"Can You Take The Lead On This?”
If you are my boss and you ask respectfully, then yes, I’m happy to do the work that you are assigning me.
But if you are my peer, this question is problematic.
What this typically means is “I don’t want to do the work on this, so it’d be awesome If you’d do the work instead.”
A better framing would be to ask, “what part of this project would you like to lead?”
The assumption that one of you will lead and the other will follow is also flawed. That’s not how teams succeed.
The best teams are those that repeatedly grant and claim team leadership roles as the situation dictates.
I know that sometimes it might feel “leader-like” to ask someone to take the lead on something. It’s not. That’s something a manager says.
I’ve worked on several projects in my career where the other party dropped the ball. It drives me nuts.
Typically it’s because they either changed their mind and re-prioritized or they took on more than they could manage.
Maybe it is what it is. Sometimes things just don’t come together.
However, you do have some degree of control and can limit the likelihood that it will happen in your relationships.
To prevent ball dropping, spend more time upfront talking about expectations. Make it clear that you don’t want to start the project unless X, Y, or Z is the final outcome. Then put it in writing - an informal email summarizing the initiative will suffice.
Still didn’t prevent the other party from going missing in action? Never, ever, work with them again.
There are too many people out there doing great things to get stuck on one relationship. If you don’t have that luxury, perhaps because they have been assigned to your team, do your best to not co-own responsibilities.
Ball dropping might be an unavoidable part of work. But it doesn’t mean you can’t proactively manage the probabilities that it will happen to you.
Every so often I find myself stuck in a conversation with someone that I wish would end.
Sometimes I’m in productivity overdrive where every minute counts, and I just don’t have time for small talk with acquaintances. Other times it’s someone I know well and care about, but I’m in the middle of something.
This is especially problematic for those of us in “deep thinking” jobs. Losing your train of thought can mean a major loss of momentum.
I’ve tried body language. They don’t notice. I’ve also tried to be polite by going with the flow, keeping it short, and steering the conversation towards a close. It doesn’t work.
I think the solution is two-fold:
(1) Respond with purpose. Make it clear that you genuinely don’t have time or need to finish something. The context should dictate how much you explain.
(2) Respond Immediately. The chances of stopping a conversation after one back-and-forth are slim to none.
Although it might feel cold while in the moment, it’s actually more disrespectful to pretend you are interested or only be partially engaged.
Be prepared for your next encounter. The chatterbox always tends to appear when you are in the middle of something.