Michelle Randall explains what five characteristics are necessary to be recognized as culturally agile.
We begin delegating even before we learn how to talk. If you’ve ever seen a crying infant pointing at a bottle that’s just out of reach, you’ve seen delegation in action. And if you handed that child the bottle, you were successfully delegated a task.
So, considering that we all have so much experience with delegating, why don’t we get outstanding results every time we ask an employee to complete a task?
Unfortunately, delegating is usually approached as a transaction, which it isn’t. Managers think, “I tell an employee to do a task. The employee does the task. I reward the employee. Everyone’s happy.” This is the managerial version of pointing at a bottle and crying.
But just as that baby can cry and point in vain, so can managers. What makes us actually give the baby the bottle isn’t just our desire to stop the noisy crying. It’s based on a mix of relationship factors, including empathy, communication, and a desire for a mutually beneficial outcome.
At its core, delegation is an act of trust. When it’s successful, the relationship between leader and employee is strengthened. When it’s ineffective, it can get one or both people fired.
Many leaders wrongly feel that delegating is too hard or too risky, and prefer to do things themselves. This attitude is precisely what keeps “bottle washers” who work 60-plus hours a week from getting to the next level.
Successful delegation doesn’t just allow you to get more done in less time. It also frees you up to contribute at your highest and best level, stops you from being a bottleneck in organizational capacity, allows your employees to further develop their skills, and builds a culture of accountability for your organization and yourself.
Are you a successful delegator? Delegating is a great way to ensure that more tasks get done in less time, and it also builds team capacity. Unfortunately, a lot of managers don’t pay enough attention to the delegation process, and thus fail to reap the benefits.
Here are the six steps you should work through when delegating:
1. Prepare. Employees can’t deliver quality results if the task delegated to them isn’t fully thought out, or if expectations keep changing. Take the time to map out exactly what you’re asking for.
2. Assign. Next, convey that information to your employees. Be sure to include clear information on timing, budget, and context, and set expectations for communication and updates.
3. Confirm Understanding. One of the most common mistakes made in delegating is assuming that employees understand what you want, rather than making sure that they do. Confirming understanding only takes about 60 seconds, but is the most important determinant of success or failure.
4. Confirm Commitment. Managers often just assume that employees have accepted the tasks they’ve been given, but it’s important to confirm that they’re actually committed to seeing it through.
5. Avoid “Reverse Delegating.” Managers often end up completing tasks they had delegated to others, because those tasks somehow end up back on their plate. I call this “reverse delegating.” It’s rarely, if ever, necessary for managers to take back tasks they had delegated to someone else. If an employee reaches an impasse, coach him or her through it.
6. Ensure Accountability. Two-way communication is a key part of delegating. Finding out at the completion date that a deliverable hasn’t been completed or has been done unsatisfactorily is the nightmare scenario of delegating. That’s why you need to make sure your employees are accountable for the task.
The delegation process becomes faster and more fluid the more you do it. Once you’ve mastered it, it will become a part of your managerial DNA, and you’ll consistently reap outstanding results.
If you’re like the majority of my clients, you might initially think this is impossible. But if you make a conscious effort, you might be surprised by the results.
Attempting to significantly reduce your work hours will bring unnecessary drains on your time into sharp focus. Below are some examples of typical time drains that you may be facing, perhaps without even realizing it.
Capable Person Syndrome
Many leaders have an unspoken motto of “I can, therefore I should.” Since these people are typically very capable, they never have enough time to accomplish everything they “can” do. Remember that people will happily ask for help from a capable, willing person. Responding to all of these requests creates parasitic relationships.
I have a client who runs a technology company. Needless to say, he loves using the tools of his trade. When I went to his worksite to observe him in action, I was shocked at the number of distractions he had. His phone was constantly dinging when emails arrived, and his social networks were growling on a regular basis. With every interruption, I watched my client shift his attention to this or that device, then attempt to regain his train of thought, which had just been forced off track. When we added things up, we discovered that all of his “productivity technology” was actually costing him, rather than saving him, many hours per week.
Can’t Say No
There are a number of reasons people, powerful leaders included, find it hard to say no. Often, we have a strong desire to be liked or to be as responsive as possible to every internal and external client. But if saying yes to everyone means follow-through for each client suffers because you have too much on your plate, your clients will be disappointed anyway, and will wish that you had set more reasonable expectations.
Do these examples sound familiar? As you strive to become more effective, keep an eye out for areas where changes to your attitudes or behaviors might free up more time and remove obstacles to your success.
I see this in many of my clients. They come to coaching sessions with possibility boiling up inside of them, but are unable to express it because they spend all their time at work playing catch-up or doing damage control. As a result, they’re not making their highest and best contribution. Once they realize this and shift their focus, the results are remarkable.
The key to realizing your full potential is to become aware that there are contributions only you can make, by virtue of your unique combination of talents, skills, interests, and relationships with others. These are your highest and best contributions.
Clients often define such contributions as a function of their role or position. If they’re a marketing director, they do the work of a marketing director. If they’re a CEO, they do the work of a CEO. They overlook the fact that these contributions are as transitory and shifting as the roles themselves.
A much more powerful way of identifying your highest and best contribution is to look for something that’s uniquely yours, independent of your position in an organization, or in society as a whole. This contribution is the one that you can always make, regardless of your circumstances.
It’s important to make the distinction between what you do well, or even what you do better than others, and your highest and best contribution. The difference is a feeling of fulfillment. When we’re passionate about our contributions, our curiosity and creativity are engaged at entirely new levels. When we apply this level of engagement to our unique abilities, we have a potent combination that leads to amazing results.
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece” – John Ruskin
You’re not alone. Even seasoned executives have trouble managing their relationship with time. In a lot of cases, the difficulty comes from taking the wrong approach.
Time management, for instance, is a farce. The truth is, we cannot manage time any more than we can control the weather.
The basic assumption of time management is that, since there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them in, we need to somehow squeeze more hours out of the day. This, of course, is impossible.
What’s more, time management programs prescribe a set of actions that are meant to apply to every person in every environment. This one-size-fits-all approach fails individual users.
When we take a simple, customized approach to optimizing our own effectiveness, we eliminate the need for fruitless time management systems, and instead learn to manage our relationship with time by managing ourselves.
Self-management begins with self-awareness, which we can start to develop by answering these questions:
How do you use your time? If you don’t know, begin by documenting how you spend each hour of your day, and look for trends.
What choices are you making (or not making) with regard to your time? Consciously deciding how you spend your time will allow you to maintain control, rather than letting your time be drained away.
Are the choices you’re making (or not making) with regard to your time helping you achieve your goals? If you’re spending most of your time on what’s least important, you’re minimizing your effectiveness. Think about your priorities, and make sure you’re using your time wisely.
Managing your relationship with time is no easy task – it requires conscious effort and dedication. Fortunately, by becoming aware of the decisions you’re making (or not making) when it comes to how you use your time, you can begin to improve upon this skill.
If your company successfully weathered the economic storm, you might now be left in a bit of a daze, unsure how to move forward and uncertain as to the future. Rebuilding your momentum is not an easy thing to do, but you can’t leave it too long. As more and more companies see sunshine and calm waters on the horizon, competition is ramping up as they once again race to the shore.
Following such a devastating economic crisis, business leaders must be particularly wary of falling into the success trap. Whether you were directly hit by the economic crisis or not, you have no doubt felt its impacts. Now that things are finally picking back up, you’re able to level up and continue on. This is where you risk falling into the success trap.
It’s easy to see how you might be so relieved to be floating along again that you stop worrying about growth and focus only on maintaining the status quo. If this describes your situation, then what you’re seeing now is a plateau. You’ve developed a certain level of complacency (this has worked for us before, so it should work again), and a certain amount of consistency (this is the best way to do it – we don’t need to look for other options). As a company, you’re tired, and you feel like a little rest would do a world of good. After all, you’ve just weathered a major economic storm!
Unfortunately, a little rest has the potential to turn into a long winter’s nap. The danger of falling into this success trap is that you run the risk of getting too comfortable – too complacent – and failing to grow and adapt to the realities of the new market.
When a rising tide is raising all boats, as in this economic recovery, it’s not enough to simply float along. To outperform and outmaneuver the competition, companies must find ways to innovate so that they see continued growth and development.
The key to performance growth is to be able to shorten those plateaus. Plateaus do happen – it’s a natural thing to not always be on a steep upward trend. But you need to be able to recognize when you’ve hit a plateau – when you’ve become too complacent – and find ways to innovate so that you start to grow and improve again.
By shortening these plateaus and increasing your ability to innovate, you’ll be able to create this cycle of growth again and again and speed the whole process up.
Innovation really is the key to avoiding stagnation, and will help you grow and develop as the economic recovery continues to unfold.