Tag Archives: teamwork

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.

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.

 

Face It: Face-to-Face Is Important

business meetingA colleague told me just today that a client paid for him to travel to have face-to-face meetings because they believed the results were much higher quality than phone meetings. After he flew all the way across the country for a few hours of meetings, he said it was worth it to get that extra level of interaction.

We often take advantage of current technology to communicateantennae instead of making the effort to get together face-to-face. Even talking can be too much effort. People have told me on multiple occasions that they prefer texting to talking on the phone. But we are missing out on a lot of information when we interact via technology. Some situations benefit greatly from good old face-to-face interaction. Building trust and resolving conflict are two such situations. It may be inconvenient—and expensive—to get together in person, but the time and money saved in the long run is well worth it.

I interviewed a group of industrial design engineers at a multinational company to find out why they preferred to meet face-to-face, even when it involved international travel. The engineers said there were many benefits of meeting face-to-face. These included:

  • personal growth (travel and learning)
  • ease of interacting remotely after meeting face-to-face
  • obtaining a “sense” of the other person
  • seeing what others are trying to accomplish
  • facilitating teamwork
  • establishing personal relationships and friendships
  • building trust
  • seeing others’ reactions
  • seeing eye contact and body language
  • clearly focusing on the problem without distractions
  • resolving issues
  • having quick access to decision-makers for approvals.

Some people think old-fashioned communication skills are not needed in the modern world. But don’t forget that people are people. We still need to interact, understand, and connect with each other. For all these reasons and more, it’s a good idea to hone your face-to-face communication skills.