Effective Delegation: Practical Applications in the Workplace

Managers have so much to do nowadays!  They must assure quality, meet goals and objectives, plan, budget and execute.  While they’re doing all of this, they must also hire, train, motivate, direct and evaluate employees.  When the topic of delegation comes up, many managers “don’t have the time”, “can do it faster and better themselves”, or “can’t make it happen fast enough with the employees they have”.  True…delegation takes time, planning, patience, focus and energy, but if done well, the return on investment is incredible!

Some compelling reasons to delegate are:

  • Maximize/leverage resources
  • Create developments opportunities
  • Motivate employees
  • Utilize skills that the manager lacks
  • Improve leadership skills

As you can see, delegation is more than just another task in the life of a manager!

How do you delegate?  Here’s the steps adapted from Chris Roebach’s book Effective Delegation:

1.  Define and analyze the task

2.  Select the individual

3  Assess employees’ ability and training needs

4.  Explain why

5.  Identify resources.

6.  Set objectives

7.  Monitor progress

8.  Review the results

Effective Delegation also suggests that there are four levels of delegation:

1.  Control – The “control” level restricts the employee considerably.  The manager retains control of the assignment.  In the control level the manager:

  • Gives specific instructions
  • Supervises closely
  • Restricts employee’s freedom.

2.  Coach -In coaching, the manger is less engaged – the employee has more freedom.  When in the coaching level, the manager:

  • Supervises closely, but less directive
  • Explains the job by step but offers advice and support
  • Allows the employee more responsibility and input

3.   Consult -When “consulting” there is a shift in responsibility and power:

  • Allows the employee more freedom of action
  • Gives general instruction and invites ideas
  • Decides jointly with employee on choice of action
  • The manager is available for help.

4.   Collaborate – At this level, the tables have turned.  As Covey describes:  “the employee is the boss and the       manager supports” .  The manager:

  • Gives only overall direction
  • Leaves specifics to the delegee
  • Defines the level of freedom before the necessity to report
  • Advises and supports only in rare situations.

There are other considerations before deciding what, when and whom to delegate to, such as available time, stress conditions, urgency, employee motivation, employees commitment  and is the situation an opportunity for learning.

By utilizing delegation, a manager is leveraging productivity, developing employees and instilling camaraderie with employees.  It takes a commitment of time, energy and attention, but the long term results are invaluable.  Practicing delegation will enhance management skills and develop leadership skills.

Book Review: Political Savvy – Systematic Approaches to Leadership Behind the Scenes

Last year I was thinking hard about how to help people with the “politics” of change.  Many people see “politics” as something to be avoided.  Political Savvy – Systematic Approaches to Leadership Behind the Scenes takes a fresh and extremely rational look at the natural politics of organizations.

What I liked: Dr. DeLuca identifies 9 different “players”, ranging from the passive and cynical to the “active and ethical” players.  This book encourages people to become “active, ethical players” that choose to make a strategic difference in their organizations.  These players are savvy: they know how to identify resistance to change; and they know who can help them overcome that resistance in a way that serves the greater good.  And they assume that organizations are not inherently rational; rather, they are made up of humans that try to be rational but who also operate from a framework of emotions and interests that are uniquely individual.

Following are a couple of tips for “influencing behind the scenes” that I particularly liked:

1.  Dr. DeLuca is skeptical about decision-making in large groups.  Instead, he recommends a “Many-Few-Many-Few ” approach. 

  • MANY: Essentially – brainstorm, but don’t decide – in a large groups.  Large groups tend to be best at creativity and energy – but as many of us know, they are not good at wordsmithing, working though logistics, or weighing the whole against the enthusiasm of a crowd.
  • FEW:  So, bring the options back to a few with authority and responsibility to make the change.
  • MANY: Then – and this is key – bring it back to the whole for comments, input, feedback, and clarity.
  • FEW:  Then, finalize the decision with the same, responsible few.

2.  “Never go into a decision-making meeting without knowing that 51% or more of its participants understand and are open to discussion about the proposed change.” 

  • This is a particularly critical piece of thinking here, and he even says that if it is the one thing that readers take from the book, he is happy.  Essentially – recall a time that you sat in a meeting, and you said, bursting with enthusiasm, “Hey, I think we should do this really great thing!”  And, your fantastic idea was ignored.  Perhaps there was silence, perhaps the group kept going like they hadn’t even heard it, or perhaps someone outright said “That is a terrible idea!”  And then, 15 minutes later, the same idea was offered – perhaps even by the person who said it was a terrible idea – and the group enthusiastically exclaimed, “What a fantastic idea!  Why didn’t I think of that???”  (Yes, you are usually pouting at that point.)
  •  Dr. DeLuca also noted that phenomenon, and there are a lot of probable reasons for that; perhaps an innate adversity to change inside humans, perhaps the political landscape of the moment.  But he says that the dynamic changes entirely when the politically savvy  warm the temperature of the room by introducing the idea before the meeting – to more than half the group.  It is not that everyone has to agree, but by introducing the idea, you help create conditions for a better and more productive conversation – in a way that doesn’t lead to a lost idea, wasted meeting time, or loss of face for you.

The book has been extremely helpful to me as I advise clients within organizations how to manage change, or clients who are engaged in “inter-organizational” collaborations.  The book also contains a system for mapping alliances that is extremely helpful for the champion of change.

I was so excited about his work that I reached out to see if there were a workshop for me to become better trained in his tools.  It was then that I discovered that Dr. DeLuca passed away in 2008.  May he rest in the deepest peace.

Case Study: Large Conference Design and Stakeholder Engagement

A group of about 30 science, land management, and non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies had been working together for several years to create a long-term “monitoring plan” covering a large geography.  This plan was federally mandated, and was primarily to guide policy in Washington DC about how to monitor current and future ecological activity in that region.  However, as this group began to work towards this goal, they realized that several other outcomes could be achieved: a clear set of goals about what all of these groups wanted to work towards; a shared vocabulary that could span many different disciplines; and an experience of shared-decision-making that would foster the group’s ability to work together on future projects.  They decided that the best way to do this would be to conduct a “summit,” where prior work would be discussed and confirmed.

Global Genesis worked hand in hand with this group to do the following:

  • Design appropriate and achievable outcomes for the day that reflected the needs of both the client as well as many of there partners;
  • Based on those outcomes, design a day for 65 people that was engaging as well as allowed them to discuss and decide on critical factors for the monitoring plan;
  • Helped to create and maintain a set of ground rules that allowed for strong opinions to surface, be understood, and be incorporated – not easy with such a large group with a diversity of views!
  • Created a system for “real-time” capturing of information and agreements
  • Worked with Summit Leader to create a report that incorporated the day’s work and fed directly into the end result: a monitoring plan that would be sent to Washington, DC.

By the end of our day together, we had captured enough feedback and data to complete the report; had deepened relationships between group members, established a common vocabulary amongst a group of people with very different backgrounds, and created momentum that is still helping the group move forward today.

Click here to read other case studies.

Case Study: From a Dysfunctional to a Highly Functional Team

A recently-promoted CEO in a medium-sized business knew that if his C-Level team didn’t work together, he wouldn’t be able to create the kind of culture change he sought in his company.  His team had two legacy members who had been there for between 10-20 years, included the former CEO who was now the Board President, and another member who had been a part of the team for 6 years.  The legacy members had long working relationships with each other – not all positive – and many habits of communication that were resulting in poor idea sharing, a lack of participation in decision-making, and a risk-averse mentality.  This group was not yet thinking or operating as a team.

We helped this group by:

  • Interviewing key members outside of the team to understand the performance of the team as well as its members, to gain a better understanding of the history and context leading to
  • Interviewing each member to understand the history, context, and hidden issues that might be hindering team cohesion and performance
  • Designing and delivering a 3-day teambuilding event that
    • helped the group establish a new way of talking and working together
    • formed agreements for their meetings, working through conflict, and improving their processes
    • formed goals, strategies, and action steps that were the basis of  their strategic plan;
    • helped them strategize a communication and change management plan for continuing the work with their staff.

This group became a long-term client who continued their efforts towards better teamwork within their team as well as with and within their staff.  They reported that this initial teambuilding allowed them to “clear the air” and start fresh in a way that significantly – and positively – influenced their ability to work together.

 Click here to read other case studies.

Compensating Teams

Nearly everyone can relate to working on a team.  Teams are a great way to bring a group of talented folks together to focus on and accomplish a task.  They are also a means of providing development opportunities to employees, by utilizing skills in different venues, learning new skills from other team members and by taking on a responsibility beyond the purview of the everyday job.  But what’s the best way to compensate teams?

As you may have anticipated, there is no one best answer.  Compensation philosophy, strategy and design are the same as for individual compensation, for instance determining what behavior or results you want to incent/reward, assuring that the reward is meaningful, that the allocations are equitable and that it falls within budget.  However, there are several important practices to consider with respect to teams.  First of all, it is advisable to be transparent with pay.  Every team member should know what the plan is, the potential reward, the actual reward and how the reward will be distributed amongst the group at the outset of the team’s work together. The team should understand goals and expectations, and how the reward will be determined based on performance, particularly if the reward will be cash or a non-cash item of high value.  For self directed teams, the team’s determination of award allocation may be best, along with a peer review or the use of a 180 or 270 degree feedback device, where feedback is gathered from peers and others who deal directly with the team. It is also important that the team be mutually accountable for results.

In his book, Compensation for Teams, Steven Gross identifies three types of teams:

  • The Parallel Team – this team comes together periodically while each members also has a full time job (e.g. Safety Committee);
  • The Process Team – this team is a full-time, dedicated team, generally created for improvement in quality and/or customer service, the members often being cross-trained;
  • The Project Team – this team is a full-time team brought together for the duration of a project.

Here are some concrete suggestions based on his research that the author suggests for team performance recognition:

  • The Parallel Team:
    • Non-cash rewards are more popular
    • Any differentiation amongst members must be defensible
    • Allocation should be fully accepted by the team
    • Cash for successful results, non-cash award for mixed results and a memo commending hard work for failed results
    • Recognition occurs after the fact
    • Merit increases in base pay should be based on both regular job and team performance
  • The Process Team:
    • Incentive compensation is popular, due to incremental improvement
    • Incentive compensation is less likely to create disharmony
    • Non-cash awards are seen as helping bring the team together
    • Incentive compensation should be of equal amounts
    • Recognition occurs before the fact
    • Incremental merit increases emphasize continuous improvement
    • General wage increases should reflect new skills and competencies
  • The Project Team:
    • Non-cash awards and spot cash awards are most popular
    • Sizable cash awards are appropriate
    • Non-cash award for meeting expectations; cash for exceeding expectations
    • Allocation should be equal percent of base pay and/or individual contribution
    • Recognition occurs before and/or after the fact
    • Merit increases granted upon demonstration of required skills and competencies

A whole different viewpoint as to what motivates teams and what rewards they desire are depicted in this video clip:

The clip contends that workers should be paid enough to take money motivators off the table and what truly motivates is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

These two viewpoints are both  food for thought when it comes to designing your team compensation plan. What should we favor: money or meaning, when it comes to rewarding teams?

Tactics for Leading Change

A leader is pondering, what is the best way to approach my staff about sustainability? How do I create a vision that others will share with me, so I am not a lone wolf, howling in a wilderness of cubicles?

Great question!

Part of this question is answered by the qualities that the leader actually possesses. Talking about sustainability or any other change won’t be effective unless the change agent is trusted by the people she is trying to influence.

Influence, by the way, whether you have authority in an organization or not, is the only capital that really works to create long-term, behavioral change. Letting go of any ideas you may have about being able to enforce a change is helpful in this process – after all, as a colleague of mine, John Springer says –

You can lead by Inspiration, or Desperation. Which do you choose?

But back to strategies for change. We will talk more about leadership later.

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge et al., (a classic work on systems thinking in organizational development) makes the point that leaders want to create the commitment and focus that a shared vision can bring to an organization. Building a Shared Vision can do just that.

Bryan Smith’s article in The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook discusses 5 starting points for building shared vision. He notes that different organizations should start at different places, given the practical realities of where different companies are. (The following is a direct excerpt from his article, on p.314.)

  1. Telling: The “boss” knows what the vision should be, and the organization is going to have to follow it;
  2. Selling: The “boss” knows what the vision should be, but needs the organization to “buy in” before proceeding;
  3. Testing: The “boss” has an idea about what the vision should be, or several ideas, and wants to know the organization’s reactions, before proceeding;
  4. Consuliting: The “boss” is putting together a vision, and wants creative input from the organization before proceeding;
  5. Co-creating: The “boss” and “members” of the organization, through a collaborative process, build a shared vision together.

He makes the point that before proceeding, you should objectively assess where your company is, and then make a plan for how to move to the next stage.

Figuring out Where You Should Start – A Case Study

I have a client who is transitioning from one leader to another leader. The old leader had a fairly traditionalist model; he asked people to do what they should do, and expected that they follow through with what he asked them to.

The new leader had a very different idea; while he wasn’t entirely sure how, he knew that he wanted his staff to work as a team; to be self-motivated to improve the company. We started with an executive team teambuilding, and from there, discussed how to help his whole company work differently.

He had a vision of teamwork – but had to go about it differently depending on who in the company he was working with. With his executive team, we had spent three days together building trust and respect, co-creating a vision for the company, agreeing on strategy. We then spent many months working together as a team over time. With them, he used a combination of testing, consulting, and co-creating. The Executive Team wanted strong leadership from him, as they had received in the past, but still usually wanted to consult – a significant change from how it had been in the past. But as the Executive Team itself became stronger, they also became stronger, more creative leaders with their own staff, and likewise more attached to co-creating together as an Executive Team. Now, they negotiate about when they will co-create, when they will consult with the leader, and when the leader will test with them, but reserve the right to make the decision.

But the company leader also wanted to change how the rest of his staff would work together. And the rest of the company was more accustomed to a strong authority figure who governed mostly through telling, as opposed to a leader who was willing to share some of his authority in exchange for increased creativity and commitment on their part. For his staff, this leader spends some time telling, a lot of time selling, and has been making inroads to testing and consulting, with specific individuals or committees, at specific times. Quite a bit of his tactic has been to negotiate the boundaries of collaboration over time, so that both he and the company get what they need to keep the company running. Some initiatives have worked well; some are still a work-in-progress.

So, how does this translate to creating a successful change initiative?

As a change agent, depending on the authority you have, you will have to assess for yourself who is ready for co-creating, and who is not. There are many factors that influence how someone is ready – the level of trust, the expectations and history between the parties, how willing the different parties are to negotiate their needs. It is a risky thing for a leader to allow his authority to be handed over to the decision of the group. In fact, in this case, there was a point when the Executive Team and Company Leader handed its authority over too quickly, without thorougly laying out the boundaries of what they needed to make sure the company stayed on track as a whole. Everyone ended up unsatisfied with the results, and the leaders had to back-track to telling. Fortunately, enough trust and respect had been built up at that point that the loss wasn’t nearly as significant as it would have been the year before.

Both the leader and the group have to be ready for co-creating. Both have to be practiced at asking for what they need, as well as giving in return.

However, there are ways to fast-track to co-creating a vision. Next posting – how do you create a vision? And how can you fast-track it to achieve long-term commitment and focus?

Taming your Time Management Skills

Tangling with time management?  Is your personal productivity in the pits?  Are you up against deadlines, pressured to get more done in a day, longing to have “quality time” with your loved ones?  Is more time what you really need?

Time is one of the things we just don’t have control over. It moves along, minute by minute, year by year.  Aside from money, it is probably the one thing most people wish they had more of.  However, if you had more time, how much would it matter?  It’s how we treat time that makes a difference.  It’s really about getting the right things done, not how much we get done.

For most folks, productivity can be improved by following a few universal tactics that the time management experts advocate:

1.  Define your strategic goals and objectives.  Think big!  These goals and objectives are the foundation that direct your actions, guide your prioritization.  Whenever deciding what to do, ask yourself “will this get me where I need or want to be?”  Is this contributing to my long term goals and short term needs?”  A great example is “create a financial plan that provides enough income for my retirement”.

2.  Establish the steps required to accomplish your goals and objectives. The basic concepts of project management are at work here.  For each goal, determine the projects necessary to accomplish the goal.  Refine that further into sub-projects and then tasks.  What will move to your calendar or “to-do” list is the next required step that depends on no other action. This is making a “molehill” out of a mountain.

3.  Create a processing and tracking system that works for you.  The experts have refined several systems of managing “stuff” that comes your way…emails, voicemails, snail mail, things you need from the store, the request made by your boss in the hallway. Every system should have these basic steps:

• Get it out of your head and in writing; • Determine the minimal number of collections spots for all of your “stuff”, the designated places where you will retrieve your new items;

• Use what I call the 4 “P’s”: Plop it, Pass it, Perform it, Process it.

1.  If it’s trash or something  you really don’t need (like that pile of 2 year old magazines), then Plop it into the trash (or delete it);

2.  If it’s something that someone else can handle, Pass it on (delegate), if appropriate;

3.  If it’s something you can just get done in a few minutes, Perform – get it done!

4.  If it’s something that needs time, attention and planning, then Process it by placing it       in your calendar, project list or to-do list; • Select a tracking system that works for you.  There are plenty of tools, from Day-timers  to electronic systems like Microsoft Outlook , depending on your preferences.  Also, create an effective filing system to store all of your project details, so that you can simply pull it out in a second and find yourself in a frustrating search.

4.  Plan and review regularly.  You need some level of planning, every day and every week.  This allows for changes, projects progression, and space to accommodate new opportunities.  Planning and reviewing keeps you on course.

5.  Deal with interruptions effectively.  If there’s anything you can safely bet on, things will come out of the blue while you’re trying to get things done – a fellow employee needs some information, your boss wants to talk to you about a new project, your child is sick and needs to go home.  You should expect these occurrences and lan some flexibility to your schedule.  Other things to contemplate are a pleasant but firm decline, scheduling “protected” time, where you make it clear to others that you are off-limits, and planning for better meetings where issues can be collected and dealt with.  Avoid distractions.

6.  Communicate. Know people’s expectations of you.  It’s nice to give updates, but when the expectation is now compromised, be sure to not only inform the other party, but suggest alternatives, ask for advice or renegotiate.

One thing to understand about yourself and others is that there are many time management styles.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Be open and take these into account when developing the systems for processing your “stuff” and when working with others on a project.

Lastly, celebrate!  Be sure to soak in the satisfaction of accomplishing your goals.

Global Genesis offers a full day workshop on time management/personal productivity, including a comprehensive time management style assessment.