Delegation and Life Balance

“I’m overwhelmed and scattered. There aren’t enough hours in the day.” Jason was animated. He continued, “Since my promotion I’m spending even less time with my wife and two kids.”

Good for my career, bad for my family

We talked. Jason told me he delivered on commitments and met deadlines. He saw his promotion as good for his career but found it was bad for his family.

He had been told he would have to delegate, but found when he did he was disappointed with the results. He decided it was too risky to delegate. He’d set a high bar for himself, which is why he was promoted, but others were like limbo dancers going under the bar.

I summed things up. “Jason, you told me you get home late and that your family gets the leftovers, that you’re an overachiever while others aren’t, and you know you should delegate, but won’t.

“Sounds like you keep circling around yourself,” I said, “and I’d guess this will continue for years.”

You can complain or change—your choice

I thought to myself it’s time for my tough-love to make an appearance. I ventured forth and said, “You can complain or change. If you want to complain you can talk to a psychologist, but if you want to change, we can talk.”

That assumed, of course, that he wanted to change. I asked if he could give me one reason he would commit to change.

Jason’s expression changed when he said, “My father died from a heart attack when I was twelve. My children are eight and ten. I want to be around for them.”

We deceive ourselves. His reason to change seemed a good one, but was it?

My tough-love alter ego wasn’t buying this. I said, “You’ve been in this job for eighteen months and haven’t changed yet. I’ll ask the question again, can you give me one reason—a good reason—you will stop doing the work and delegate?”

This question clearly got weightier the longer he took to answer, “I know my problem isn’t new. Please give me some insight into what others have done to make a breakthrough.”

“My answer may sound overly philosophical,” I said, “but it has worked for others. They moved beyond ‘it’s all about me’ to ‘it’s all about them.’ They liked people and found they got out of the prison of fixation on self by helping others.”

Reasons to delegate

After several conversations I asked Jason to come up with three points that would change his thinking about delegation. These are the bullet points he put on his cell phone and wrote down to put in his wallet.

To let go is to not control another.
To let go is to fear less and trust more.
To let go is to paint a picture of what they can become.

Jason was smart and creative. He knew good intentions weren’t enough. He’d need a reminder so he put a small rock in his shoe so that when he stood up he’d feel it and remember to check his bullet points. It took him several weeks to memorize them and to remove the rock.

He was optimistic about being able to delegate and said he’d talk to his team and would let me know how it went.

Share with others and you’re forced to follow through

A few weeks later Jason called and told me, “I took each of my reports to breakfast and told them I was committed to focusing on their career development. I shared my bullet points and we talked about what each meant to them and to me.”

Before the breakfast check came he told each one, “I will be clear in my expectations so when I delegate, you’ll be able to get good results 80 percent of the time, and the other 20 percent you’ll learn from your mistakes. That’s the way I learned. I’ve got your back. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

The proverbial “happy ending”

Soon after this happened Jason surprised his son at a little-league game―the first one he’d ever attended. In baseball parlance, Jason’s career had gone from player to player/coach.

Jason’s Takeaways:

  • Ask yourself if family and friends get what’s left over after work?
  • If they are getting left overs, what can you do differently?

I Almost Quit, Now I’m Fine

I sent Linda a biography to complete before we had our first coaching session. One question was, “Deep down inside of you, what is your concern?”

Her concern was, “I’ll be a bag lady.”

Linda wore an expression of wariness as she sat forward in her chair. She was a highly introverted mid-level manager.

“Tell me about the situation with your boss,” I began.

“He is causing me major stress and anxiety. I spend hours preparing for our Monday team meetings. I script what I want to say. I barely get into my script and he interrupts with a question.”

She rushed on, “It’s disruptive and puts me on my back foot. It totally takes me out of my script. I feel lost and foolish. I can’t focus on both my script and his question. I wish I were quicker on my feet. Others are―I’m not.”

When she paused, I asked if she’d talked to her boss about his interrupting her. She said she had not, that she didn’t handle conflict well.

I tried a different perspective. “Linda, if your boss stepped on your foot and it hurt, what would you do?”

“I’d say ouch,” she replied, “but if I said anything to him about interrupting he’d probably tell me to get over it, answer his questions, and move on.”

Would You Tell a Friend She’s Frustrating You?

“How about outside of work, when one of your close friends frustrates you and you can’t avoid the situation any longer―how do you tell your friend that you’re frustrated?” I continued.

Long pause. “I’d tell my friend what she did that frustrated me, and if it continues what it would do to our friendship. I would be honest, open, and vulnerable.”

“Can you do the same thing with your boss?” I asked.

“I’m the only woman on the leadership team,” she responded. “If I go down the honest, open, vulnerability path then I risk losing credibility and my ability to influence.”

“Linda, I know the fear you have of losing your job,” I said. “Before our next meeting, make a list of pros and a list of cons for your job, talk to friends, and we’ll discuss what you want to do.”

At our next meeting Linda said, “My boss’s behavior is causing me so much stress I’m ready to quit. I have nothing to lose now, so let’s go back to the points you made earlier about having a difficult conversation. I will be vulnerable by telling him the emotional impact his interruptions have on me.”

Have You Judged Them?

“Linda, before you have this conversation,” I said with conviction, “or any other meaningful one, please check your mindset. Have you judged, tried and convicted him of being a bad boss, or can you move to a more caring and neutral frame of mind?”

“Think of him as human―flawed, but trying to be the best he can. Just as you’d like a second chance, give him one.”

Linda agreed and we role played the following scenario: “Boss, I am frustrated and I’m the problem because I haven’t told you what is frustrating me. I’m an introvert.”

“I prepare what I’m going to say for our Monday morning team meetings. I script out what I want to say. But I start by following my script and you interrupt with questions. This breaks the rhythm of my script. I lose my place and get frustrated.”

“My fear is I will say something foolish. I’m starting to stutter. I’ve never stuttered in my life. I’m not sleeping well. I tell myself to get over it and it shouldn’t bother me. It doesn’t work and that makes me feel worse.

“There is a solution. If you would hold your questions, let me finish, then look over at me and ask, ‘Linda are you finished?’

“Do this and I won’t be stressed. I won’t fear Monday team meetings and I will be a more relaxed productive me.”

After we role-played, Linda had the conversation and the boss changed. More significant was the change in Linda. She saw how she could influence her boss and others and was more confident because she faced the fear of speaking up.

Linda’s Takeaways:

  • I almost quit, but now I’m fine.
  • I’ll tell my friends to never quit without trying to improve the situation first.
  • I faced my fear now I’m stronger

Ask yourself on a regular basis:

  • “What is a conversation I’m avoiding?”
  • “How is my silence affecting me and others?”
  • “If the roles were reversed, would I want them to talk to me?”

Small Group Meetings

– Hold meetings with the people doing the work.
– No more than 15 at a time. If you don’t know their names use name tags.

– Start off asking open ended questions:
What will make your job easier/more productive/more challenging?
What ideas do you have that haven’t been heard?
If you could change anything what would you change?
What do you see that you can’t understand why it is done that way?
[Do not, repeat, do not ask any questions about their supervisor’s behavior, management style, etc.]

– The key was to write down what they want and then to follow through on it. If you can not meet the request tell them why.

– Advise supervisors in advance of the meetings. That they are not invited. Your intention is to validate the importance of the people that do the work and give them a different forum to make suggestion. The is done in a tone of learning not as an “I got you.” That it is about improving performance not attacking people.

– Supervisors are altered that an objective real time concerns so they may be called into the meeting to share their perspective. Coach supervisors in advance not to be defensive, rather they can ask questions for clarification, pause and then respond.

– Be prepared to have several of these meetings before the people will loosen up. Then be prepared to field tough questions, because they are coming.

– Supervisors were not invited into the meetings. The key here is that when a worker bee says that they spoke to the supervisor and nothing had happened then call the supervisor into the meeting. If he gives an excuse, such as that purchasing will not do it, then called in purchasing. In other words, drill down to find the problem and if possible solve it on the spot.

– The worker bees know or are informed that the big boss will protect them from retaliation of a supervisor.

Develop Stronger, More Productive Direct Reports

Developing key people doesn’t happen by accident. It requires purpose, direction, commitment and, above all, a written plan.

A written development plan offers many important benefits. For starters, it takes vague statements or observations about behavior and makes them tangible and measurable. It also enables people to iden- tify and shore up shortcomings and blind spots as well as strengths that are often taken for granted or overlooked.

From an organizational standpoint, a written development plan demonstrates your commitment to investing in your people and helping them reach their full potential. It helps to boost morale, cut down on turnover and lower recruiting costs by turning poor performers into good ones and good employees into great ones.

To implement a one-page development plan for your direct reports:

  1.  Select the goals and put the plan into action. Using the Development Plan Sheet, select one strength you want the direct report to develop and use more often. Be very specific about the behaviors you want to see and what they look like. Next, identify one or two development areas whereby significant improvement will have a huge impact on the person’s performance.The key at this stage is to focus on one or two high-leverage areas that will have the most impact on the direct report’s performance. Don’t try to correct all the problems at once. Instead, aim for steady progress that allows the person to experience early and ongoing success.
  2. Follow up at regular intervals. Commit to a series of meetings (one every four to six weeks) to review progress of the plan. Ideally, each meeting should take place in person and last about 45 minutes. However, a 15-minute phone conversation is better than no meeting at all.Prior to the meeting, seek out feedback from others. During the meeting, review that feedback and then give your own. (See How to Give CEO-Level Feedback.) Inquire of the direct report, “What’s working and what isn’t? What barriers are you encountering and how can I help?” Reinforce the value of working the plan by asking, “Assuming you work your plan to perfection, what difference will it make to you? To those around you?” Close by scheduling the next meet- ing.
  3. Provide the carrot or the stick. Too often, rewards and consequences get left out of the devel- opmental equation. However, both are critical to reinforcing the desired behavioral change.During step one, carefully lay out the possible rewards of achieving the development plan goals. These typically include things like additional job responsibilities, a promotion, a monetary bonus, public or private recognition or some combination of all. At the same time, clearly spell out the consequences of not following the plan, up to and including possible termination if the person cannot or will not produce the desired behaviors.

How do you get people to buy into such a development plan? You go first. Make a commitment to your own development and model the process for your direct reports.
When you (the boss) demonstrate a willingness to grow and stretch beyond your current comfort zone, others are much more likely to follow in your footsteps.

In general, a well-implemented development plan leads to the following:

  • Improved employee retention
  • Better “bench strength”
  • Open communication
  • Less “dancing around the real issues”
  • Stronger relationships with your direct reports
  • Higher levels of performance from the individual and the team

Best of all, well-executed development plans are contagious. As others see the positive changes in your direct report, they will be drawn into the process. They will also have more respect for you as a manager and a leader because they will sincerely believe that you have their best interests at heart.

Download the Development Plan

Time Management

The key to effectively managing your time is to prioritize demands that are important and urgent and avoid or delegate tasks that are unimportant and urgent.

To determine if a task is urgent and truly important, ask yourself three questions: •Do I have to do this now?
•Do I have to do this at all?
•Will this activity contribute to an important business objective?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, the urgency of the situation is probably pressuring you to respond to an unimportant demand. In that case, addressing that urgent demand may not be worth your time because it is not a true priority.

In addition to prioritizing demands that are important and urgent, making time for items that are important and not urgent often results in great benefit over the long-term. For example, staff training may not need to be done today, but the sooner you can apply new training knowledge to daily business operations, the faster that knowledge can be turned into profit.

The key to effective time management is to plan your priorities and prepare for important urgencies by:

  • Identifying and writing down three to five key business priorities each week.
  • Blocking out ample time in your weekly schedule to address each priority.
  • Committing to saying “yes” to your priorities.
  • Committing to saying “no” to those demands that do not further your business goals.
  • Letting unimportant urgencies find another taker.

Reasons to Let Go

Author Unknown

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means that I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off, it is the realization that I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means that the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it is to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.

To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the out-comes but to allow others to effect their own destinies.

To “let go” is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face reality. To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.

To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires but to take each day as it comes, and to cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to criticize and regulate anybody but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and to live for the future. To “let go” is to fear less and to love more.