This week we look in more detail at one of the more complex issues that can arise from delegating relationship and negotiation responsibilities.
There is potential for delegates to become so comfortable working with ‘the other side’ that they are at risk of “capture”, forgetting which organisation they represent.
An organisation we’ve worked with provided a clear example of this issue. Account executives were expressly instructed by their management that it was their responsibility to be an advocate for their client. This is not uncommon – account executives will push hard to achieve the best deal for their client, and that can be consistent with building strong relationships with a client and achieving sales goals.
However, the important caveat, that they should advocate for their client when facing inwards to their employer, but still represent their own employer when facing outwards to the client, was glossed over. The account executives found it understandably difficult to change hats. Ultimately, this approach created significant compliance difficulties, and client disputes, when the account executives tried to work around internal protocols and overpromised to their accounts.
An Australian Government department we dealt with was well-known for regularly rotating its delegates.
This was an interesting arrangement. On one hand, it effectively avoided what the department called “provider capture”, where their staff became advocates for external organisations instead of representing their own. On the other hand, external bodies constantly had to provide information which they had already provided, because they were always dealing with someone new. This was not efficient and other organisations often felt the new representative lacked expertise and knowledge.
Our view is that there might be a limit to the effectiveness of this kind of rotation. Nevertheless, we believe you should regularly review your delegation arrangements, at least once a year. By this, we mean looking at the responsibilities each of your staff members has been given and asking:
- Are the delegation arrangements still delivering the outcomes you need?
- Has your staff member been successful in delivering these outcomes?
- Are they still engaged and interested in the area?
- Are your staff still effectively representing the interests of your organisation?
- Are you confident they have not been captured by their stakeholders or their opponents in negotiations?
If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, then it’s time for a refresh. While your staff should have sufficient time to learn how to undertake their new responsibilities, no delegation arrangement should be a job for life.
In conclusion, here is an excellent tip from Mind Tools. “When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.”