Tag Archives: employee engagement

4 Excuses Not to Delegate: Are You Using One?

Successful bossThere’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep control over projects and minimize room for failure.  Why do managers resist delegating?

“They’re not ready.”

This is a typical reason leaders give to keep doing the work themselves instead of letting someone else take it on.  What they should be asking is, what would it take for them to be ready?  Also, what are they ready for now?  In other words, even if they aren’t ready to take on the whole project, what aspect of it could you let them take responsibility for?  And what do you need to do as a leader to get them ready to take on more?  This is an opportunity for you to coach and mentor and facilitate learning for your team members who, more than likely, crave growth opportunities.

“We can’t afford a mistake.”

This is the fear that drives managers to hover over their employees and make them feel useless.  Of course, there is always a risk of failure or a mistake, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. Ask yourself: when you’re away from the office, can your employees get things done without you?  If not, this is a wake-up call for you to empower your team.

“They won’t do it as well.”

This is another reason for managers to do the work themselves instead of trusting others to do it.  Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.  You never know, maybe they’ll even do a better job than you!  This may be yet another fear that drives you to keep the work to yourself.  But, in the end, it is better for you, for the company, and for the individual for them to do better work than you.  Now you can stick to leading and growing your own skills.

“I don’t have time.”

Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse yet it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. It’s often quicker for an experienced person to do something him or herself, but if you keep doing it yourself, you’ll have to keep doing it.  That’s where the overwork comes in: if you do the work and are responsible for leading the team, you will quickly run out of time.  In other words, you don’t have time not to delegate.  It may take more time initially to train someone, but the savings will begin to show up very quickly.

“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.”  Jesse Sostrin states in To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, in Harvard Business Review.  As a leader, if you keep doing the work, you will reach your output capacity quickly.  If you have a team of people who contribute to the output, you can scale and have much greater impact.  The reason for teams to exist is to increase productivity.  In high-performing teams, each team member does what he or she does best and relies on others to contribute in different ways.  Effective leaders facilitate this process.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

NetworkingHow likely are you to lose your key employees?

According to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. And only about one in five say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. What’s worse, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs.  The answer is, you are very likely to lose an employee very soon.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

What does it cost to replace an employee?  The range is large, but it is expensive at any level.  Studies show it can cost 20% of a low-to-mid-range position and more than 200% of a high-level or executive position.  Let’s look at the numbers.  The cost to replace a mid-range administrative manager being paid $40k would be about $8k.  But the cost of a highly educated contributor, director, or executive who’s paid over $200k would be over $400k.

What goes into calculating turnover costs?

  • Hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
  • Onboarding (training and management time)
  • Lost productivity (months, years to match a high performer’s level of performance)
  • Low team engagement (other employees are affected when someone leaves)
  • Customer service and errors (new people don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes)

The costs may be much greater in your company, especially if a key person leaves at a critical time.  Missing a release deadline could cost the company funding or market share.  Lost knowledge could cause a faulty product to be released.

How will you keep your best people?

The top way to keep employees today is to engage them.  This means allowing them to do meaningful work that helps them grow.  When people are doing something that matters and are growing in the process, they are likely to stay.

Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.  The problem is that people often don’t know what they do best, and it’s even harder for their employers to know.  The solution is to assess what people’s natural talents are and let them do work where they apply them.

A fun way to assess people’s natural talents is in a team-building session where people self-assess and share their talents with their team members.  People get excited about their discoveries and they learn how to better engage each other in projects.

If you are leading a team and you want to keep your key players, you may want to give our Strengthen Your Team Team-Building Activity a try.  It costs only a small fraction of what it costs to lose someone, and it will pay back even more in terms of the increased productivity and engagement of your team.  You will also have fun discovering how your own natural talents come into play.

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Is Your Company Suffering from the Tech Effect?

Teacher and schoolchildren studying in front of a computerRemember when computerized communication technology first came into being?  If you’re too young to know what that was like, it was magical!  We went from waiting impatiently for the mail carrier or staying near the phone to receiving emails and texts in minutes or seconds.  We went from wading through file cabinets and encyclopedias to getting information instantaneously from the internet.  We went from living in siloed communities to being globally connected.  Think about it: we now can access just about anyone or anything at any time!

But, have you noticed how the magic is starting to wear off and anxiety is moving in?

Woman Buying Train Ticket Using Vending Machine At StationBusiness leaders are finding their enterprises rely too much on technology and not enough on people.  Employees are suffering from overwork, owners have lost control over what their employees are doing and saying about their companies, and the general public is suffering from social media addiction.

There’s a longing to slow things down and go back to the personal principles and values that made companies grow and operate better, such as culture and reputation.  Customers and employees are also crying out for privacy, to protect their personal information and to go back to having control of what they share with others.

Ironically, communication technology is the driver of many communication problems.  People are feeling more isolated than ever before, company reputations are suffering, and conflict is rising—and it is costing companies a lot of money.Woman in computer room using personal digital assistant

  • Employees lose an average of one day of work per week to their phones—and they’re getting paid for that day. Nearly 50 percent of people say they can’t live without their phones, which people on average check every 12 minutes and touch 2,600 times a day.
  • American businesses are losing $62 billion per year from poor customer service, according to Forbes Magazine, because of autoresponders and pre-recorded help messages or remote call centers with people who don’t speak the language well.
  • Tesla’s stock dropped over eight percent in a day in response to Elon Musk tweeting he was thinking about taking the company private. Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet cost over $1 billion and 200 people lost their jobs from cancelling all of her shows.

Aggressive furious businessman shouting and working with computer in officeThese problems all have one thing in common, what I call the tech effect.  The tech effect occurs when communication technology loses its human focus and/or the people who use communication technology lose their human focus.  It’s when people communicate with their screens in the form of makeshift messages to ephemeral followers and measure reactions in quantities, instead of building relationships with people.

How do we combat the tech effect?  We need to get the people back in.  Business leaders need to change the culture in their companies to be more human-centered, modify structures and practices within their companies to increase employee and customer engagement and loyalty, and promote healthy, humane work practices and products that sell.

How do we do this?  I have lots of ideas and systematic solutions.  Stay tuned for more on the tech effect

The key to knowing when to be right or let it go

Disagree Or Agree Directions On A SignpostWhat’s negative one squared (-12)?  If you learned math in school before 2009, you probably said “1.”  If you learned math once the Common Core was implemented, you would say the answer is “-1.”  A friend of mine spent an entire 4-day weekend visit with his family arguing about the answer to this problem, trying to prove he was right.  When he returned and I asked him how his trip was, he continued his tirade on me.  Even after I agreed with him, he persisted to prove that he was right to the point where I made up an excuse to leave because I was tired of hearing about it.

Do you ever find yourself so caught up in proving that you’re right that you end up alienating everyone around you?  I hear this a lot when I’m coaching technical people.  Of course, they don’t use those words.  They say things like, “people don’t understand my enthusiasm” or “I don’t understand why people are so sensitive” or “some of the people on my team are not that smart.”  Those who are more forgiving to the people around them say something like, “I just can’t help myself” or “I have to be right; I mean, it’s so important to be right in your work, isn’t it?”

Let’s stop right there because that brings up a very important question.  When is it essential to be right and when is it better to let it go?  We all know that with family or with a significant other, we have to let it go sometimes to keep peace in the relationship.  The same holds true at work.  Yet, sometimes it’s harder to do it there.  Why is that?

Usually we argue for our position at work because we feel we’re hired for our knowledge or expertise and we need to prove that we’re right to prove our value to the team.  But sometimes, the relationship is more important.  In fact, quite often, that’s true.  Research shows better work relationships lead to greater employee engagement, organizational loyalty, job satisfaction, productivity, and prosocial behavior.  Strong relationships also help people get things done faster, more efficiently, and more collaboratively.

You can still be right, but do it in a diplomatic fashion, and don’t keep telling people you’re right.  It’s also okay to disagree sometimes.  There are many ways to disagree without damaging a relationship.  You can say “I can see how you’d see things differently from your perspective” or “I don’t think we’re going to come to an agreement right now so let’s agree to disagree” or “you have some really good points and I’d like for us both to give this some more thought before making a decision.”

happy school girl on math classesSometimes there is no right answer, like with the Common Core math example.  We all learned in school that (-1) x (-1) = +1.  The difference is, that with Common Core math, they follow a different order of operations than people did previously.  Whereas older people were taught to keep the negative number intact and break up (-12) into (-1) x (-1), younger people were taught to break up “-1” into (-1) x (1).  They use the PEMDAS order of operations, which is parentheses-exponents-multiplication-division-addition-subtraction and, since exponents come before multiplication, the problem becomes 12 x (-1) which equals “-1.” So that’s how you get the difference and the answer is there are two correct answers.

For most technical people, it’s hard to believe there can be two opposing correct answers to a math problem.  We, engineers, for example, are used to thinking in binary, in black and white, right and wrong.  But there are two right answers out there and we have to find a way to mutually respect that we can solve things in different ways and it still works.  And there’s no sense in arguing about it.