We all do it, no matter if you are an entrepreneur, an employee, or any other occupation. You outsource tasks, it’s what we all do. It can be as simple as calling a professional for solving a water leak at home, or it can be your daily bread as a manager in a corporate environment. While that may seem as a big difference between the two situations, it actually is not. 

Please do this for me (or someone else)

An incoming email from a colleague: 

“Mr X wants me to ask you to change the invoice from customer Y. Rgrds.”

I sigh upon reading it, my eyes closing. I let the mail sink in for a moment. There’s so much in this little mail that triggers me. I don’t like to get a mail with only half the information while the sender knows which invoice this concerns. I on the other hand, have to dig (deep) to find out which invoice and what exactly needs to be changed. Why is communication so difficult? It doesn’t have to be. 

One little question can solve this communication problem. “What does this person need in order to make this happen?”

First of all, it’s a question of empathy. Can you place yourself in the shoes of the receiver? It will most likely already change the content of the mail to a lighter tone. Instead of passing on an order of someone else, it might focus on providing the necessary information so that at least this taks doesn’t get back on your plate with a ton of questions or maybe even an angry response. 

Secondly, it’s a question of understanding the task at hand. Do you know what you are asking? Is changing an invoice truly what it is, or does it invoke some other stuff that first needs to be processed. Is it a task that takes 2 minutes or 2 hours? When you don’t know anything about the task, then you shouldn’t be in the communication line at all. Just imagine how you will feel when questions come back at you. It’s like climbing a wall without using the door that is right in front of you. 

Outsourcing rules / asking help

Outsourcing is nothing more than asking for help. Asking for help might still be an obstacle for some of us, but it can help to know how to ask for help. Consider these basic things and you will be well on your way to get a positive response:

  1. Provide context
  2. Set a deadline
  3. Communicate your expectations

Providing context

I used to play football. I’ve done a lot of exercizes because my trainers asked me to. In 90% of those cases I didn’t like doing them because they didn’t make sense to me. It probably made sense to my trainers, but they just didn’t bother to explain and expected me to just do it. And that’s what I did… I just did it, nothing more, nothing less. No joy, no fun, just plain robot work.  

When I receive an assignment, I want to know why so I have the context to make (logical) decisions from this perspective. Sure, I can book you a hotel in Germany, but if I know that you are on a business trip and only need a sleeping place, then I won’t book you an ‘all-you-can-have-wellness-spa-fitness-all-you-can-eat hotel’. Then a room with a comfortable bed might be the better pick. 

Knowing why leads to understanding, it always does. If you provide me the context, I will have a chance to understand, or in case I don’t, to even come up with a better proposal based upon my own experience. That’s a clear win. 

Set a deadline

“But there’s no deadline”. I’m sorry, but than I won’t do this task. I have a constant flow of tasks that comes at me, and yours will be underneath the pile… Forever… 

A deadline makes a task planable, especially when it concerns a task with (hidden) sub tasks. I might need to make other arrangements first in order to be able to start and end this task. No deadline means you might want to rethink the importance of the task. Even if it doesn’t matter that much, the message you send to the receiver is one of low quality work. “Do this, but know that it’s not that important, it just needs to be done.”

Communicate your expectations

What do you expect? When you ask me to do something, I want to know how I can deliver the best of work. Please note that I don’t want you to tell me how to do the work. That’s my ultimate freedom, but I do want to find a way that will give you the best of outcomes. When you ask me to score a goal as a trainer, or even to score in such way that the ball lands in the upper right corner, I will make that happen (at least I will try my very best). But it will be up to me to invent a way to how I will succeed in this. 

Obvious expectations? That’s a dangerous field to think something is quite obvious. I know many persons who go to the doctor to have a good talk with someone who can listen. Their objective is not the same as the most obvious one, getting better. 

“Failure in preparation is preparation for failure”. A lot of time and energy can be saved when a little effort is invested. The sender should be the source of the task, should provide all details necessary to make the best outcome possible.

When there’s more faith or a well established relationship between sender and receiver, the sender may even willingly trust in the outcome and be excited for the (unexpected) outcome that is totally owned by the receiver.