September 19, 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.

Threatening with help

Three senior managersIt’s a curious thing…

People can be remarkably resistant to help: I suppose we all are, depending on the subject. “Help” can take us into painful contemplation, addressing issues that we might prefer to avoid—or at least put off to another time.

Perhaps that’s why “threatening” someone or a group with help can be so effective. Suddenly, when there is a real possibility of someone else getting involved and perhaps setting the pace and the agenda—taking the initiative away—we find it within ourselves to make a start; to tackle the issues we need to tackle.

Sometimes, I’ve been the “help” that is threatened. I don’t think I’m that scary but, even so, some people would rather take the suggestion as a prompt to galvanise themselves into action—independently.

Where are you on this…

Are you the help that is threatened?

Or are you being threatened by help?

Or do you put your pride aside and accept additional expertise into what you’re doing?

Or maybe you’re a leader using the threat of help to get others to take action, even if that isn’t what you originally intended.

Whichever of these apply, it’s a powerful effect.

Asking the right question

Group in discussion at computerThere’s no such thing as the right question, of course, but some enquiries contribute more to moving things on than others.

It’s worth thinking about…

What’s your intention when you ask a question – helping things along in the direction they need to go in for the benefit of everyone, or making a point to enhance your position?

Both have their place, I suppose.

But…

It’s good to be clear about your aim.

And if it’s to move things on, there’s a skill in asking just the right question to pick things up where they are and carry them on to the next step.

How well do you do that?

Straightening out your business

Road into the distanceIn program and project management, people talk about “straightening out the program,” meaning to set it on an orderly basis, with dependencies between one task and another, and resource availability in the face of constraints, properly recognised.

Without that clarity…

The program has “kinks” in it and so seems shorter overall than it really is, and at the same time actually isn’t the quickest route between two points.

It’s not laid out in a line properly.

Proper development of a programme then, both increases the realism of the planning and finds ways to minimise the expected duration.

So the end result is a straight line of minimum possible length.

Developing a business or an organisation is like that too.

In that context, the question is: Are the actions we’re taking on the shortest path to the goal or the vision?

Or are they partly a side road?

In other words, are we truly doing what most needs to be done?