I recently read a story about an editor who worked on a book manuscript. She finished editing it and turned it in to the publisher, who paid her the agreed-upon fee. Later she found out that the publisher chose not to publish the book and she was crestfallen. “All that work for nothing,” she said. But of course it wasn’t for nothing; she got paid her normal fee. So why was she so disappointed?
I bet this very situation plays itself out in your business, too. Maybe you don’t publish books, but I’ll bet your team members write reports, develop presentations or proposals and turn them into you only to have you rewrite them, edit over them or not even use them. Yes, they get paid for that work, but I’ll bet they feel like they did all that work for nothing.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure you made it better. In fact, what they gave you might have been a very rough draft and it needed to get better before you sent it to the client. But whose fault is that? Do you regularly re-write or substantially edit your subordinates’ work? They might be thinking, “I don’t have to have this ready for the client; my boss is going to re-write it anyway…”
So now you’ve got a demotivated team who think, “I do all this work for nothing.” And you, in addition to all of your other duties, are an editor — this isn’t how this should go…
Stop Saving People
If you want to get back to doing your job and letting your team do their jobs, then you have to stop being an overpriced editor and start letting your team fail. When you get a presentation that’s slapped together and in no shape to hand to a client, you have to stop and look the author in the eye and say, “Is this ready for the client? Does this represent your best work?”
If they say “Yes,” and you can see shortcomings then you have a performance conversation with them. “Here’s where your best work is falling short of our standards…”
If they say “No,” hand it back to them and ask them to return when it’s ready to go to the client.
Sometimes there will be things that you know, or experience that you have, that can make the finished product better. Instead of re-writing it, can you explain the improvements that could be made and then have them make those changes? It will take longer upfront, but they will eventually learn it and you won’t have to keep doing it.
Now in order to do that you have to have some lead time, you can’t be doing this an hour before the client shows up. But that little bit of pre-planning can pay dividends.
Let’s look at how this simple choice changes things for you and your team.
- You are no longer rushing around saving the day by re-writing everything they give you. (Or if you are, you know it’s because their best work isn’t good enough — time to get better help!)
- Your team gets to do their best work, and have it ready to go in front of the client. They aren’t working hard for nothing and they feel more engaged and rewarded for their work (and I’ll bet they start working harder).
- Your time is now freed up to be thinking about what you should be saying in these deliverables or talking with the client about the deliverable, or going out and getting new clients…
So say it with me… “Is this your best work?”