The Art of Delegation – Part 2

The Art of Delegation
Part 2

At the end of April’s column, “What Are Your Leadership Priorities,” I suggested:

When you finish reading this column, ask yourself, “what is required of me?” “what gives me the greatest return?” and “what brings the greatest reward?” Then make a list of the things you do that do not fit into one of those categories. Those are the things you need to delegate or eliminate.

In May’s column I pointed out: (1) “Anyone taking that advice needs to ensure that when they delegate, they do it effectively. There is a difference between delegating responsibilities and abdicating responsibilities. Delegation is when a leader assigns a personally held task, project or responsibility to someone else while maintaining accountability. Your responsibility is to see that the job is accomplished in a way that meets all standards for quality and in a timely fashion,” and (2) effective delegation involves a process that includes the following components:

• Preparation for delegation
• Assignment
• Confirmation of understanding
• Confirmation of commitment
• Ensuring accountability.

“Preparation for Delegation” was explored in last month’s column, and if you followed the suggestions in part one, you have selected the person to whom you are going to delegate the task for one of two reasons: (1) The person is the best qualified and can deliver the best results or (2) the person is the one who will most benefit from the learning experience that comes from doing the job. Now, it is time to make the assignment.

Assignment: For delegation to be successful, the employee to whom the task is assigned must be provided the “big picture.” The employee should be given enough information to see how what he/she will be doing contributes to the overall operation of the organization. When making the assignment, you should describe what success looks like so that the employee has a clear picture of what you want accomplished.

Delegation is most effective when we are delegating responsibility, not just work. You should focus on the results not the process. The effective delegator focuses on the result and allows the employee to exercise initiative and to develop the methodology for achieving the desired result.

When assigning the project, it is essential the employee has the necessary resources to successfully complete the task. Point him/her in the right direction if the work involves other people or resources are needed to get the job done.

Let the employee know that you are available for guidance and advice and point out any roadblocks they may encounter.

Establish the parameters, conditions and terms before you delegate and do not impose controls after you have delegated. Conditions must be stated up front.

Confirmation of understanding: Delegation should be accomplished through a dialogue and in an environment that is conducive to fully explaining the project with a minimum of disruptions. Encourage the employee to ask questions and offer suggestions. Instead of asking “do you understand?” which almost always receives a “yes” answer, ask questions such as “at this point, do you have any ideas about what you will do to accomplish the result we have discussed?” or “What resources do you think you will need to get this done?” This will enable you to see whether or not the employee has a clear picture of what you have asked him/her to do.

Confirmation of commitment: This is the part of the delegation process that most managers overlook. Instead of confirming the employee’s commitment, they often just assume that employees have accepted the assignment.

Runners know that the most important part of a relay race is the handing of the baton to the next runner and they spend a huge amount of time learning this skill. Just as in running, the delegation process cannot be successful unless the employee takes the assignment he/she has been handed and successfully carries it to the finish line.

It is the delegator’s responsibility to confirm that the employee to whom the task has been delegated is committed both to the expected results and to the process that has been set out (including the schedule, budget, and tools) and that their overall goals for the task are aligned with the goals of the organization.

Ensuring Accountability: Accountability is key to the process of delegation. Finding out at the completion date that an assignment hasn’t been completed or has been done unsatisfactorily is the nightmare scenario of delegating.

To ensure accountability, you should establish deadlines and check-in dates when making the assignment. Make sure the employee clearly understands the due date for completion of the assigned task. By also assigning check-in dates, you can be aware of the status of the project without hovering and micromanaging and can offer guidance and advice without interfering. Two-way communication is an essential ingredient of the delegation process if accountability is to be achieved.

Once you have delegated the task, it belongs to the employee. Do not let them delegate it back to you. If the employee comes to you for guidance and advice, listen without assuming responsibility for the problem. If the employee asks you what you think, turn the question around and ask the employee what he/she thinks or what he/she recommends. Help the employee solve the problem. Give the guidance needed without taking the project back. There is a difference between rescuing an employee and providing guidance and support.

One other piece of advice (which was not included in the original outline for this article but which you should consider in delegating) is that when the job is done, give full credit and recognition to the employee who did it. However, if the employee was unsuccessful, take the blunt of the blame yourself. Do not use the employee as a scapegoat. Ultimately, as the manager, the responsibility for getting the job done is yours. Use the failure as a learning experience so you can become more effective in the delegation process.

By becoming an effective delegator, you enable yourself to tap into the strengths of others, free you up to do the things you are required to do or can only be done by you, and you enable others to grow and expand their capabilities.

Happy Delegating.

Your Team Is Facing a Challenge: Do You Step Back or Step Up?

Your Team Is Facing a Challenge: Do You Step Back or Step Up?

Your Team Is Facing a Challenge: Do You Step Back or Step Up?

Being a part of the John Maxwell Team as a JMT certified independent coach, teacher and trainer, I have the opportunity to participate and interact with John a few times every month through his podcasts, webinars and blogs. 

In one of those recent interactions, he asked the question that is the title of this month’s Contemplation Corner – “your team is facing a challenge: do you step back or step up?” 

Before you read any farther, take the time to ask and answer that question for yourself.  As a leader, which do you do?

Now that you have asked and answered that question for yourself, let me ask you another question. “Did you do as I did?  Did you think, ‘Of course, I step up to the challenge?’”

As John pointed out to us, “We’ve all been there. There’s an obstacle at work and you think to yourself: ‘I really need to step up and perform.’ And while that attitude may have served you well as a member of a team, when you become a leader, that same attitude can become a defeating prospect. As a leader, sometimes it’s more important to step back than step up.”

With that statement, he now had my rapt attention! I was thinking “Step back? There is a challenge to be faced, a problem to be solved.  What do you mean step back?”

He then pointed out, “While this may seem like a paradigm shifting without a clutch, it actually makes perfect sense when you examine it further.”

If you are familiar with The John Maxwell Company’s Five Levels of Leadership, you will recall that when people become “Level 3” leaders, they drive productivity, but they don’t accomplish this simply through their own productivity.

As John pointed out to us, “It’s critical that a team’s productivity goes up as a result of the team’s efforts, not because their leader is simply working harder. And this only happens if a leader is willing to step back and focus on their leadership skills, instead of trying to do everything on their own. If a leader ‘steps up,’ it can mean that the team is unable to step up on their own and grow. Without the ability to produce on their own, the team can lose momentum, stagnate and underperform.”    

That raises the question “How does a leader step back to let the team step up?”

John says, “To be an effective leader, you must take all the productivity skills you have worked so hard to build up to that point and work to imprint those skills on your team. By stepping back and focusing on the productivity of others, you will help them to thrive on their own. That’s being a true leader.”

“To make a real difference, this effort must be intentional. You should track progress to see if there’s real improvement due to your leadership efforts. Ask yourself: Is the team relying on you or are they working to solve their own challenges? And don’t be afraid to let your team fail. Learning from failure is how you can create the right environment for their ultimate victories. Almost every great success comes on the other side of a roadblock that needed to be overcome.”

There is an old axiom that says “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same is true of leadership.  We may create positive results through our own efforts, but if we develop the leaders around us, those results can be multiplied exponentially.

Our most important job is the development of others; then step back and let them do what we have equipped them to do.

Are you willing to step back in order to move ahead?

How to Postpone Procrastination

How to Postpone Procrastination

How to Postpone Procrastination

For years I have jokingly told my friends, “I am writing a book on The Positive Use of Procrastination; but for some reason I keep putting it off.”

I guess one of my friends got tired of the joke and told me that I really should write something about dealing with procrastination and I am taking up his challenge.

As I began to examine the problem of procrastination, I learned two important things: (1) everyone procrastinates sometimes, but it is a much larger problem for some people than for others, and (2) people have been procrastinating for centuries. The problem is so old that ancient Greek philosophers Socrates and Aristotle even wrote about it.

With that information in my mind and my fingers already on the keyboard I began to think, “Maybe I shouldn’t write this article after all.  Maybe I should put it off until I have done more research on the topic.” 

While my mind was telling me to procrastinate, I decided that I was not going to procrastinate while attempting to write an article on procrastination.

 

What is Procrastination?

As I was contemplating how to begin a column on procrastination, the words of one of my former college professors kept echoing in my ears – “operationally define your terms;” “operationally define your terms.”

In order to quiet the voice of my former professor, I decided to begin with defining exactly what procrastination is. Dic-tionary.com defines procrastination as “to put off until another day or time; to defer; to delay.”

As used in this month’s column, procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones to the point that it becomes counterproductive.

Effects of Procrastination

Letting ourselves put things off can have greater implications than may be obvious to us.  Procrastination not only causes personal stress and the guilt that comes with it but may include other consequences such as gaining a bad reputation with coworkers, family and friends.  It can also cause individuals to lose their ambition to succeed and keep them from accomplishing their dreams.  Procrastination can even be health threatening if we know we should see a doctor but keep putting it off.

Reasons for Procrastination

If procrastination is counterproductive, has all the negative impacts just described, and keeps a person from accomplishing the tasks he or she should do or wants to do, why do people procrastinate?

If you were to read the numerous articles written on the subject, each with its own list of the reasons people procrastinate, two things would quickly become obvious: (1) there is no single reason for procrastinating, and (2) some people are habitual procrastinators while other people’s procrastination is based upon the tasks itself.

Some of the most common reasons identified for procrastination are:

Lack of motivation,
Lack of skill,
Fear of failure,
Fear of Success,
Lack of Interest,
Sense of rebellion.
Regardless of what reasons drive us to procrastinate, if we are going to continue postponing things anyway, why not postpone procrastination.  That raises the question, “How do you postpone procrastination?”

Steps to postponing Procrastination

Begin the task – The first step to stop procrastination is to start the task. While we may not be motivated to accomplish the task, we should start anyway.   Making the first move is an evidence-backed strategy for beating procrastination.
Tim Pychyl, a psychologist and director of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, says that his group tested this approach in a small study and “found that once students got started, they appraised a task as less difficult and less stressful, even more enjoyable than they had thought.”  He explains in an email, “They said things like ‘I don’t know why I put it off, because it’s not so bad’ and ‘I could have done a better job if I got started earlier.”

We often stop ourselves from starting because we think we are not ready yet.  We do not know enough yet, still have to do all kinds of things first, etc.; but is that really true?  What stops us is really our own attitude about the task.  When we think too much about something, it tends to become an incredible obstacle as all kinds of rationales for postponing the task pop into our heads.  We need to just quit thinking of reasons not to do whatever it is we are postponing and make the first move.  Often the next steps flow automatically from just doing. 

It’s easier to keep going with a task after you’ve overcome the initial hesitancy of starting it in the first place.  That’s because the tasks that induce procrastination are rarely as bad as we think. Getting started on something forces a subconscious reappraisal of that work and we find that the actual task is not as difficult or as boring or as threatening or whatever other reason we have for not doing it. 

That is what happened when I started this month’s column.   Once I started writing and wrote a few paragraphs, I began to get motivated to complete the task.

Set goals with deadlines – When you have a task to do, set a goal for its completion. As Tony Woodall stated, “A goal without a deadline is just a wish.”  It is easy to keep putting a task off if there is no deadline for its completion.

After waiting for some time to write this column, I decided one night that I would complete it before the end of the workday the following day.  I got up that day determined to do that and did it.

Remember the feeling of accomplishment – Think about how good you felt the last time you completed a task that you had been putting off for quite some time. Seize the opportunity to feel that way frequently by completing the tasks that you have been putting off. When you start the task use the feeling of completing a long-postponed task as the motivation for doing it again.
I feel really good about completing a column on the topic of procrastination.  It has been long overdue and it feels so good to have finally written it.  I am going to remember that feeling the next time I feel myself procrastinating on a task.

I have already decided that the next thing I am going to postpone is procrastinating on a task.