Archive for October, 2018

Mastering the Art of Delegation

October 24th, 2018

“The best leaders are the ones have enough sense to pick good men to do what they want done and self restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

We all know that our success is greater than us as individuals. However when it comes to letting go, entrusting others and delegating it can be easier said than done.  Building teams and surrounding ourselves with those who are not only willing and able, but who also value quality and pursue excellence is what we as leaders all aspire to do. But are we our greatest challenge? Are we limiting our success by not mastering the art of delegation?

Make no mistake, you can make or break your leadership success by the way you delegate… or in your failure to delegate. Great delegation not only saves time, money and frustration, it also provides you with an opportunity to build capability and capacity in your people. It is a balancing act that not only requires you to understand how to delegate but what level of delegation to adopt.

Recognising how and why you delegate (or not) is quite possibly the key to working out how to do it properly. For most people, they simply don’t do it because it takes a lot of effort up-front. When you are capable of carrying out the task or project in your sleep and it is relatively straightforward for you to complete, it is very tempting to adopt the mindset of “It’s just quicker and easier if I do it myself’. The big question though is ‘Would it be a good use of my time?’ If you do this for all the little things that you are more than capable of, you will very quickly find yourself not only operating at a lower level but also missing opportunities for yourself and your team because you are too busy to see them.

The second reason that many people fail to delegate is that they find it difficult to relinquish control. How often have you felt the wave of disappointment with the results of what you have delegated? The results don’t match what you had expected or aren’t in line with the way in which you would have done it. Sometimes this is due to the person carrying out the task but sometimes it is also the fault of the person giving the task or project. Understanding what level of delegation is appropriate for the project and to what person is key.

At the heart of effective delegation is communication and clarity. As leaders, you firstly need to be very clear about what you must do versus what you entrust to others. Gaining buy-in or desire from others to want to support and be involved is the next critical step to ensuring quality outcomes are achieved. People are much more engaged and committed to delivering on a responsibility when they have been bought through a process of agreeing to it. By investing in time to explain, discuss and agree the critical outcomes, responsibilities and timeframes you are creating robust frameworks for success.

Understanding who to delegate what to and the extent of freedom to deliver is possibly one of the hardest aspects to mastering the art of delegation. It is also a fundamental driver of organizational effectiveness and the growth of your people, as well as your own success.

To do this effectively you need to understand the capability of your people and what you require in order to remain ultimately accountable as the manager. I would encourage you to think about the 6 levels of delegation below and where they may best apply to you, your current team and projects. Each level progressively offers more autonomy and ownership for the person(s) involved.

  1. Instruction: ‘I need you to do exactly this…A,B,C’
  2. Investigation: ‘Can you please gather me information on XYZ and come back to me for a decision’
  3. Investigation and Decision Making: ‘Once you have all of the information, let’s sit down together to discuss and decide next steps’. A higher level of this could include the additional step of being advised what help is required from you as a leader.
  4. Analysis and Recommendation: ‘What is your view of the situation and recommendation for proceeding?’
  5. Recommendation and Sign Off: ‘Let me know your decision and why before checking back in with me to proceed’
  6. Manage and Inform: ‘Happy for you to do what you think is best, just keep me in the loop or report back to me by X time’

Underpinning the success of all levels is the communication and support frameworks that surround them. Open, transparent and timely communication is critical if people are to feel empowered and supported in what they need to do. Opportunities to ask questions, collaborate and discuss outcomes at any point will not only empower individuals but also motivate and drive commitment to the project and the results.  Without these frameworks in place you run the risk of ‘upward delegation’, which occurs when people run into trouble and they shift their responsibility back to you.

As leaders we all have an obligation to not just deliver on our core responsibilities but to maximise results and opportunities for our business and our people. For those who learn to master the art of delegation, they learn to do this not just for others but also for themselves.

What are some of the biggest challenges you find when delegating? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Turning Knowledge Into Action

October 10th, 2018

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing” – John Maxwell

These days we seem to know a lot. Not only is there an extraordinary amount of up to date relevant information available on almost any topic we can think of, our access to it has never been easier. Books, blogs, podcasts, training programs, knowledge management systems and devices are everywhere and yet one of the biggest questions for both businesses and individuals alike is ‘Why can’t we get anything done?’

For many of us we simply seem to be drowning in a sea of good intentions. Whether its about implementing a new way of working, recruiting new skills for our team, getting fitter, saving more money or simply slowing down, too many businesses and individuals are finding themselves caught in the gap between knowing what they should do and doing what is actually required.

The reality is knowledge is only useful if we do something with it. Whilst it is very important to develop a strategy, build intellectual capital and remain up to date and aware of new developments, we need to actually DO something. This means tackling the hard work, rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. As leaders, this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything but you have to actively engage and play your part. Failing to do so sees us risk both business and career success.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of the book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action argue that one of the main barriers to turning knowledge into action is the tendency to equate talking about something with actually doing something. As they note, all too often talk is valued because the quantity and ‘quality’ of it can be easily assessed immediately where as the ability to get things done requires a greater timeframe. The risk therefore is that our impressions of others are based on sounding smart rather than on how they perform.

No doubt many of us have borne witness to this in our own workplaces – Individuals who are able to speak the talk but not walk the walk. The long-term damage is enormous and does nothing than more than erode trust, confidence, engagement and action. The bottom line is no results or benefits are ever achieved or enjoyed simply by talking about something – or by just making a decision to do something. It still needs to be followed with effort to implement.

So how do we build a culture of action for our businesses, teams and ourselves?

Understand the why before the how: As managers and leaders all too often we want to quickly learn the ‘how’ – what do I need to I immediately do/adopt rather than understanding the ‘why’ in terms of drivers and goals. The real danger is when we expect our teams to also adopt this framework of thinking as it can easily create an overly dependent culture that is devoid of learning, independent thinking and ownership.

Commit to taking action: Many of us have fallen into the pattern of researching, planning and refining our strategy as a way of telling ourselves we are busy ‘doing’ when really we are just playing safe. Essentially all we are doing is walking on a treadmill – yes we are moving but it is not actually taking us anywhere.

Simplify: Leaders and organisations that use simple straightforward language, concepts and structures are better at closing the knowing-doing gap. Simplicity removes ambiguity, blame and confusion. It increases productivity, efficiency and creativity. Quite simply it is the fast track to creating action.

Invest in learning: Closing the gap on knowing and doing requires an investment in training and learning be-it for our organisations or ourselves. Developing expert skill-sets, efficiency and confidence requires commercial tolerance, time and a learning based culture or outlook. Recognising that as learners we need space to explore new ideas, make mistakes and embed new knowledge is critical to maximising the ROI on the learning investment.

Face the fear: Fear is one of the greatest paralysers of success and progress. To close the knowing-doing gap we need to face it – both at an individual and organisational level. To take action we need to know that there will be no punishment for taking risks, making mistakes and exploring new ideas without a guarantee of success. If we fear for our jobs, our future opportunities or even for our own self worth we are less likely to move beyond the safe confines of what we know and have done before which ultimately prohibits any form of growth.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. Not only does it prohibit us from taking the first step towards action, it also creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.

Measure the right things: To encourage action we need to ensure that we are measuring the right things. Pouring all of our energies and metrics into scrutinising hours worked rather than levels of customer satisfaction is not going to drive future results. We need to demonstrate and see the value in what we are measuring and how it relates to what we do our future direction and our success.

The real challenge for us is to make knowing and doing the same thing. It is only when we do that we will drive a culture of action for ourselves and the businesses that we lead. As we head into the last quarter of the year I would encourage you to think what it is that you want and need to do to close the year out successfully.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Contact Us

Designed by WRD © Margot Andersen 2019