What if there’s a mistake?  That’s one of the top 3 questions that lawyers ask me when we are creating an outsourcing strategy for their law practice.  They worry that the person who they delegate to won’t know what to do or will do it wrong causing more issues than before.

I get that.  It’s fear talking. As a lawyer, you were raised to fear mistakes. So was I. Anytime something came up I’d say, I’ll get that.  I wanted everything to go right at work and at home. And, that meant I had to have my fingers in every pot.

One of the reasons I delegate

Well, you know what they say about touching a hot stove.  I got burned. One summer I went for my annual check up (after putting off for weeks).  My doctor, who was a friend, greeted me warmly and asked about my young kids.

It’s a shame that they have to grow up without you, she said.  WTF? She explained that if I didn’t change my ways that I’d be dead by the end of the summer from a heart attack. 

No more  80+ hour weeks building my business.  No more grabbing whatever food was available (cough-fast food).  No more doing the housework or shoving snow at 1 am the only time that wasn’t booked. I needed a new way to do things.

The story of how I got to be a corporate Ombuds can wait for another day. What I want to share now is what I learned in that role.

You have to delegate.

I discovered that I could end my worry about delegation mistakes by dumping my brain on a piece of paper.  I invented the Project Legend.

What is a Project Legend?

Project Legend worksheet
Writing your Project Legend (pexels.com)

You’ve heard of an SOP- standard operating procedure, right?  Well, a Project Legend is an SOP on steroids.  SOPs are boring documents that nobody wants to write or read.

A Project Legend tells the story of the project using the same devices that a journalist uses: what, who, how, when, why. The purpose is to explain to your Talent, whether that person is a freelancer or on staff,  how to think about and how to execute the project.

What’s the benefit of a Project Legend?

Ok, I hear you saying I’m already swamped. Who got time to write a Project Legend?  You do and here’s why:

  • You can review how the project is currently being done
  • Refresh the resources or make changes
  • You can capture the process so the project is done with consistency
  • You organize your practice one project at a time
  • Over time, you’ll have a Project Library
  • You can give your Talent the Legend and save time explaining
  • You provide the data  and reasoning necessary to avoid mistakes

What to include in your Project Legend?

Think back to your high school or college journalism class.  You want to inform the reader about the most important information at the top. Start with the name of the project and the purpose/goal.

Add the context. How does this project fit into the overall scheme of your work?  Adults need to understand context otherwise they are easily distracted. Like, why am I doing this again?

You also want to give authority in your Project Legend. What is the helper authorized to do without coming back to you?  Adults are more satisfied with their work when they can control their environment.

Quick story. I got married in the historic Victorian mansion of a naval commander. The site was gorgeous and I wanted a moody, romantic feel that enhanced the mystery of the house. which was rumored to be haunted. I delegated the decor to my florist asking her to give me a ton of candle light.

I showed up that evening and the house was glowing with warm candlelight except for one thing. They weren’t real candles.  The fire marshal alerted the florist that real candles weren’t permitted in historic buildings.  Because I had shared my desired environment and given her the authority to achieve it, I didn’t have to stress over the rule. She made it happen for me.  You want to give your Talent the same trust and grace.

Set your Talent up for success

thumbs up

The Legend should also include any information, specifications or tools that your Talent needs to successfully complete the project. Supposed you ask your intern to do the social media for an upcoming webinar that your firm is hosting.

You need to provide your intern with information on where she can find the content to share, if it has to be approved first, what social outlets you post on and what frequency and any needed passwords. You see where I’m going, right?

Set expectations and restrictions, too

Sharing what NOT to do is just as important as explaining how you want the project completed. Clearly state your expectations, especially those around timeline or deadlines.  Tell your Talent what to do if she can’t make a deadline so she isn’t worried or doesn’t feel the need to hide that fact.

Train your mini-me

You’ve been doing whatever project you’re about to delegate for a while. You have reasons why you do one thing over another. Be sure to explain your reasoning to your Talent.  You want to train her brain to think like yours.  Here’s the caution, though. Don’t try to make a clone.  Part of the benefit of delegating is that your Talent will bring fresh eyes and actions to the task that you will benefit from knowing.

Where to store your Legends?

You can certainly do your Legends on paper. But I suggest using an online tool.  Using a tool like Google Sheets or Trello (or your preferred tool) means you have access wherever you are and so does your Talent. Once you delegate the project, your Talent is in charge of updating the Legend over time.  Be sure to backup somewhere else, just in case.

What questions do you have?

Have you considered doing a Project Legend before?  Or, have you done an SOP?  What worked for you?  What didn’t?  What kinds of Legends would you like to see in worksheet form?

We talk about this more at the Coworking Day. You’re welcome to join us


DLE
DLE

Dina Lynch Eisenberg, JD, is the CEO of OutsourceEasier.com, an outsourcing training/consulting firm for successful lawyers and entrepreneurs based in Oakland, CA.

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