Tag Archives: management

Five Tips for Successful Delegation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Many years ago, as a first-time manager, I was green with much to learn. Management looked easy from the outside. I assured myself that, when given the opportunity to lead, I’d never make the same blunders I witnessed.

Yes, I would direct my future staff with enlightenment, never forgetting the negative examples I witnessed over the years. Quite simply, I pledged to do a better job as a manager. It was a commendable yet lofty goal; one I found much easier to say than do.

One day I walked down the hall with my boss, a man I respected, yet feared; loved, but occasionally detested. Publicly I defended him, yet privately his inexplicable demands and thoughtless pronouncements confounded me. He was the source of countless frustrations while offering little praise or encouragement. He had just given me yet one more assignment, a task I didn’t have time for.

I protested, insisting I already had too much on my plate. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Just delegate it.” I mentally reviewed the capabilities of my charges. Although a group of able young technologists, none were ready for a project of this magnitude or to meet my boss’s high standards.

“But there is no one I can delegate it to.”

“Do you want to know the secret of delegation?” There was a twinkle in his eye.

I moved closer, expecting the secret of managerial nirvana. I nodded.

“It’s simple. Just look for your busiest guy and give the project to him!”

I was dumbfounded at his “insight.” I said nothing, and he continued.

“You see, the busiest guy is the guy who gets things done; that’s always who you want to delegate to.”

Seething, I kept quiet. I flashed a comprehending look, a respectful nod, and a faint smile. His dissemination of knowledge now complete, he strode down the hallway to his next victim, while I ducted into my office and closed the door.

His words angered me on multiple levels. First, I had yet another project to do. Second, his advice was illogical and unfair; delegating to the busiest employee would only serve to make him or her more busy, setting them up to be the leading candidate for the next project. Lastly, I realized that as the busiest of those under his command, I was his “go to guy.”

There had to be a better way. It took a while, some research, and lots of trial and error, but I eventually understood the art of delegating. Delegation is something all managers need to do. Unfortunately it’s often hard. Many who attempt it are unhappy with the results, often accepting sub-par outcomes or giving up. Sadly, successful delegation requires an initial investment of time, often more time than for you to do the work yourself.

If that’s the case, why bother? Quite simply because once you teach your employees how to receive and complete delegated tasks, you can realize a huge savings of time as you empower them, allowing them to grow as individuals and to contribute to your organization’s success. As such, delegation is well worth the extra effort to do it right. A five-step procedure paves the way to successful delegation.

1) Select the Right People: A person who has proven themselves in small things can handle more responsibilities and enjoy greater latitude. However, until they prove their ability to effectively handle assignments, the scope of their tasks must remain small. For example, if they can’t arrive at work on time, is there any reason to assume they can accomplish something more challenging?

To give unproven employees a chance to substantiate themselves, start with small assignments such as sorting mail, stuffing envelopes, making copies, or simply arriving to work on time. Next, they can graduate to processing UPS shipments or placing an office supply order (you select the items and quantities, they call it in).

Each time they successfully complete a delegated assignment, reward them with additional responsibilities; each time they fail to complete a task, confront them. All employees should be trained to handle basic delegated projects. If they can’t, why are you still employing them. Some employees will advance to assignments of medium difficulty, while a few superstars can work independently. Therefore, match the task to the employee.

2) Ensure They Have the Proper Tools and Knowledge to Do the Job: If the work requires a computer, is one available? If it requires a program, do they know how to use it? Consider whether they have the background knowledge to complete the task. It’s easy to oversimplify a project or assume key details are common knowledge. Often, an employee needs instruction or training before they can successfully complete an assignment. Not only must you ensure you’ve given them this information but also to provide it in the ideal format for them. Some people learn best in written form, others need a demonstration, and some need to do it; occasionally a combination is appropriate. Regardless, asking an employee to start a project without the proper resources is setting them up to fail.

3) Give Them a Clear Timetable: Saying a project is “urgent” means different things to different people. Saying “when you have time” is open to misinterpretation. When giving a deadline, you cannot be too specific. Examples include, “I require your written overview on my desk every Monday by 5 p.m.,” or “I need your preliminary work by the end of the day on Thursday, the twelfth.”

4) Hold Them Accountable: Follow-up must be consistent and expected; let them know you’ll check on their progress. Assure them you’re available for questions. If they do unsatisfactory work or miss a deadline, there must be a reaction. This could be merely asking them to explain what happened. Perhaps, despite your best efforts, instructions were incomplete or training was insufficient; then shoulder the blame and correct the oversight. Sometimes, managers need to communicate the ramifications, such as, “Because you did not complete this on time, we lost the client, which will cost us X hundred dollars.” If you correctly follow step one, only in rare cases will disciplinary action be needed.

5) As They Prove Themselves in Small Things, Give Them Bigger Assignments: Now you can begin to phase out of the “accountability” step. Yes, accountability is still required, but it gradually becomes ancillary to delegation, instead of integral.

If you consistently follow these steps, all employees will become better at responding to delegation; some employees will even advance to the point of self-determination, where they take the initiative to do what needs to be done. That is delegation at its finest.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Employees Come in Three Flavors

Kim Seeling SmithBy Kim Seeling Smith

Mike was the CFO of a large manufacturing company in Texas. He was an outstanding executive and he accepted this position because it suited his strengths to a tee. The company was looking for a very strategic Head of Finance who could work in partnership with the company’s CEO to take market share in existing markets, enter new markets and diversify their product line.

When Mike started his new job he quickly realized that there was a huge problem. The way the department was set up he had to spend all of his time looking at the past instead of working with the CEO to plan the future. He also found himself working 70 – 80 hours per week.

Mike knew this was unsustainable for several reasons. He was not using his talents and would eventually become disengaged and frustrated. He was also not doing what he was hired to do, which would quickly become a source of irritation to the CEO and detrimental to the company as a whole.

Mike assessed the situation and discovered that a few of his employees’ current roles were a substantial waste of talents and individual skillsets and having a negative impact organizationally. So, he reorganized the department and prioritized his time. He decided who his high-potential staff members were—his Critical People—and redesigned their job descriptions to allow them to take on more crucial projects. He found the Squeaky Wheels on the staff and provided essential training, and then determined who needed a bit of motivation or to be moved on.

Mike had identified the “flavors” of his employees.

Like a workplace Neapolitan ice cream, employees typically come in three distinct “flavors”: your Critical People, the Squeaky Wheels and the Fat Middle. Most managers and supervisors either attempt to manage every employee from each of these groups in the same manner. Or worse, they spend the majority of time with their Squeaky Wheels – rewarding bad performance or behavior. Either results in a loss of productivity and engagement, and inevitably, an unfulfilled and unhappy staff – and frustrated and time-poor manager. When you recognize the “flavor” of the individual employee, and prioritize your time accordingly, you position them for the highest potential for success—for themselves and for the company.

Critical People: These can be obvious—the real superstars who consistently under-promise and over-deliver, but they can also be not-so-obvious, those quiet achievers or Steady Eddies. They may never be superstars; in fact, they may be barely above mediocre—but they are consistent and reliable. They may also be those staff members who hold important intellectual property or jobs no one else wants to do. They may have great customer relationships or know a lot about the organization itself. In any case, you don’t want to lose them. You should prioritize your time so that 80% of it is spent dedicated to these people for three main reasons:

  • Allowing them to mentor with and learn from you will help them grow and develop in their own career.
  • If you don’t give them the time and attention they deserve (and may crave), they may not understand how important they actually are, which can lead to frustration, hurt feelings and even a sense that they aren’t appreciated. The number of people who walk into recruiters’ offices looking for a new role because they didn’t feel appreciated by their boss is astonishing—and easily avoided.
  • The third reason was discovered by the Gallup Organization. Their research showed that if managers spent 80% of their time with the top 10 – 20% of their staff they would become even more productive and engaged. As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” If you empower those of your staff who really want to perform they will help you manage the others.

By spending more time with your Critical People, you will increase productivity, manage your time effectively and have more engaged staff and increase retention rates.

The Squeaky Wheels: At the other end of the spectrum you have your Squeaky Wheels. It’s often said that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” and perhaps that’s a good thing in a mechanic’s workshop. In a business environment however, it’s a recipe for poor management, high staff turnover and low productivity.

There are a couple of types of Squeaky Wheels: the high-performers who are also high-maintenance, and those who squeak because they present either a performance or a behavior issue. Spending an over-abundance of time with these employees will become problematic, and again, sends the wrong message to staff.

So what about your Squeaky Wheels? Should you just ignore them? Possibly—but in a business setting, a more proactive approach can be beneficial to the collective team. There are three scenarios you can utilize:

  • Hold a formal conversation to set more clear objectives or key performance indicators, and give them the necessary training required to accomplish them and hold them accountable for doing so.
  • Determine their internal motivators, or Currencies of Choice, and use those to inspire them to a higher level of performance or better behavior.
  • Move them on. Let them squeak on someone else’s bus.

The Fat Middle: This “flavor” is comprised of the remaining 60-70% of your workforce. Miraculously, when you devote the majority of time to your Critical People and avoid the urge to grease the Squeaky Wheels, the Fat Middle takes care of itself. The good ones desire to feel the inclusion and attention they see managers giving to the Critical People. They tend to become more engaged and to develop more quickly, especially if the manager empowers the Critical People to help train, mentor and motivate the Fat Middle.

Within six to eight months of managing his team by their individual “flavor,” Mike was back working a reasonable work week and spending his time working with the CEO on strategy—exactly what he was hired to do. As an added benefit, employee retention went up as a result of the staff being deployed properly, working together much more effectively and enjoying their own jobs to a much greater extent. By identifying and classifying the types of his employees, he righted the overall course of the company.

And you can do the same with yours.

Kim Seeling Smith is an international human resources expert and author of the forthcoming book, Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity. With her expansive knowledge of human capital practices in today’s market, Kim helps companies build healthy work environments and increase employee engagement and productivity in our digitally connected, globally oriented world. For more information on Kim Seeling Smith, please visit http://igniteglobal.com.

What is a CSO, and Why Does Your Company Need One?

Chuck ReavesBy Chuck Reaves

Is yours a sales-driven organization?

When asked this question, most CEOs answer yes. When asked if they have a Chief Sales Officer—CSO—almost all of them admit that they do not.

To answer the CSO question for yourself, look at your organizational chart. Is there a representative of the sales department at the C-Level? On par with the CFO, COO and others at that level, the sales team deserves to be involved at the strategic level where decisions for the future are being made.

While some organizations have found the CSO position to be a critical role, most companies still do not have a CSO. Here are the most common reasons:

  • We never had one before. Other C-Level positions, like Chief Technology Officer (CTO), did not exist in the past but the rapid and rampant changes in technology necessitated including the impact of technological innovations in decision making.
  • Salespeople are required to achieve the corporate objectives. “We decide; you implement.” In too many companies the salespeople are considered to be “different” in the way they are compensated but similar in that they are to achieve top-down driven objectives regardless of what customers want.
  • There is no training for the CSO. Libraries are being built now to give the CSO the information they need to execute their responsibilities.
  • There are no tools for measuring the effectiveness of the CSO. In fact, Extreme Sales Analytics (ESA) and Sales Resource Planner (SRP) software programs, similar to ERPs, are emerging. ROI, TCO and other calculators are giving way to sophisticated dashboards which are morphing into sales analytic cockpits (multiple, integrated dashboards).
  • Your customers do not need for you have a Chief Sales Officer. So why bother? You need to have the CSO in order for your customer relationships to grow. Customer relationships are dynamic, not static. Either you will drive the changes in the relationship or someone else will: your customer or your competitor. After all, if your competitor has a strategic-focused CSO and you do not, are they more likely to introduce the next new thing to your customers?

Is it enough to have a vice president of sales? Why clutter the C-Suite and add to the leadership budget with yet another position? The title is not as important as the function. C-Levels are strategists; vice presidents are tactical. The difference between how the time and talents are deployed at the two levels can vary greatly.

  • The C-Level plans for the long term future; the vice president thinks in shorter timeframes. For instance, if the CEO, the corporate visionary, is thinking three years out (as most are), the C-Levels reporting to the CEO need to be thinking two years out. In that scenario, the VP level needs to be thinking one year out, the sales management team thinking one quarter and salespeople thinking one month out.
  • The C-Level invests their time in learning and evaluating what new processes and technologies are coming that will impact their business. VPs focus their time and talents on what current capabilities are viable for making more immediate improvements in sales activities and management.
  • C-Levels are rarely involved in the day-to-day activities while the VP is occasionally brought in to address pressing customer and market issues. The vice president of sales is likely to know the details of significant pending sales while the CSO is uninvolved with them.

Relationship selling is a redundant term; all selling is relationship selling. Companies don’t do business with companies; people do business with people.

An example of this occurred when a CSO found a new tablet-based technology that reduced a portion of their sales cycle from three weeks to three minutes. Think about that, three weeks to three minutes. 40% of their sales were in disaster recovery. When they approached a prospect that had lost, say, 20% of their capacity and offered to have them up and running again three weeks earlier than any other vendor, who did the prospect choose? Did the prospect make their buying decision on price? Of course not. In just over a year many of their competitors went of business because of this new capability.

Why was a CSO needed to make this decision?

  • The VP Sales did not have the time to thoroughly investigate the new technology.
  • A six-figure investment would be required – a decision that would have gone to the C-Level anyway.
  • Agreements needed to be negotiated with the software vendor for market exclusivity.
  • These activities were time-consuming and the VP could not have managed this quickly enough, if at all.

How does the typical CSO spend their day?

  • Evaluating new processes including Lean/Kaizen/Six Sigma for sales and discussing them with the other C-Levels, beginning with the COO.
  • Evaluating new technologies for planning and executing sales activities and discussing them with the other C-Levels, beginning with the CTO.
  • Evaluating the applicability of new compensation concepts and discussing them with the other C-Levels, beginning with the CFO.

Why not just simply change the title of the VP Sales to CSO? Whether you have a CSO or not, you have the CSO function in your organization. Just as you have the CFO function in your organization even if you do not have a full-time CFO. If you choose to elevate your VP to the CSO position, be prepared to backfill the VP position; both are important.

So, what are the criteria the CEO needs to consider when bringing a CSO onboard?

  • Hire for tomorrow, not today. Find someone who is comfortable with the changes that are happening in your market, industry, technology and management processes.
  • Look for a strategic mindset. Rather than someone who knows how to get things done, look for someone who can determine alternatives for moving the organization forward.
  • CSOs think about “who else?” and “what else?” Look for a creative thinker who knows how to find and solicit new ideas.

The role of the Chief Sales Officer is here. Someone in your organization is filling that role. Are they doing it intentionally or by default?

Chuck Reaves, CSP, CPAE, CSO helps companies raise their prices and volumes simultaneously through innovative processes, tools and training. With his innovative presentations on sales and motivation he has inspired hundreds of people to pursue and achieve their impossible dreams. Along with pioneering many advanced sales tools and processes, Chuck’s achievements include Vistage’s ‘Impact Speaker of the Year’ honors and being named the top salesperson for AT&T. For more information about Chuck Reaves please visit www.chuckreaves.com.

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Does Your Staff Respect You … Or Do They Fear You?

By Alesia LatsonAlesia Latson

When you’re driving down the road and see those flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror, what’s the first thought that pops into your mind? If you’re like most people, you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach and think, “Uh-oh. What did I do?” The thought that the police officer might be pulling you over to tell you something simple, such as that your taillight is out, rarely crosses your mind. That’s because when a person of authority suddenly makes an appearance or asserts him/herself, it’s human nature for those around the person to have a fear response triggered and to jump to the worst case scenario, as in: “I did something wrong.”

If you’re a leader, chances are your staff feels that same status differential with you, and they translate it as fear. So when you casually ask a staff member, “Can you please come to my office for a moment?” … or when you’re in a meeting and defensively respond to an employee’s comments with “But that’s not my understanding of things,” … or when you repeatedly interrupt your staff member as he’s speaking, you’re triggering the fear response in the person, just as the flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror do.

While you might think that having people fear you to some degree is good, fear in a relationship actually has many negative effects. In fact, research shows that when people are operating in fear, it impairs their analytical thinking skills, decreases their creative insight, and reduces their problem solving abilities—the exact things workplaces need to succeed in today’s marketplace. So even though you likely don’t walk around basking in your authority and you don’t consciously exert your power over people, your employees feel it in all the seemingly simple things you do each day.

If you want your staff to respect your authority rather than fear it, following are some suggestions for making sure every interaction with them is a positive one.

Headline your requests: Because your mind is likely jumping from one topic to the next, it’s easy to get trapped in the busy-ness of the day and not realize the unintended consequences of a simple question. For example, when you ask an employee, “Can you please come to my office for a moment?”, you probably believe it’s nothing more than an innocuous request. But the employee you’re speaking to translates your words and rushed tone as, “Oh no! What did I do? Am I in trouble?”

To ensure this doesn’t happen, take a few seconds to headline your requests. For example, before saying the fear-inducing, “Can you come to my office for a moment,” give a little headline to add context to your request, as in, “Chris, I’d like to get your feedback on something. Can you come to my office for a moment?” Notice how those few words of clarification change the implied context of the request and ease any fears the employee may have.

Be curious: Leaders are supposed to challenge their staff. That’s often what prompts new ideas and bold solutions. The key is to challenge people in a positive, motivating way rather than to squelch their creativity or have them fear your pushback. So instead of challenging people with defensive questions like “Why did you do that?” or with intimidating “but” statements like “Yes, but that’s not my understanding of the issue,” get in the habit of asking three open-ended questions before you advocate your point of view.

Asking open-ended questions (those that elicit something other than a “yes” or “no” reply), makes the person you’re speaking with feel valuable and that he or she has important insights. This alone helps to create an environment of collaboration, trust, and respect, which naturally reduces any defensiveness.

The two most powerful types of open-ended questions to ask are “what” and “how” questions. For example, asking in a neutral tone, “What evidence do you have to support this conclusion?” “What process did you engage in?” and “How would you describe your philosophy on this?” prompts the employee to reflect on the situation and brings forth the most useful information. Additionally, by asking three questions rather than one or two, you’re showing more than a superficial interest in the other person’s perspective.

Set ground rules before the meeting or conversation: One of the most common ways leaders unknowingly assert their dominance over employees is by interrupting people when they speak. Since most employees want to please the boss, they allow the interruption to derail the conversation and they hold back on ideas.

Of course, leaders usually interrupt because others are going on too long and they just don’t have the patience. Dominance and fear are the furthest things from their mind. To alleviate this fear-inducing habit, set the ground rules for how you work best. If you want people to get to the point and only discuss the pertinent details, tell them. For example, you could say, “We only have an hour here. My request is that when you are reporting, be succinct. Start with what the conclusion is and then we can ask questions and look into details.” When you make requests for how you want the information, the need to interrupt decreases. Additionally, your employees will appreciate knowing your wishes and will eagerly accommodate them.

Be a Fear-Less Leader. Leaders have a tremendous impact on their employees’ lives—financially, emotionally, and mentally. When you take the steps to make sure your impact is one that enhances the workplace rather than instills fear in it, you’ll create an organizational culture that breeds mutual respect, creativity, and collaboration. And that’s the hallmark of a true leader.

Alesia Latson is a speaker, trainer, coach and founder of Latson Leadership Group, a consulting firm specializing in management and leadership development. With more than 20 years of experience, Latson helps organizations and leaders expand their capacity to produce results while enhancing employee engagement. For more information on Alesia’s speaking and consulting, please contact her at alesia@latsonleadershipgroup.com or visit www.latsonleadershipgroup.com

Constructive Confrontation in the Workplace: Three Things to Keep in Mind

Tomas-GarzaBy Tomás Garza

To successfully navigate workplace conflict, managers must be able to confront team members in a positive, productive manner. Whatever the situation, whether two people are actively quarreling, or whether one person’s behavior is impacting the entire work culture, a manager must be able to step in, take charge and do so in a way that does not contribute to the drama.

How, then, do you constructively confront team members? How do you both get your point across and preserve team chemistry?

For any manager, these conversations can be crucial. Ongoing conflict and drama can, of course, have a ripple effect on everyone, and the last thing any organization needs is a dip in morale. Assuming this is not a situation that calls for firing, there is a great deal a manager can do to help resolve the problem, be firm and preserve group harmony.

In having these conversations, here are three things to keep in mind:

1) Use non-accusatory language: For many of us, it is tempting to place blame and pin an entire problem directly on someone else. After all, aren’t they the ones causing the disturbance in the first place? A constructive solution, despite our first impressions, involves shelving the urge to blame and taking a step back.

How you phrase things here makes all the difference. You can make the conversation productive by focusing the language on you. For example, you can say, “I notice you missed the last two staff meetings,” or “The other day I overheard your comments about the director.” The alternative would look like this: “You missed the last two staff meetings,” or “You made those comments about the director.” One statement talks about your observations, what you saw, noticed, or heard. The other puts everything squarely on them.

This may seem subtle, just a matter of semantics, but in constructive confrontation your word choice matters. When you talk about your observations, people naturally feel less defensive. When people do not have their guard up, you will be able to get more accomplished.

2) Be clear: As a manager attempting to put a stop to harmful behavior, you must be clear in this conversation. Your group cannot afford any mixed messages. Therefore, be as clear as you can about the following:

  • What you heard or saw – Make sure there are no ambiguities here. If you didn’t experience any of the events first-hand, be sure you have gathered sufficient information. The person you are talking to needs to know exactly what it is they are doing that damages your group chemistry.
  • How this impacts the group – Be very clear on this. Often, people do not intend any sabotage, but their behavior may, nonetheless, have a detrimental impact. It is perfectly fine to be direct about this impact; often the person really needs to hear it.
  • Your expectations – If you don’t clearly state your expectations for future behavior, this conversation will be a waste of your time. Unclear expectations create needless confusion and can lead to future problems. As a manager, you must say what you expect. Luckily, this can be done in a non-accusatory manner that strengthens the group rather than pulls it apart.

3) Listen: A conversation—even one you must have with an employee about their behavior—is just that, a conversation. This means it involves two people. Though you will need to come into the dialogue with an agenda and get your point across, the process will be infinitely more productive if you give the other person a chance to speak and, more importantly, to be heard. This means you must take the opportunity to listen.

When the other person speaks and feels you have heard them, their tension level goes down. Defensive posturing that might otherwise stand in your way will disappear. The person may even feel grateful for your hearing them out, and appreciated. This can be crucial to maintaining group harmony. Provided you take the opportunity to clearly state your expectations, there is absolutely nothing to lose in taking a moment and listening.

Also, if you listen attentively enough, the other person may offer suggestions or solutions you hadn’t considered. You will never know unless they get an opportunity to speak, too.

Consider these three suggestions the next time you have to confront somebody in the workplace. In most situations, you can preserve group harmony, show respect and appreciation for the other person, and be sure you have clearly stated your expectations. It is indeed possible to become a pro at constructive confrontation. Do it, and your organization will benefit.

Tomás Garza is a conflict resolution and personal development expert with over 12 years of experience helping people erase pain, turmoil, and doubt from their lives. Tomás has served on the faculty of Portland State University, and is a former President of the Oregon Mediation Association. He has worked with thousands of people as a presenter, facilitator, and mediator, and believes that people CAN move beyond habitual patterns and fear and connect with their deepest selves and purpose. For more information on Tomás’ programs, please visit www.garzainitiative.com, email him at tomas@garzainitiative.com, or call 541-230-4477.