December 11, 2017

Archives for January 2017

Does delegation go up or down?

Group discussing plansDoes delegation mostly go up or down your organisation? Seriously.

The art of effective delegation is perhaps the poor relation of management and leadership practice—not very exciting to study—but nevertheless very important.

So often, I meet leaders or even whole management teams who say they can’t delegate any more work because their team members are too busy already. And so they overload themselves and don’t have the capacity to take on the higher level—and perhaps unfamiliar—challenges they should taking on.

The thing is that’s really backwards: It means delegation flows up the organisation not down. If our people can’t handle any more work, it means they don’t have a big enough team or they’re not effective at delegating or need help with the task. The answer to that is to help them learn to delegate more effectively and perhaps find more people, not take on more work ourselves.

If we want to evolve and grow, we should be pushing work down the organisation not lifting it up, building strength in the team as required to make that possible.

Much easier to shut down initiative than get it going

Group of colleagues

I think we underestimate this asymmetry.

The taking of initiative by team members can be a fragile thing. It’s much, much easier to shut it down than get it going in the first place. The truth is we really don’t need to worry that we can stop something if we need to do. That’s all too easy. The difficult part is switching people on in the first place. We need to nurture that.

It’s so easy to fall in to the trap of thinking we should be in control of what happens at all times. That may seem to be what’s expected of us, or so we think anyway. But that sucks the energy out of any initiative. The effort becomes just our energy then—ours alone. That’s a lot less than the energy of the group.

Instead, we need the art of the light touch and the continuance of trust.

Unless, that is, we believe a heroic, solo effort from ourselves is the right way—that we’ll somehow be stronger than a whole organisation full of people.

Most of the time, we won’t be.

It’s not so comfortable to allow something to happen and not be in full control, but for others to take and sustain initiative that’s the path we need to follow.

If in doubt, communicate

Three senior managers talkingSometimes we wonder whether we should say something or not, probably because it’s sensitive in some way.

I’ve always reckoned that if we’re unsure whether to take a particular action or not, we should do the positive thing i.e. take the option that is active rather than passive. At least that way we’ll learn something even if the action doesn’t turn out that well, whereas if we don’t do anything, we’ll learn nothing. Over time that attitude has paid off, I would say.

Similarly, then…

If we’re unsure about speaking (or writing) to someone about something—if the decision is finely balanced, that is—we should go ahead, with the best skill and tact we can muster and if it seems the right time. At least then we move things on, even if the road is bumpy.

If in doubt, communicate.

New Year every month?

Calendar dates from monday to sundayHow often do you review your goals (assuming you set some in the first place, of course)?

Obviously, it’s traditional to set personal goals at the turn of the year and it’s a good idea. It’s a good time to do it too, because we need a bit of downtime to reflect on what our direction should be. I have benefited over the years from doing this reasonably diligently, not least because it’s made me re-assess my priorities and what I am aiming for. The actual outcome has definitely been different from what it would have been had I not taken the time to think over what I could achieve in the 12 months to come. (I also think about three years ahead, to make sure I am radical enough.)

Because of the fresh direction that comes out of the process, last year, I decided to attempt to take stock and re-assess my yearly aim and objectives every month-end. Of course, I didn’t manage every month, but I did manage about six of the month-ends. That definitely contributed to a successful year. Each time, there was experience and learning to reflect on and I made some adjustments to my aim for the year—upwards, generally—because I could see more clearly. That redirection definitely wouldn’t have happened without making time for the review. (I’m not saying it’s a comfortable kind of thinking, by the way. It’s work, no doubt about that.)

I suggest you try this, especially if you are entirely responsible for your own direction. At the end of the year, you’ll be glad you did.

I know this is kind of serious, but it matters.

So…

New Year every month?

Tip: Schedule your monthly review in your diary—perhaps for the weekend nearest the beginning of the month.

And, of course…

Best wishes for 2017.