Mastering the completed pass


Q uite often we have a need to pass something along in life and in business. Since the Super Bowl just happened (congratulations Kansas City Chiefs), it seems timely to use football as an analogy. During a football pass, a team generally calls the play ahead of time. After the snap, the quarterback (QB) aims the ball, throws, and the receiver catches it. Sometimes the pass isn’t deliberate, but there’s a rush and the QB just needs to get the ball out of his hands and down field.

Let’s consider another sports analogy, a relay race. I was a runner in high school and even though I was a distance runner, sometimes my coach would put me in a relay race. During a relay race, a baton is passed from one runner to another. The pass itself is very deliberate. The approaching runner positions the baton in such a way that the receiving runner can grab it and continue running. The runners balance the need to be careful to not drop the baton and the need to maintain momentum in order to run fast.

Not all of us are football players or relay race runners, but most all of use have a regular need to pass something along. Examples include: tasks, messages, knowledge, authority, physical objects, money, and so forth. Most of the time the pass is deliberate in which both the passer (or sender) and the receiver know about the pass ahead of time. Circumstances may dictate an unplanned pass. Whether it’s a deliberate or unplanned pass, it’s best to be prepared.

I believe that “mastering the pass” is one of the most essential skills in working with other people. Although sometimes there’s a need to pass things through several people, let’s focus on mastering the pass from just one person to another. When the pass is mastered, then you can be assured the right things are being handed off, best positioning the receiver for success. Here are some ways to master the completed pass:

  1. Share responsibility for the pass – Understand that both the passer and the receiver are equally responsible for the pass. The most effective passes happen when both parties know about them ahead of time and take appropriate action. It’s become fashionable lately to blame others and circumstances for failures. Blame does not create an environment for success, but being prepared and responsible does.
  2. Define what’s being passed – Both passer and receiver need to know exactly what’s being passed so they can prepare accordingly. Is it knowledge, physical objects, money, or tasks? If the receiver doesn’t know what’s being sent, how will they know what’s coming their way?
  3. Understand the pass conditions – Whether it’s deliberate or not, both the passer and receiver need to know the conditions under which the pass will take place. Will the receiver have time to prepare for a new task assignment that’s being passed to them? Does the sender know the specific time for the pass and, if not, how to signify when the pass will begin? Will the pass happen deliberately or only if a certain trigger situation happens?
  4. Clarify the pass standards – How will both parties know when the pass has been successfully completed? Is there a form to fill out upon receipt of transferred funds? Does the sender issue a return receipt to know when the receiver gets the email? Does someone have to sign-off on a delegated (passed) task that’s been completed? Should the teacher quiz the student on passed along knowledge? When I was in the Army, we were taught to use the Task (#2 above), Conditions (#3 above), Standard (#4 above) method of instruction. Similar to what we’re talking about here, that method was used to maximize learning success. Learning is an example of the passing along of knowledge.
  5. Anticipate the pass – Most everything in life needs to be passed from one person to another. Even when we die, our material goods are passed along to others. Both the passer and receiver need to anticipate passes. For example, if someone is told at work that they’ll be handling a new assignment it’s reasonable to assume that the assigner (passer) will brief the assignee (receiver) on the assignment. If that briefing doesn’t occur, then the assignee needs to speak up. In like manner, the assigner needs to give the assignee a “heads up” that something new is coming their way. Both parties need to anticipate the pass.
  6. Pay attention – Most people do not listen or read instructions. You can count on that. This past weekend I was in a meeting in which the presenter (not me) clearly stated the starting time of a special event. Moreover, they had the starting time up on a big screen in a big, bold font for all to see and read. Before the presenter had even finished, someone spoke up and asked what time the event started. The audience laughed, the presenter was annoyed, and I bet the person who wasn’t paying attention still doesn’t know the starting time. Don’t be that person. Read information when it’s given and take notes. Don’t be the one who missed the train. Don’t wait for knowledge to come to you, always seek it out.

A business leader must be prepared to pass along knowledge, tasks, and authority in order to grow and perpetuate an organization. Team members should understand they do not work in a vacuum. They need to be knowledgable about their chosen profession and speak up when additional information is needed. There’s no excuse for “no one told me”. In fact, a fundamental legal principle in our country is that “ignorance of the law is no defense.” I believe the same is true in business. Taking initiative to have situational awareness is implied by being a productive member of a team and society in general.

Highly functioning teams are those that know how to master the completed pass. What will you be passing or receiving this week? Aim true and complete the pass.

[Joe Domaleski, a Fayette County resident for 25 years, is the owner of Country Fried Creative – an award-winning digital marketing agency located in Peachtree City. His company was the Fayette Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year.  Joe is a husband, father of three grown children, and proud Army veteran.  He has an MBA from Georgia State University and enjoys sharing his perspectives drawing from thirty years of business leadership experience. ]