided, whether it makes sense or not. Delegating outcome means the desired result drives the input, e.g., a demo might not be needed when the customer agrees to progress straight to a test implementation.

Delegating outcomes is tough as you can’t control the input anymore. People will apply their own judgment and do it their own way. And that might be totally different from how you would do it. The moment you force it your way you destroy ownership of the outcome and will have to manage all the input yourself instead again.

Delegating outcomes is also tough for another reason: The more outcomes you delegate the more difficult it becomes to scope them in a way they don’t overlap generating ambiguity and potential conflicts. To avoid this there needs to be a guiding principle for delegating outcomes rather than a case-by-case decision, e.g., we can let Account Managers own the commercial relationship with customers, and Technology Managers own the technical one, we can split ownership by divisions, geography, functions.

Over time we will have more and more pockets of ownerships distributed across an ever-growing team resulting in the risk of silo thinking.

To work against this, we must combine split models, e.g., split the ownership of Account Managers by brands while splitting it for Technology Managers by geography avoiding a 1:1 relationship between Account and Technology Managers and promoting know-how sharing.

Make no mistakes: Delegation of outcomes is tricky!

The delegated outcome must be clearly defined, measurable, and achievable, and play to the personal agenda of the team member it is delegated to.

Ownership of outcomes inevitably leads to competition for resources. For this to be healthy a common Think Big target and a common purpose must be agreed amongst the team members.

And team members need to trust each other so they can sort out conflicts between themselves first. They must also trust the team lead so they can escalate it to them in cases where they cannot agree. This team lead must be a role model earning them the trust required for frequently recalibrating allocation of ownership across the team.

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