How often do you ask someone to do something and don’t follow up?
Kings and Queens don’t usually abdicate their throne but managers often do when they delegate a task…
This “delegation” process might sound familiar:
- You casually and quickly mention to someone “I need you to do this ‘thing’ for me.”
- You “hope” the person understands what to do, has the knowledge to do it, will squeeze this new non-urgent task into their busy week, and will make a decision equal to the one you would make.
- And you get busy.. (that’s why you delegated in the first place, to take something OFF your plate, and have one less thing for you to remember.)
- Maybe you remember once to ask “how is that going” only to be met with either panic or remorse or a promise “I will get to that this week.”
- Then time goes by, you forget to follow up, you get frustrated when you remember it.. another ball is dropped, another great idea is withering away.
You say to yourself “but I delegated it– why didn’t it get done? Why can’t Joe get things done?”
The short answer is you did not DELEGATE, you ABDICATED responsibility.
Continuing my 6-part series on coaching for accountability (you can Read Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 and Step 4 here) or see all 6 steps on my 1 minute video slideshare.
Step 5 to Coach for Accountability and High Performance: Create a True Delegation Process- 6 Steps
- Clarity: Give crystal clear instructions, including expected actions, responsibility, outcomes, and expected completion date
- Action plan: Verify that the delegatee adds this task or project to their weekly action plan/ status report [break down a larger project into the next 2-3 action items]
- Deadlines: Give the entire project a deadline– then back up major “milestones” [outcomes, phases] with expected completion time to arrive at key dates
- Targets: Identify a key metric related to successful progress of this project (such as percent completion or meeting milestones scheduled dates or actual versus estimated targets)
- Dashboard: For projects over 3 months or with multiple milestones, setup a visual dashboard to track progress and update priorities
- Check ins: Weekly individual meetings [and weekly status reports] are the ideal way to keep any delegated items/ projects top of mind and on track, as well as find out what rockblocks are preventing progress, so you can provide additional clarity/ information/ knowledge/ resources are needed to keep moving
If you have used all 6 of these steps when you delegate and you are still not seeing progress, then I suspect you have an issue with the Job Fit of the person.
If you haven’t used all 6 steps, then the lack of progress is partly your responsibility.
Remember as a manager, accountability works both ways!
You need to setup your team members for success, and give them the training, coaching and resources they need to make progress and good decisions.
Next article I will share details on Step 6 “Consistency – Every Week.” [see all 6]
The (busy) life of a small business owner
When you started (or joined) your business, you did a lot of work yourself. As the business grew, you added staff to take care of the daily “work” yet you never seem able to get yourself out of everyday responsibilities.
Your days are busy but progress is slow, and you go home feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything. A 40-hour week seems like a luxury.
You would like more free time, but you are afraid to leave since problems surface and you “pay for it” when you come back.
You have a big list of ideas to improve your business, but these never seem to get started [much less finished].
The cycle repeats
You might even have hired someone new to take some of your workload, or started “delegating” some of your work to others.
But despite your best efforts and good intentions, your to-do list is long and your days are filled with endless calls, meetings, and requests that eat up your time.
Or someone recently quit, leaving you and the team hanging. Now you spend your precious time interviewing and training the new person (which you hate), and then catch up for the lost time.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
It’s an endless cycle. Every Monday you start out with big plans for the week, only to leave Friday with not much progress to show for all your hard work. Some days you feel so burnt out and overwhelmed, you think about exiting the business.
And deep down you know this can’t be the way to grow your business.
What could be the cause? Why are you doing so much in your business?
Because you don’t have the team you need to support you—a trusted, reliable team.
If you did, you would be comfortable letting them handle the daily activities.
You would be confident that they are doing a great job: growing sales, caring for your customers, making great decisions, while keep you updated on progress and achieving your ambitious business goals.
So let’s explore some possible reasons you don’t have a reliable team.
Reason 1: You are under-staffed
Sometimes you truly don’t have enough staff to cover the work to care for your current client base. People are spread thin and are just trying to keep their heads above the water. Obviously if everyone is handling a high workload, it’s hard for you to be confident everything is being done well.
Perhaps you just added a burst of new customers, or you have a seasonal bump in demand, or you are in the process of training a newbie.
Teams under pressure, overworked, and stressed are notorious unreliable.
You may think hiring is the answer, but it isn’t always the best solution to start.
When you address the other reasons (below), this usually increase the effectiveness, capacity, and therefore the reliability of your current team.
Reason 2: You have low performers
You likely have at least one person who is not performing well.
It might be someone whose job changed but their skills didn’t keep up, or they are struggling with the workload or an aspect of the job, or they are slow in taking on new responsibility. They might have inconsistent output, working hard some weeks and slacking off others.
You tried feedback, coaching, or training with short-lived improvement.
When someone on the team has sub-par performance, of course you don’t feel you can rely on him or her.
Reason 3: You have people with attitude issues
Sometimes you have people who do an adequate job, but it comes at a price. They give you or co-workers a hard time, grumbling and complaining when you assign work or ask for a status update. They might be toxic to peers, openly difficult to their supervisor, or continually resist change.
Just like the low performers, Debbie Downer and Toxic Theo aren’t your go-to people either. They may do the work (if you are willing to put up with the negativity), but it’s a good possibility they may not do the work well.
When you avoid performance correcting conversations with low performers or those with attitude issues you are not building a reliable team.
What most managers do is “reward” unreliable people by taking work and giving it to a more competent high performer. A great solution? No, but you would rather give work to the reliable. So you are stuck in this “catch-22.”
Both these types of employees drag down the reliability of your team, lower your confidence that everything is under control. Because it isn’t under control.
Even more importantly, “unreliable co-workers” is a main reason top performers quit, so ignoring these issues can force out your reliable ones!
Reason 4: Your “open door” has a line of people asking for help
When you let people pop on by to run things by you, you are enabling “problem bringers” instead of developing “problem solvers.”
“Hey boss, what do you want me to do about this? Mr Z called and wants to know what is happening with the new thing” These continual interruptions fill up your day, and distract your ability to focus on anything else.
Remember the biblical parable about “teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime”? It’s the same for decision making.
When you are the source of problem solving you also become responsible for the decision, and enables a co-dependence on your input and guidance.
If you can’t rely on your staff to make good decisions without you, you will be chained to the office, worry when you are not there and be called 10 times on your vacation.
Reason 5: Your process is broken
Sometimes it’s not the people who are unreliable, it’s the process itself that causes problems, delays and customer issues.
If there are 5 people who are involved in the process to convert a proposal to delivery of a new sale, there are at least 5 places where the handoff can be incomplete or inaccurate or dropped entirely.
Sometimes your people are doing their best struggling through the convoluted and flawed process. To improve the human-side of reliability, check the underlying system.
If your good performers sometimes have issues with reliability, it might make sense to look at the work flow for effectiveness and efficiency.
Reason 6: You resist delegating
Hey, I get it. You need to trust first before you delegate.
If you can’t be sure the work will be done timely and accurately, you keep control of that task yourself. Even if it is boring or you hate the task.
I find that owners I work with have two main reason they don’t delegate.
One reason is the “it’s easier to do it myself” syndrome. Yes, it will take 20 minutes to show someone once to do this 10 minute task, but remember it’s 10 minutes every week (=500 minutes a year, 8+ hours.) So consider your time investment choices carefully.
The other reason is that a prior delegation was a disaster or just a big pain. You had to chase the person down for an update, nag them to finish it, they did it wrong, or worst of all created a big problem. Painful conclusion: brings you back to reason one- it’s easier to do it myself.
If you want to build a reliable team, you must improve your skills in coaching and training to achieve a successful transfer of work that doesn’t belong on the to-do list for a CEO or manager.
Reason 7: Desired Results are not clear (or rewarded)
You may not realize it, but if you are like most business owners, you are not clear about desired results or clear about priorities.
Most decent employees try to figure out what “Done Right” looks like and to do their best with the resources and tools you give them.
If you don’t measure or track any results, they may not know how they are doing. Absent of any data or feedback, most people assume that “no news is good news” and they are doing their job to meet your expectations.
So the “unreliable” don’t know it and don’t have any reason to change.
You also may not be rewarding the trusted reliable ones. Those that step up are given more work, those that duck and cover are given less work, and everyone gets a 3% raise and about the same year-end bonus.
Consider the messages you are sending with feedback, recognition and pay—is it rewarding reliability?
Reason 8: You can’t find good people to hire
Yes, I advise that you should improve your current team performance first.
But the lack of “good people” to hire is part of the reason you accept low performance or poor attitudes. You feel hostage because if you address the issues they might quit, and a mediocre person is better than no person.
You probably also dread the hiring process and rush to fill an open position. You take the “best” applicant, even if you worry they won’t work out.
If you settle for third-string players on your team and in your new hires, this is definitely a reason you don’t have a reliable team.
After you read this list, how many reasons do you have?
How many of these issues exist on your team?
If you have 3 or more, you likely don’t have a reliable who you trust to delegate work, run daily activities and work on projects to grow the business.
The Solution: Building Your Team Model
To build a reliable team, you need the Right People in the Right Jobs, Doing the Right Things
Next Step: Read the Guide
Would you like to learn the exact steps to go from stuck in the day-to-day to building a trusted reliable team?
Click to Download the detailed guide:
Building Your Team: Right People… Right Jobs
Lately I have been sharing with you resources to 1) Clarify the best use of your time, 2) Create a delegation wish list of your “stop doing” tasks, and 3) Identify to whom to delegate this list.
By delegating, you are creating a “win” for you AND a “win” for you high performers.
Your high performers crave challenging assignments and want to know they are being developed for future growth.
In fact, “opportunities” to develop is the number one retainer and engager of your top people- the least expensive and most powerful reward your organization has to build your A team.
To continue your delegation journey, I created a 18 minute video to show you the whole process. The development action plan process gets all employees working towards goals that benefit them and the company.
Watch the 18 minute Video: Develop High Potentials with Action Plans
(The video shows not only how action plans benefit your best performers, but also the average Jane and the lowest performer as well!)
So go ahead, give up something off your list in January and watch your people grow!
Over the years, you built your small business on step at a time. Your hired more staff to sell and service your clients, then you added an office manager and/or an accounting manager. With each hire you expected to get “freed up” to act like an owner, not an employee.
Yet you are “crazy busy” every day– getting sales, monitoring if work is done, leading improvement projects, fighting fires, and otherwise tending to the daily work in your business.
What could be the cause? If you have 10 or more people on staff, you are likely missing a “level” of management.
You have level 1- individual workers, and you (level 4)- expecting to lead well-designed and highly functional systems run by others.
You might even have level 2- a “supervisor” who monitors daily work of direct reports (perhaps informally and tactically), and is concerned with the next week or month.
But if you want to plan 1-5 years out and make changes that will improve your people, process and profits, you have to get out of the “daily supervision” game.
You need a deputy.
Here is a list of 9 ways your deputy (general manager) can positively impact your organization:
- Watch the store– develop and implement dashboards with key business results, review regularly and alert you to any “exceptions” so you know things are on track and there are no surprises
- Process improvement – identify trends in your hassles, bottlenecks and other issues, research to find route cause and suggest solutions, then implement the solution
- Build your team– Identify new roles or more people before your delivery suffers. Recruit, screen, onboard and train new staff that are Ideal Candidates, build a virtual bench of pre-qualified candidates before a position opens up
- Coach the team– schedule, assign and coordinate work, monitor performance and attitude, give feedback, train and develop people for the best job fit and opportunities, engage the team to retain A players.
- Client experience building– handle escalation of client issues, routine relationship building, periodic follow up to uncover unreported issues and identify opportunities
- Get stuff done– Take your brilliant ideas for sales, marketing, process improvement, customer service and work with you to implement them
- Get Strategic – Provide another viewpoint and involvement input in annual goal setting, then cascade goals down to every person, communicate and implement via individual dashboards and team coaching conversations.
- “Hold down the fort” so you can have dinner with your family and take several two-week vacations (almost worry free)
- Open up your schedule– so you can focus on thinking and planning, provide leadership and direction, building strategic relationships, and monitoring from a dashboard (instead of an avalanche of data)
Basically a deputy lets you guide the process while they drive the business.
Most owners wait far too long to get a deputy- a general / operations manager. The concerns are the usual- effort (how can I find and train a good one) and cost (how will I pay for him or her?).
Take a quick count- how many of these are happening now in your business?
What impact would these activities bring to your business if they were in place?
- Would it tighten up your sales process to win more business and increase revenue?
- Would it increase customer satisfaction leading to more sales and referrals?
- Would it provide the systems for reducing your costs based on higher efficiency?
If you increase quantity and value of each sale 5%, and reduce costs 5% this can double your profit.
Can a deputy do this for you?
We have all been there, whether you are a “control freak” or “perfectionist” who struggles with the handoff, or a great delegator who regularly gives away routine work.
You start doing something and you just know that someone else could do it.. perhaps should do it.. perhaps does it better. Yet, you rationalize that you will do it faster, she is busy, you don’t want to bother / distract him, you waited too long and now it’s urgent, or my favorite- it will only take a few minutes.
Is this an issue, perhaps not.
But, you are a candidate for more delegation if:
- You are exhausted/ overworked/ burnt out doing work you don’t enjoy
- You want to spend more time in your “circle of genius” and do things you actually enjoy
- Your business revenue has flat-lined, or is losing customers or opportunities because you haven’t implemented those big plans you have
- Your high potential people are leaving after a few year
Why should you delegate— in case you need reminding:
- Your time is available to focus on high value long-term activities to grow, scale or optimize your business
- By delegating, you develop the skills of your team members, which is actually the number one reward and the reason they stay with your company
- Your brief initial time “investment” pays dividends over time
If you think about investing your time to show someone a task that takes you “only 1 hour a month”
=1 hour training + 15 minutes verifying/ clarifying / training x 4 weeks = 2 hours invested in another person’s development versus 12 hours of your time year (6x your initial investment)!
You know you “should”—if you would like the “how” click here to read my article “Too Busy? 5 Steps to Delegate More”