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For every leader, there is a time away – usually a holiday, or perhaps a long sales trip. This is also a leadership opportunity to make a good return to work, an influential return to work.
When you are away, the team hasn’t felt your influence for a while, and you have had the chance to get away from the daily whirl of activity – meetings, emails, texts, reports. This gives you the chance to work on your business rather than in your business.
Being away, your team grow used to not hearing or seeing you. Your team start to focus on other drivers. Now that you have returned, they can be more easily influenced. They want to hear from you and this makes your first day back particularly powerful.
How do you best harness this power? Surely not by working through the accumulated letters, emails, reports and papers – this just hides you away and squanders a valuable leadership opportunity.
Instead, as you return to work, focus on the really critical values and tasks that your whole organisation needs to align with. Demonstrated values reflect how we behave, how we treat each other, our clients our stakeholders. This is the opportunity to reinforce the organisation’s values, at the individual, team and organisational level.
Reflect on recent performance, opportunities and threats. Consider our strengths and weaknesses. What are the top three tasks we need to undertake, not just to deal with today’s challenges but to be ready for tomorrow’s opportunities. Think about success and what it looks like. Paint a picture so that each and every team member knows what they have to do to achieve success.
Once you have these thoughts clearly in your mind, write them down. Make the words short, simple and clear. Practice saying them out loud, turning them into your mantra. Remember that for every seven times you say something, there is a chance your team members will hear you once.
Build a simple communications strategy around your chosen messages:
What will you say to your leadership team? What do you want them to say? What will you say to the organisation in your next leader’s message? How is this communicated with clients?
As you now run through the backlog of work, consider each item in light of your message to the organisation. Think about what is important and what is not. Be comfortable that you are running the job and the job is not running you.
Over the last two decades, our dependence on technology has increased. When we use technology, the mathematical chance of error is decreased, efficiency is maximised and we still have the power of being in control. The downside, is that for many people this has lead to the demise of our trust in the ability of others.
We’re much more likely to turn on spell check than turn to a colleague and ask for proof reading prior to sending an email. We’re much more comfortable typing a question into Google than we are turning around and asking someone that question in person. We’re afraid of human error and losing control. But in today’s business world, we should be looking for harmony between technology and people through delegation and collaboration, not deterring from it. Why? Because the impact this has on our bottom line is a lot larger than we realise.
Thomas N. Hubbard recently wrote a Harvard Business Review blog about a study he co-authored with Luis Garicano that looked at the real, economic affects of effective delegation in the workplace. Using thousands of law firms across the United States, they found that when senior lawyers handed work down to their associates, median earnings increased by 20-50% more.
When the senior partners stopped focussing on the mundane, routine issues and handed this work on to associates, they could focus on larger, more complex cases and were able to serve more clients. This productivity boost through investing the senior experience into more valuable areas of the business drove these improvements to the bottom line.
Forbes ran an interesting piece in 2012 quoting a London Business School Professor who said only 30% of managers believed they were good delegators and of this 30%, only 1 in 3 of their subordinates actually confirmed that they were good at delegating.
That suggests an enormous number of business leaders are investing their time and effort into the wrong areas of their business. So how can we change the way we think about delegation, how can we trust our employees and utilise the good money we pay for them to improve our overall position?
1. Make technology a team effort
Those pieces of technology I spoke about earlier on are incredibly valuable, but they don’t need to completely replace other people - other people can simply use them too. If you give a team the tools you use and create a seamless, error-reducing process there is no reason they can’t perform to the same standard that you do.
2. Be clear, concise but give them freedom to operate
I was once told that if you allow employees to succeed, they will thrive in their roles. Instruct the important things but allow them to create their own systems and styles. Give them operational freedom (within your business values) and they’ll take ownership for the work they do. It won’t be ‘something the boss gave them to do’ it will instead be ‘something they want to succeed at.’
3. Teach, don’t tell
The most valuable thing you can do is pass on your knowledge to free up your own time. Don’t tell an employee what to do, teach them how. This way, you have confidence when you delegate that they have the skills to perform well.
4. It comes down to culture
If you create a positive delegation experience for employees, it creates a collaborative culture where delegation doesn’t become an excess workload thing, but instead an empowerment thing. Foster a culture this happens and there’s nothing stopping your business from improving.
Do you have questions about delegation and creating a positive delegation experience in your business? Click here to send us a message and we’ll do our best to get back to you with an answer.