Handoffs Don’t Require a Title

In many organizations, an enormous amount of time and energy is wasted by sloppy handoffs. Effective requests and delegation require the confidence to hand off tasks to the people best equipped for the task, regardless of their role or title. Ralph and Bill discuss the importance of getting past hierarchy and making the task the boss.


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Bill Berthel: Welcome to the Get Emergent Podcast, where we discuss leadership, team and organizational topics and best practices. We like to provide ideas, concepts, and pragmatic experiments to help you develop your potential in your work and leadership. I’m Bill Berthel.

Ralph Simone: And I’m Ralph Simone.

Bill Berthel: Ralph. Today’s episode has us talking about making really clean handoffs.

Ralph Simone: Yeah, a big opportunity. I have a lot of energy on this because I think a lot of time and energy is wasted because many of our handoffs and organizations are sloppy. Think about in terms of a football quarterback. You know, sometimes the quarterback hangs on to the ball too long. I think a lot of leaders, a lot of people in organizations hang on to the task way too long.

They’re not willing to offload it or delegate it, or we give it to the wrong person. Or when we give it to ’em, we do it in such a sloppy way that the ball gets dropped. And I think that we also have to keep in mind that sometimes hierarchy and titles get in the way of handing the ball off to the right person.

And so we’re all, we’re gonna talk about all of that in today’s podcast.

Bill Berthel: You know, I, I don’t follow football, but there is something really beautiful about a clean pass, a really tight, clean, accurate paths that, has to feel good to the whole team.

Ralph Simone: We’re talking about executing. Yeah, we’re talking about identifying what’s most important and handing it off to the person or persons best able to execute it.

And that requires, I think, a couple things. Purpose, right, and, and clarity of what you’re handing off. Yeah. I read an interesting quote in a book, I’m just finishing up called Attitude Written by Jay Wright, the former Villanova University basketball coach, and I think he was quoting the priest who was, like the team’s spiritual advisor.

And the quote was, everyone’s role is different. Their status is the same. And that really resonated with me for making better handoffs. And that handoffs don’t require a title. Right? So everybody in an organization, right, their their role is different. But their status is the same. They have this unique gift, this unique ability to contribute to the organization.

And And people value it. People value it. You know, sometimes I think that hierarchy, and informal caste systems get in the way of asking for what’s needed and asking the person that you need it, of it, it gets in the way.

Bill Berthel: I bet that gets in the way in all directions that you know that, that hierarchy of, can I hand something off to my boss?

Can I trust someone, quote unquote, under me to hand this off to I, I bet that structure gets in the way in all directions.

Ralph Simone: Absolutely. And so, you know, everybody has a responsibility. Reminds me of a, of a story which a former employer place I worked. This is where hierarchy gets in the way. I was invited to participate in a.

Customer service or client service meeting at the time I was a senior associate. This becomes important later in the story. I participated in the meeting. I really felt good about my contributions. I got good feedback from the guy that led the meeting. I got some positive feedback from others that participated.

And then, later on, they found out I was not a manager because apparently this was a manager-only meeting and I was excluded from subsequent meetings. I mean, how ridiculous. And I think one of the things that happens is a good idea is a good idea regardless of where it comes from. And so we have to kind of think about who is the best to run with this ball, with this task and make sure that we are not allowing artificial barriers to get in the way of making that handoff.

Bill Berthel: I think that’s what’s attractive to flatter organizations is that hierarchy is not needed to navigate as much. It allows us to see one another at a more equitable status.

Ralph Simone: Absolutely. In a flatter organization, the task is the boss. We don’t think about structure, you know, we think about who’s the right person or persons to execute, and I, I think, you know, handoffs don’t require a title, but they do require intentionality. They do require the ability to assess readiness of the person that we’re making the handoff to, whether it’s up, down, or across.

And they do require us to have clarity around what success looks like.

Bill Berthel: Yes, yes. So, Ralph, are you talking just about delegation or what are the different types of handoffs that might occur?

Ralph Simone: I think delegation is certainly one way, right? We offload a task through delegation and you know, that’s really an important part of scaling an organization.

But I think it’s simply making requests. You know, I think if you think peer-to-peer or leading up, it may feel more like a request. As opposed to a delegation. But I, I laughed in the last two weeks in our partner meeting, you know, Kathy, Kathy Gainor, our managing partner, jokes around how she’s delegated tasks to me as the founding partner, but she has Right.

But it really, I was the right person. I. To do it. So she asked me to do it right. She didn’t make a big deal about it. And I think what happens is we, we get in our own way of just asking for what we need and from who we need it from. Which reminds me of another story In my former employer, I had no problem calling people when I was working in this firm.

And apparently I called a guy in the New York City office who was a national treasurer to get information that we needed for a project. Mm-hmm. I came back to the meeting and I had the information. They said, how’d you get it? I said, I called the guy and asked for it. They go, nobody calls him.

And this was like, I guess it was reinforcing that, you know, title got in the way, or hierarchy got in the way of just asking for what you needed and handing off a task. I actually literally handed the task off to him by making a clear request and maybe I was too naive to,

well, maybe that served you.

Oh, it, it, it has served me.

Often because I don’t overthink whether I should ask or not. I just ask. Yeah.

Bill Berthel: I just ask. Absolutely. And it’s never out of disrespect or not following protocol. I love how you put it just a little bit earlier. The task is the boss.

Ralph Simone: Yeah. Yeah. And if we let that drive it, you know, terms like staying in your own lane.

Oh yeah. You know, and you know, do you know who I am? Yes. That’s why I am asking you to do it. You know who you’re, I know what skills you have and that’s why I came to you. And yeah. I think the task is the boss and I think when we are aligned, This whole thing of organizations, less wasted energy, less wasted time, we can have more autonomy, but that requires right alignment around how we hand off and we hand off to who the right people are regardless of where they sit in the organization.

And to me, I think that’s tremendously empowering.

Bill Berthel: Yeah. So, because I know our listeners tune in for practical advice and ideas on what they can do in their practices and their leadership, where would we suggest folks start with these handoffs?

Ralph Simone: I’m probably not gonna be able to complicate this enough for people to actually take action on it, but I think the first thing is you ask yourself, what do you want or need?

Boom. It’s a process that Elon Musk follows. He starts with what he wants. Second. Who do you need to ask, or hand off the task two or delegate, right? And be thoughtful of that. And then I think third, pay attention to how you ask. We talk a lot about requests and some of our other podcasts. You know, the mood in which you ask the mood of the person that you’re asking, but how you do it.

But I think those three things, what do you want or need? Who do you need to ask and how will you ask? I think that’s the place to get started.

Bill Berthel: That’s great. Thanks Ralph.

Ralph Simone: Thank you, Bill.

Bill Berthel: Hey folks, and thanks for listening. You can listen to a new podcast two times every month here at Get Emergent or wherever you listen to podcasts.

And this is where we bring you contemporary leadership topics and ideas, balanced with what we hope you find are better practices that you can apply to your work and your leadership. Thanks for listening.


  1. Robert Napoletano on August 22, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks guys. Good stuff. It reminds me of something I heard in a commercial in the 80’s and read more about in his book – Lee Iacocca said, “You need to learn to Lead, Follow or get out of the way”. And knowing this can help you work with your fellow workers, no matter what their title is, in both directions. Handing off up, down or sideways but always to the right person.

  2. Brian Hammond on August 23, 2023 at 1:41 pm

    I think this happens more often people like to admit, i have always been a firm believer of going to the source for good answers and results. Also making sure you hand off the task to the right person. People hate to step on people’s toes, but a great practice is included them and be happy with the results.

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