Creative Leadership

Leaders: Are You Delegating To Someone Who’s Undermining You?

In most cases, when an organization hires my company – Cooke Media Group, in Burbank, California – they name someone internally as the “point person” who we deal with on a day to day basis. In some cases, this point person has approval authority, and at the very least dictates the working relationship. In most cases, the person is experienced, responsible, and qualified. But from time to time, that point person can make life miserable. Here’s why:

In the last 20 years, here are some of the “point people” that have evaluated and critiqued our work for clients:

– A housewife (she was a friend of the pastor and had worked in marketing 10 years ago).
– The CEO’s assistant, right out of college (because he had taken a film class).
– The ministry’s youth director (after all, teens like videos, right?).
– The CEO’s cousin (because she had a “good design sense”).
– A church member who’d recently finished an anger management course (because he wanted to be a filmmaker one day).

In the most cases, it’s an employee who simply doesn’t care.  They have other work to do, or believe this project isn’t a priority, so they put it in their “someday” box.  They take forever to return phone calls, review the work, or communicate with anyone, making it look like we’re not meeting deadlines.

In worse cases, it was about insecurity. The last thing the point person wanted was to have an outsider tell him or her what to do.

I could go on, but you get the point. Time after time, these people were approving and changing work done by far more experienced and qualified designers, video producers, writers, and other creatives.

In each case it was a disaster.

Leaders – You’ve probably gone to a lot of effort to find the right outside designers, video producers, branding consultants, social media strategists, writers, and others to help tell your story. Plus, you’re probably paying them a lot of money for their talent. So don’t undermine that effort by assigning an unqualified employee to be your point person on the project.

I’ve written before with suggestions on how to pick that person and you can find that post here.

Fortunately, our team’s work is almost always directly with senior leadership, so that ability to report directly eliminates an enormous amount of frustration or confusion. In other cases, my recommendation is that the leader who initiates the project be involved in the beginning to set the vision & at checkpoints along the way.

If you’re a creative freelancer or vendor, how about you?  Has your work ever been undermined because of the person assigned to approve it?

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  1. So true, Phil. It’s can even be bad when they don’t run your work past the cleaning lady first. I can tell story after agonizing story about pastors, presidents and general managers who could not verbalize or otherwise communicate their desired outcome, but unfortunately were very capable at ripping to shreds every attempt to hit their moving target.

  2. Creative is subjective. We all like things that we like. But you hire a pro to bring creative that both reflects your ministry heart and generates response. Direct response is not subjective, it is measured, reported and each project gives more information for preparing the next. Unless Uncle Sid gets to the pastor first, then all bets are off too often.

    The reason to hire a Phil or a Mary is because we know what works. It doesn’t make us the smartest in the room, our knowledge is narrow and focused on what works for ministry response.

    Your team knows you better, our team knows DR better. Be careful what you edit/change or the results will suffer.

  3. what you describe is epidemic, and I agree, it is the managers responsibility for the problem. I would add that in many cases these people are ‘the gate keepers’, often decision makers and lack experience to do the job well. To amplify the problem they may be afraid of losing thier job, possibly because they actually understand the circumstances under which it was awarded. Unfortunately the result is abundantly mediocre.

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