Effective Delegation –Positive Communication Breakdown

 

Stop talking and listen. The key to achieving effective delegation of work is to foster bi-directional communication where clarity can be established and details defined.

“I know you heard what I said but you didn’t understand what I meant”

This happens all the time. As the leader it is your responsibility to take measures to ensure the success of your employees. Where many leaders fall short is delegating responsibilities and not providing for the opportunity for the employee to fully understand and validate the assignment. Waiting to the deadline to find out the assignment wasn’t understood and will not be completed to desired expectations is courting failure -yours not theirs.

Message verification is critical.

I use a 3 question approach.

1) Do you and your employee understand what the successful outcome looks like? Have them tell you what they have heard. Are they comfortable with the assignment? Right here you can validate employee understanding of the desired outcome and set them up for success.

2) Can your employee or team identify their strategy, tactics or actions to achieve the desired outcome? It’s key that they can articulate their approach indicating both ownership and competency. This is an excellent question to disclose potential issues, as well as an opportunity to mentor, offer supportive suggestions to increase the likelihood of success.

3) Any issues, obstacles, concerns or assistance required is identified. This signals to your employee that you are not delegating and departing but will remain an active resource. Many initiatives will encounter unforeseen obstacles and as leaders your ongoing support and mentorship is invaluable.

Collectively these questions increase the likelihood of getting an on time and successful outcome. Additionally, I recommend scheduled progress reviews to ensure the employees success is on track. Good leaders empower, equip and support. This does not mean micromanagement so be sure to support and not direct.

Want Results? – Get Serious

The problem is obvious. Merely going through the motions of business planning won’t get the desired results, it will get the obvious ones.

Imagine you paid good money to see a professional sporting event and the participants sauntered onto the playing field looking out of shape and under prepared. They go through the motions lacking the significant passion or commitment obviously required and not really caring if they win or lose. Clearly this would not be acceptable.

Similarly, when you take the time and expense to take your “key” staff offsite you should NOT accept such behavior. It’s the leader’s role to inspire and harness the passions of their staff by providing a vision bigger than the individuals and requiring collaboration, innovation and collective purpose. It’s the senior staff’s responsibility to create a culture of accountability and commitment to one another, their employees and the company in pursuit of the desired results.  That’s how teams work and results are achieved.

 

Here are the wrong signs:

  1. You plan the event weeks in advance and people reluctantly show up unprepared.
  2. Presentations requested show up late of the requested deadline and are incomplete.
  3. Participants take every opportunity to get their phone out and keep in touch with the office.
  4. The event is all fluff and form but lacks substance.
  5. No one believes anything of value will result from the exercise. Often based on past experiences.
  6. AND I AM SURE YOU CAN ADD FIVE MORE OF YOU OWN!

 “You get what you accept so expect more and get more”

So how do you solve this –you get serious!

Let’s begin!

  • Define the purpose of the event and what success looks like.

Make it clear that the purpose of the event is to discuss the issues or initiatives required to address the critical needs of the business. Be specific in advance and charge your people to come to the meeting prepared with answer and solutions. Create the expectation that this meeting is of upmost importance and requires participants to bring their “A” game.

  • This is not a 1 -2 day event, it is the launching plan of the key business initiatives the organization will commit to successfully achieving. Defining both the strategy and execution in actionable specific steps is a must. These are not optional nice to haves and failure to achieve then is not an acceptable option, so debates and commitments made are real and achievable.
  • Check your distractions at the door. Ensure the office knows these people are unavailable for the duration of the event. They can check in after the event. If the staff can’t manage without then for the day ask why.
  • Make the event real. Deal with real issues or real opportunities. I will add several links at the conclusion of this post for those who want clarification. Walking out of that event without full understanding and commitment is not acceptable. Make your Strategy Real.
  • Strategy without execution is of no value. If you have a goal you need a realistic plan to achieving it. Poor execution is almost always the leading cause of failure of strategic plan initiatives. Most goals are achievable given focus, passion, commitment and enduring commitment. The execution plan needs to be a living document that guides and measures your progress throughout the year.
  • If at any time during the meeting inappropriate levels of attention, intensity or lack of effort or commitment / buy in is observed, stop the meeting and address the causes before proceeding. Don’t let the meeting deteriorate.

In summary, the difference in producing and executing a successful Strategic Plan is setting and maintaining the expectation that the organization will commit to, and realize the stated business initiatives by taking the actions to make it real.

Make Your Strategy Real

Look Back to move forward

 

The Business Consultant’s Dilemma – Integrity or Pay Check

There are those consultants with the philosophy that as long as the cheques cashed it’s all good.  Where and how do you draw the line in the sand with clients?

Over the last 10+ years I have provided Business Consulting to over 60 businesses and senior leaders. Prior to this I held senior management positions in Finance, Operations and Marketing throughout North America. So I have been on both sides, as a client and as the one providing the consulting services.

Let’s begin with understanding The Consultant’s Dilemma.

  • As a consultant do you attempt to put things in the best possible light telling the client what they want to hear or do you tell then what they need to hear?
  • As a consultant do you gloss over sensitive business issues to avoid making the customer upset or do you risk being fired because your efforts are viewed as disruptive / uncomfortable to the organization?
  • As a consultant do you go along with a poor / or an incomplete plan because that’s what the client wants despite you knowing you’re facilitating failure, or do you openly challenge the clients assumptions and reasoning?
  • As a consultant do you continue showing up despite knowing that your client is failing or unwilling to take agreed upon actions necessary to achieve the desired outcomes, or do you terminate the assignment and part ways?
  • As a consultant do you perform the responsibilities of others to achieve success or do you identify organization deficiencies for resolution?

These real life situations are not uncommon and represent a significant challenge. The Business Consultants knowing when to invest more time and effort to facilitate a transformation versus knowing when walking away. Its essential consultants accept that change is not made it’s accepted and acted on.

Creating and Sustaining Urgency

As leaders we need to create a sense of urgency in our organizations to harness the collective energy of our workforce. It is important that the organization is always being enabled and challenged to improve, and indifference and apathy get rooted out. This is best accomplished through the establishing, and robust execution of key business initiatives developed during the annual planning process and the development of a  results orientated culture differentiating your business to customers and employees alike.

Leaders must inspire action not demand it.”

Employee buy-in is best accomplished through enablement and not coercion. Coercion creates rebellion / pushback and anxiety. When employees feel pressured to perform they look for ways to reduce it and this may result in low performance, withdrawal or departure. Any gains through coercion are short-lived. A good leader will challenge but will not dictate.

As a leader we must create an environment where purpose is clear and where employees are actively involved early in the process.

“Don’t tell me what to do ask me to how to achieve the desired result.”

 Engagement occurs when employees value the accomplishment of the goal and feel connected to the achievement of it through their efforts and contributions. Ensuring roadblocks and obstacles are removed is a key management support action in ensuring employee efforts are not unnecessarily hampered with unneeded bureaucracy or other business inefficiencies. As examples these two disruptors a) unclear responsibilities / ownership creates unnecessary power struggles orb) indecisive management decision-making are real de-motivators.

Keys to Building Engagement:

  1. Employees understand the goals and buy into their accomplishment.
  2. Employees feel empowered to a goal ownership level.
  3. The Plan is real and achievable.
  4. Success / rewards / recognition are distributed to those contributing to the attainment.
  5. Failure is understood and not punished.
  6. Leaders enable and don’t interfere.
  7. Trust and respect are real and not just slogans.
  8. Underperformance and inefficiencies are understood and resolved.
  9. Expectations are reasonable and sustainable.
  10. Accountability is clear for execution purposes not blame assignment.

As leaders we must step back and see things for what they are. I call this curb vision. This is looking at your business without bias and seeing things as they really are not as you would like them or accept them. Identifying where opportunity is and seizing it will ensure urgency is consistent and ongoing. Any Thoughts?

 

A United Mind , Body and Spirit

This article is for anyone wanting more. Turning ambition into accomplishment requires focus and dedication but they alone without structure, often lack the substance to become reality. This article tells the story about how I set a goal to pedal my road bike 3000 km and the reasons why and how this challenge delivered so much more.

Life is what you make it. Being the person you aspire to be requires your passion, your committment and your dedication. To rise and maintain the quality of life you desire is a worthy challenge . The higher the standard, the greater the struggle, the more satisfying the achievement . The key is to understand why your goal is important to you. Goals that aren’t inspired with passion and personal meaning are difficult to attain and maintain.

I pursue my personal goals much as I would for my business goals. The crafting of a strategic plan, managing the implementation, and executing an ongoing committment to deliver the capabilities and realize the desired outcomes. While not as formal, the thinking is the same.

Achieving your personal or professional goals requires focus on mind, body and spirit collectively.

My 2017 initiative was to ride my bike 3000 kilometers. At 61 I felt I needed to attempt this challenge as an effort to challenge and re-energize myself. This was a very physical effort over a 5 month period that required determination, focus and undying desire to achieve. Challenging my body required harnessing the power of mind and spirit.

I felt it was such an important journey because it was a goal that entailed commitment over a five month period. It required me to invest and maintain a disciplined schedule. Because of the physicality of the goal there was a need to get in the mindset that I could do this and realize this was so much more important than the ride itself. I steeled myself against the body strains and pains, the scorching summer heat, the incessant insects and their bites, and the mental challenge not to succumb to the long rides / steep hills. The spiritual growth of achieving this new challenge had meaning in that it reconfirmed my core belief that given time and commitment almost anything is possible. In addition, enjoying the quiet solitude of being in nature and experiencing it’s awesome beauty was spiritually uplifting.

As with most new endeavors, doing it poorly until you get better meant my initial rides were short and challenging. As I continued I learned to do things better like how to pedal for distance. My early rides were around 20 km but gradually increased to 50 and 70+ kms rides. This also reminded me that I needed to pace my professional initiatives to perform better for longer as well. My first rides were short so the early progress was disappointing but I stayed committed. My emotions and personal will to achieve my goals, along with the tremendous sense of accomplishment kept me committed. This also transferred into my professional work. Things I knew I needed to get accomplished, but were not done timely due to procrastination, were now being completed.

While I realize that this accomplishment may be beyond other’s capabilities due to physical demands, interest or time constraints, and may be far beneath the accomplishments of others, it was a personal challenge appropriate to me. It is my attempt here to emphasize, to myself and others still reading, that the benefits and connectivity of mind, body and spirit is important and crucial. It truly helped me to get back in touch with myself and I sincerely hope you’ll consider these benefits as well.

As you can see below I did reach my goal just as the weather deteriorated to less desirable riding conditions here in Calgary. This was a personal victory along my path of self discovery and growth, a life long journey. I would also like to mention that while it is me pushing the pedals, I have a lot of support by those around me in my quest. My wife encourages me and allows me the time to pursue this and other initiatives. It is so incredible how others respect and encourage you when you make the goal public. Perhaps the whole humanity of helping others is the foundation of helping one’s self.

I am including brief lessons learned below…

Lessons Learned

  1. You must believe in yourself before you can turn your ambitions into accomplishments.
  2. It’s important to understand and resolve any obstacles to your success. Avoiding these is an invitation for a future occurence.
  3. Even though you may not be up for the ride you need to make it because consistency and self-discipline are essential components to success
  4. Measurement is essential and it’s motivational to track your performance towards your goal.
  5. Get your team involved, you’ll need the support and they’ll be inspired by your success.
  6. Perserverance is very important on the hill climbs, which are perhaps the biggest challenge. It would be easy to give in and stop, but these are must win battles that test your resolve and validate your passion and purpose.
  7. Never settle. Today’s accomplishments are tomorrow’s baseline.

 

Change is going to do you good! If?

Change management is indeed messy and often frustrating, but is an unavoidable reality. At some level people want it, need it, and perhaps desire it if only they could take a pill to make it happen.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in making change initiatives successful is accepting the reality of the situation by both the change facilitator and the leadership team. Perhaps the best way, my preferred approach, is to build awareness of the “current state”. I believe you must look back before attempting to go forward.

Looking backwards into what has worked and what hasn’t, in the recent past initiatives, is so revealing and builds an understanding of the organizations strengths and opportunities. I am not talking about the traditional SWOT analysis, which will come forward as the process evolves, I am referring to the debriefing of the prior attempts and identifying what lessons have been learned or need to be learned and identifying the true capability for change in the organization.

Building this awareness is necessary for the organization to accept responsibility and accountability. It’s pure insanity to repeat the same processes until the known causes of failure are understood and mitigated. Change involves making tough decisions about people, processes and purpose.

Every organization is unique and by understanding their capabilities, commitment and discipline levels, the change facilitator and leadership team can build a realistic path forward. And yes the change facilitator cannot be positioned as the champion but merely as the resource of best practices.

Strategic Plan -Implementation Challenges

One of the biggest challenges that organizations face is finding the time to implement the major initiatives that were developed during the planning process. In many cases the amount of time and effort required to put the vision into practice is under estimated and beyond realistic given the demands on already on your key resources. As a result critical business initiatives will go uncompleted and the gain unrealized.

“Almost anything can be accomplish given the time and resources required to implement”

In my experience organizations put 90% of the effort into strategy creation and the remaining 10% into the implementation plan. This kind of “figure it out on the fly” thinking places a huge burden on already busy key resources to find the time after the fact to develop implementation plans. Spending the time on implementation isn’t near as exciting as coming up with ideas but it is every bit as important. In practice the breakdown should be more 50 -50.

Here are some best practices for your consideration:

  1. Spend the appropriate time on developing a realist implementation plan defining the who, what, and when details using SMART objectives format. In reality the plan is a series of projects and should be run like projects.
  2. Priorities and synchronize business initiatives. I recommend using a reverse engineering process to plan out the appropriate order that the initiatives should be addressed. Creating a roadmap and breaking the initiatives into 90 day time buckets will help keep the plan active and on schedule. Formal reviews maintain accountability and plan status. Every organization is different so the speed of change should fit with the circumstances of your business.
  3. Take a hard look at the time and resources required. If you need a skill or technology to accomplish an objective that you either don’t have or is not available plan how this roadblock will be overcome before commiting.
  4. Consider dedicating a resource to managing the overall plan. Having someone with the responsibility to oversee the plan will ensure focus and any issue or obstacles get immediate attention and resolution.
  5. Identify time spent on lesser priority projects than can be reallocated to the more urgent business requirements. Every plan should have a STOP list.
  6. Your plan should have as an objective on improving operational efficiency and error reduction. This is an ongoing initiative that deserves continuous focus.

In the diagram below I have identified the four ways time is spend in organizations.Planning is time spend developing policies and practices. Execution is performing those policies and practices. Fire Fighting is time spend correcting errors that have occurred because policies and practices were either not performed correctly or are not defined. Crisisis time spent by managerial level resources to fix major customer impacting or costly operational errors.