November 23, 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.

The value of validation

TeamOf course, it’s good to make up our own mind about whether something we’re doing is right or not. Nevertheless, a bit of external validation is still very welcome.

We can seek it out ourselves, for our own needs.

But what about other people—those we have reason to assist in their learning?

If we’re supporting someone develop new leadership behaviours, for example, and they seem to be making some progress in that some of their people are stepping up and taking on appropriate leadership responsibilities as well, it can be extraordinarily reinforcing to prompt other people seeing these positive developments to say so.

In a workshop setting, one answer is simply to invite other participants to comment. Out in the field, a little more deliberate action is needed—perhaps asking them to take the trouble to have a word.

From our perspective then, as the orchestrator of all this, perhaps as a facilitator, or maybe just a friend…

Worth thinking about how to prompt people who could say something helpful.

Don’t leave it to chance.

From where does personal presence come?

TeamWe’ve all experienced people who have a powerful presence, whether we’ve come across them individually ourselves or just observed them as public figures. Indeed, we may well have that quality to a degree—even a considerable degree—ourselves. Perhaps we might like to strengthen it, or helps others strengthen it.

Presence is a key competent of natural leadership after all—the ability to make something useful happen without necessarily having the explicit authority that might appear to be needed. It’s also a key component of influence in relationships, both personal and professional.

The question is…

What are the key ingredients of presence?

Wisdom, attention to others, inner peacefulness, the capacity to absorb input, resilience, flexibility, needlessness, the ability to sense, the capacity to care… could be some of them. Perhaps being in touch with an inner strength and an openness to go with it is the key.

And how can these ingredients be developed?

By gathering knowledge, by accepting what “is” (i.e. what is unchangeable), by owning what we manifest and, therefore, can change, by seeing clearly, by overcoming our ego and identifying with our Self, by acting with courage and belief…

What do you think? What else is needed?

Leadership is contagious

Two doctors in discussionUnlike management, which doesn’t really spread from person to person, leadership is contagious. If one person is an effective and energetic leader, those around them are likely to pick up some of the traits too.

Management authority has to be arranged and people have to be appointed to roles.

Whereas…

Leadership authority can be developed independently of management structure and rub off from one individual to another, to be drawn on as and when circumstances require.

A good idea then to cultivate leadership skills in an organisation—they spread.

(Thanks to Geoff Crowley, Managing Director of Highland Colour Coaters, who prompted this piece.)

Blending the intervention

Four people speaking in front of a laptopWe don’t have all the answers. That’s true whether we’re on the outside of the issue looking in or on the inside looking out.

The leadership team knows its business, whereas the change agent knows something useful the insiders don’t currently have. Neither has all the answers, nor even all of the pieces available collectively.

Therefore…

The way forward needs to be a blend of both—both what the leadership team already has and what the change agent is bringing, but not usually all of either.

For the necessary co-creation to happen, both parties need to let go of something—to give up part of their model.

Are you ready to do that?

Are you leading with your professional paradigm?

Group discussionThey say the way we do anything is the way we do everything.

When it comes to leadership and management, we tend to lead and manage in a paradigm dictated by our professional or vocational expertise—our worldview, if you like. For example…

Scientists manage scientifically.

Engineers manage with systems and processes.

Academics lead academically.

Accountants manage financially.

Typically, the leadership culture in an organisation reflects the nature of what it does.

But actually…

There’s no good reason why it should; there’s an explanation, but not a reason.

Management and leadership are both different arts in their own right, generally requiring a much greater understanding of human beings and a deeper affinity with them—something quite different from a vocational expertise.

Worth checking whether we’re over-applying our professional paradigm in our leadership role.

Good to adopt a distinct model for that part of what we do.

And that might mean abandoning some certainties.

Controlling everything isn’t leadership

Group in discussion at computerIt’s management.

They say the best leaders are the ones who develop the most leaders, not the most followers.

If we want to lead—as opposed to manage—we mustn’t control everything, because then there’s no opportunity for others to exercise their initiative and grow into leaders themselves.

Of course, there need to be checks and balances to pick up mistakes; to keep everything and everybody safe.

And the right relationship to make all this possible—trust.

How do you strike the right balance between freedom and control?

If you’re trying to nail down everything, you probably aren’t leading.

Leadership isn’t always about teams

Two staff members smilingWe tend to think of leadership in the context of leading teams, at least in connection with work we do.

But it isn’t necessarily so.

Yes, a leader’s role is often to build the necessary relationships with and amongst the members of a formally-constituted team in order to create the conditions where the group can perform to the best of its ability.

Sometimes though…

Leadership is about stimulating some kind of response amongst people who don’t work together at all, nor for the person “leading.” They might not even know the leader personally.

But still there is some kind of relationship—a more subtle one perhaps…

Because there’s no authority in the situation, it’s a more delicate matter—“like cooking a small fish,” in the words of the Tao Te Ching, “you spoil it with too much poking.”

How do you go about leading when you don’t have authority (assuming you need to, that is)? What’s different for you?

Something about seeing what’s important to people perhaps.

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?

Does change come before leadership?

Professional man and womanIn the dictionary it does, of course.

And perhaps in real life too.

Certainly the two things are closely tied up with each other.

Is the need for leadership prompted by external change, or should we initiate internal change before the external world forces it upon us?

Perhaps leadership comes before change, despite what it says in the dictionary.

What about you—do you initiate your own change or does change initiate you?