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Category: Delegation

  1. Oops! Delegation goes wrong

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    My son goes to swimming lessons with his friend. So we and the friend's parents alternate taking them. This week it was their turn.

    Being a mum who believes in raising my kids to be independent, I delegated the task of getting swimming things ready to my son. I quickly checked his bag when he said he had everything. He did. The bag was placed in the hall and he picked it up when his lift arrived.

    Fast forward an hour, and his friend's Dad is explaining how he coped with my son having no towel, no goggles and no clean pants. (He did very well I think!).


    How could this be? I saw the bag packed full of the right things before he went? Simple. He had placed his swimming bag next to the almost identical bag of his sister which she had dumped in the hall after netball, and picked up the wrong one! Thankfully he was wearing his trunks under his trousers, or there'd have been no swimming at all.

    So, my attempts at delegation failed. I got it almost right, I delegated authority (to decide what to pack) and responsibility (for doing the tasks in a timely manner)  but I should never have delegated accountability - yet. That should still have been mine for a little while longer. If I had held on to that, someone else (i.e. the friend's father) wouldn't have had to sort out the problem.

    It's a timely lesson about how tricky delegation can be, even in seemingly simple situations. Of course, that doesn't mean I go back to packing everything for him. It simply means I take more care (and build in more checks) next time, until I'm happy that I can fully step away. Managers can also find it hard to delegate, and when things go wrong (as they often do at the start), they decide that they can't, and go back to doing everything themselves. That's when they get overwhelmed. Delegating takes time, and perseverance, and we have a bite-size training session that can help them to learn how to delegate effectively.

  2. Use the Right Tool for the Job

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    Luckily for me, business has recently increased dramatically...not on the retail side of the business, but on the bespoke, commissioned side. This is fantastic, but it does bring its own problems: The most significant one being that there simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to do it all.

    So, then I faced the difficult decision that many small business owners face: turn work down or entrust other people to help me? 

    I've decided to let go (a little!). 

    Yes it means that I personally am not earning the full value of the contract, BUT I have to take the longer term view: My client is more likely to be impressed as they will recieve the completed work more quickly AND it will be just as high quality (I am still going to be checking everything of course). This in turn will lead to improved satisfaction and hopefully, more work in the future.

    I've just put in a proposal for a 12 Module Leadership Development Programme. Four of these modules are highly bespoke and will focus on internal commercial and operational issues. Detailed business case studies and simulations strike me as being the best way to tackle these issues and really make learning meaningful. To do this, I need to spend quite a lot of time in the business to truly understand how it works. This is something I'm confident I can do.

    However, an associate of mine who spent 30 years in a similar environment, 10 of them at a very senior level, can probably get to grips to it an awful lot quicker. So I'm delegating this part of the programme to him. It was a hard choice, but I had to look at the bigger picture: What talents do I have at my disposal (not just within myself)? What is the best use of those talents in terms of meeting my clients needs? Me spending a week getting my head around something that my associate could probably pick up in two days is NOT the best use of our combined talents. I'm better off adding value where I AM the best person for the job.

    In organisations all over the world, from multi-national corporations to tiny local businesses, managers find it hard to let go. They want to keep hold of as much as they can because they have pride and what to make sure that the best service is delivered. However, this sometimes leads to an inefficient use of resources and talent. Sometimes letting go and delegating certain aspects, though hard, may be in the best interests of the customer.

    Help your managers to learn to let go through delegating, which in turn will motivate and empower others, and SHOULD lead to a better overall outcome.

  3. When did you last sharpen your saw?

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    This is a well-known story taken from Steven Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"... 

    A man was struggling in the woods to saw down a tree. An old farmer came by, watched for a while, then quietly said, “What are you doing?”
    “Can’t you see?” the man impatiently replied, “I’m sawing down this tree.”
    “You look exhausted,” said the farmer. “How long have you been at it?”
    “Over five hours, and I’m beat,” replied the man. “This is hard work.”
    “That saw looks pretty dull,” said the farmer. “Why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen it? I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
    “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

    sharpen your saw

    Running a train the trainer workshop last week which included practicing running a version of our 'Plan your Time' Module, I was reminded how very BUSY people are at work. Most of them work very hard, yet the majority end the day having achieved little in the grand scheme of things. First line managers in particular seem to rush about in a constant blur of activity, and complain that there is simply too much to do. Maybe there is. Or maybe they need to stop. Regroup. Think. Maybe they need to sharpen their saw.

    Sharpening your saw means taking time out of your day (or week) to set yourself up for success. In the story, a sharper saw would mean the man would use less effort to cut down the tree and get the job done more quickly. In modern businesses sharpening the saw may mean:

    • setting goals and planning so that you don't lose signt of what it is you are actually there to do
    • prioritising your tasks and focussing your energy rather than just reacting to things as they occur
    • delegating tasks to others even though (in the short term) this won't actually save you any time, it will in the long term
    • learning and developing yourself so you become more knowledgeable, skillful and confident
    • taking your holidays! a manager who is tired and stressed is never going to be able to give their best
  4. Managing the Risk of Delegation and Outsourcing

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    During my career, I ve done a LOT of work with line managers: You know... those hard working people who get promoted because they are good at their job, and then suddenly seem to be trying to fit two jobs into the space of one (it can't be done BTW).

    They know they should delegate, but they can't quite bring themselves to do it. I know exactly how they feel: As the owner of a small businesses I do all the work. I know what my business is about, what needs to be done, where we are going, how to do it and I like to be incontrol. BUT with this attitude, my business will never grow.

    During a conversation with a friend and fellow business owner Becs McNeill (Social Media Expert), she introduced me to a website where you can find people to do 'small' things for you for just £5. It seems she has a whole army of people doing things for her for £5 so that she can concentrate on growing her business and adding value to her clients! So, I checked it out and I've taken the plunge. I've identified a couple of things that I'm either not very good at doing or don't have time to do, and outsourced them.

    It is liberating! 

    the amazing thing is that I'm still in control, but I'm not having to physically do the work... very empowering! I can't believe that I haven't done this before, but upon reflection I know exactly why I didn't: RISK.

    Its a risk to leave something precious in the hands of another. Its a risk to trust other people to do things the way that you want them done. Its a risk to delegate, and that's why so many managers find it so hard.

    So, here's my advice: Find something that you can't do well, or shouldn't be doing, or where there's no urgency involved. This immediately reduces the risk.

    If you can't do it well, what's the worst that happen?..It still won't be done that well, but at least you won't have wasted YOUR time. If you SHOULDN'T be doing it, then you will be filling that time with something that you SHOULD be doing (even if its not as enjoyable). If there's no urgency to it, you'll probably put it off until the last minute anyway and then get stressed over it. And, if there's no urgency, you have plenty of time to keep sending it back to someone else until its right. 

    So I've taken a chance. I'm a trainer not a graphic designer - so I've outsourced the design of our new promotional material. If I did it, it would take me days (days when I could be doing what I'm good at), the quality would be poor (which reflects badly on my business), and then there's the cost saving...£5 or me 'losing' a days income? It's a no brainer.

    If you need help identifying what YOU could delegate or outsource, download our free key points sheet. If you know a whole group of people who need help with this, talk to us about delivering a bite-size session on delegation.

  5. Do Less - Achieve More

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    A friend of mine was telling me about their new-ish boss, who was promoted about a year ago. He had occasionally complained about things not being communicated, work being duplicated or missed, and the number of last-minute things his boss had to do, which impacted directly on him, as he often had to provide cover.

    His boss is a good person: Hard working and genuinely keen to deliver the best service possible, but balls are getting dropped, people are working longer, and my friend is genuinely worried about his boss’s health.

    Of course, this is a classic case of not being willing to let go and delegate.

    Many of us like to retain control. It gives us confidence and we feel safe. However, sometimes failing to delegate can have worse results than taking a risk and delegating. There are many reasons that we don’t delegate, but two of the most common ones are:

    • We assume that other people are too busy or unwilling to help
    • We don’t trust the other person.

    Take a simple thing like the ironing as an example. When feeling that I had too much on a few months ago, my partner agreed to take on the ironing. Now…he doesn’t iron as well as I do, and I was very VERY close to taking the job back off him, but then I realised that I had to make a simple choice:

    • Have 2 hours freed up for things that only I could do and accept that the ironing was, well, acceptable OR
    • Spend 2 hours ironing to a slightly higher standard and leave other things undone.

    He still does the ironing. I live with it. It’s OK.

    Whether you are a manager or a business owner, it is SO tempting to try and retain control of everything and do it all yourself. In the end though, you start to drop balls, you become a bottle-neck, relationships suffer as people feel excluded, you become stressed and then, you cannot give your best.

    Great managers DON’T do everything themselves. They surround themselves with capable people and trust them to do what’s expected of them. They accept that some things may not be done the way THEY would do it, but as long as things achieve the minimum standard, it is often better to do less yourself, and achieve more through the team.

    Our Free Key Points Sheet will help you to delegate, and our bite-size training session can help others who may be struggling with this difficult but essential management skill.

  6. Time Management and the 'Big Rocks'

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    This story about the rocks and the jar has been around for many years, and the chances are you have heard it. But it's worth reminding people of it from time to time because the message is powerful. Our lives are being run at an increasingly fast pace, and at work we are all expected to keep doing more with less. To be successful it's more important than ever to plan our time, be clear about priorities and manage the 'monkeys' that land on our backs.

    So, read the story and reflect. If you want more help with planning your time, check out our training session and key points sheet. We even have something to help you to manage your monkeys and retake control of your life!