Micromanagement & Delegation

There are few things worse than a manager who delegates then micromanages the task. Micromanagement is an indicator that the relationship lacks trust. Trust = autonomy + confidence. If you have confidence in the person you task and give them autonomy to complete the task it means you trust them.

Delegation is widely underused, especially in an environment where reputation is a significant indication of whether someone is worthy of promotion. Delegation often comes with the stigma that the person whom delegates is lazy or inept. Although this may be true in some cases, the opposite is most often the case. It takes a great deal of courage and management expertise to delegate to subordinates without micromanaging them. Give your people the parameters in which they are to work and set them free to take care of the task. If you trust them and have taught them well, they will come to you with major problems and will handle everything else.

There is always a negative light cast upon micromanagement, but there are times when it’s a good thing. Communication is key with micromanagement. If you are giving someone a task and you let them know upfront that you are going to micromanage the work and that you need to be frequently updated, there will be an expectation of micromanagement on the front end which will cause the person you delegated to be okay with it. This person will most likely not be frustrated. This tactic is often called expectation management.

Micromanagement must be used sparingly, especially if you are repeatedly tasking the same person. Overuse will erode the relationship with your subordinate because of the lack of trust. So in between these delegated tasks, you must give them plenty of tasks that you give full autonomy. Showing confidence in their abilities will improve the relationship and increase their confidence. Also, building people up and teaching them tactics to solve problems and complete tasks without your input is very rewarding and will create more room for your tasks. Plus, it is ultimately rewarding to help people get better, especially, when they leave your employment to work on their ventures. More on that in another article.

During training is another time when micromanagement is acceptable. This is most likely obvious to you, but when someone is learning a task, there is an expectation that you will lead them through the job at the most basic level. As your confidence in the individual grows and your willingness to give them autonomy increases, your trust will follow suit. Once you believe that the person can complete the task, there will not be a need to micromanage.

An experienced manager and friend of mine, Zachary Anderson recently explained micromanagement and I couldn’t think of a better way to end the article. “Micromanagement is like salt; some dishes need more than others. Once you have perfected the other ingredients of the recipe, you tend to need a lot less salt!”

How to Lead – 5 Musts of Leadership –

There are thousands of books on leadership, thousands of opinions, and thousands of theories. Some are complicated, others simple. The thing about leadership is that ideas and opinions are great, but knowing about leadership and being a leader are not even close to the same thing. The real game is in the execution. If you are not “doing,” “executing,” or “taking action,” then you are not leading. But this article is about how to lead, not what leadership is. So, the below should serve you well whether you are new to the game or a longtime veteran.

Your People Come First. And yes, I mean they even come before customers and clients. I’ve watched many people in the service community being treated poorly only to have a manager apologize to the customer! You should be willing to lose some clients to show your people you are there for them. We often hear the question about how to get loyal employees, but the only way to do that is to have managers who are loyal to the employees. Your organization will function many times better if your people know you have their back. Overstating this point is impossible!

Be Deliberate. As a leader, you must focus and have a purpose such as knowing what you are doing each day to move closer to your goal. Many people take this point to mean you only need to have goals. But even individuals who have goals are not necessarily deliberate. Once you have established goals, you can get to work setting milestones and figuring out what actions to take to achieve them. Now you know what to do, then all you have to do is have enough discipline to do it.

Become a Change Expert. This seems like an obvious one, but the vast majority of leaders and manager I know have no clue about change management methodologies and techniques. Most subscribe to the thought process that if I have the authority, then people will change because I said so. Then, these “leaders” are confused when even good changes that make sense are being fought against. Take time to learn about change and good ways to break through the adversity of change. Kotter’s 8-step change model is a great start and Lewin’s basic model or Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.

Leading Teams. If you are a manager, then you are already in charge of a team or several teams. The most popular methodology to understanding teams and their stages is from Bruce Tuckman. He identified the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and most recently the Adjourning stages or team performance. As a leader, you must be able to understand how your team is interacting with each other and how you can lead them through the different stages. Also, know how new members or departing members will affect team dynamics.

High Standards. The last on the list, but far from least important is having high standards. High standards mean having standards that are higher than where your current operations or performance currently reside. You have to inspire the organization to achieve more, and you can only do this if you have high standards.

Clearly, there are many values that we expect a leader to have, but it is unrealistic to expect a leader to have all the values and characteristics we envision. If you start with the above five focus areas, you will be well on your way to becoming an exceptional leader!

Transparent Organization? (What are you hiding…)

Meriam-Webster defines transparent as “free from pretense or deceit.” Pretense is defined as “an inadequate or insincere attempt to attain a certain condition or quality.” And deceit is defined as “the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.” So essentially, being transparent means to be open and honest.

But what does being transparent do in an organizational setting? And how do we create a more transparent environment?

Transparency in an organization is a way to communicate trust and that the organization is genuine. Nobody wants to work in an atmosphere that is full of mistrust and politics. We want to know, not just believe, but know that the winner of the employee of the month was picked because they performed at a higher level than the rest of the employees eligible for the award. People do not value awards if they are not genuine or if they are simply awarded because it was their “turn.” And the worst thing you can do is select the employee you are trying to get promoted to be the winner when their performance wasn’t the best. These actions create mistrust and show that the organization is not genuine.

If you have ever interviewed for a job, you know how the lack of transparency feels. It creates fear and frustration. You don’t want to open the job hiring process and every aspect of it to everyone. Interviews should be confidential; the discussion among the hiring professionals should also remain private.   But the process doesn’t need to be a mystery.

Shipping companies have figured out how to be transparent in their activities to let people know where their packages are and how close they are to being delivered. I love watching the packages I’ve ordered get closer and closer until it is finally “out for delivery.” The same things can be done in organizations. When paperwork is routed for signatures how does the person who submitted it know where it is in the process? Can there be a notification system?

The real purpose of this article is to increase the amount of transparency in the organization. Two ways to do it are:

Be consistent. There must be a set of behaviors that are expected of the employees. Then the managers must reinforce those behaviors with their actions and how they reward employees. If the message of what is important and the behaviors the managers reinforce are not congruent people will start to look at why. They will have no choice but to make assumptions and it will usually be for the worse.

Never use “because I said so.” When directing the activities of the organization, explaining “why” is a huge step to motivating and inspiring your subordinates. It is also the best way to teach them how to make good decisions. If you use “because I said so” as your reason for getting things done, your people will not be able to learn how you came to a conclusion. Doing so means they won’t be able to replicate your success. It also leads to frustration and forces your employees to make assumptions.

Killing the Star Performer

We all have our “go-to” employee. And yes, we work them more than others, but the real questions are: Is it okay to overwork them? And what affects does it have on the rest of the organization? As with most questions, the answers are “it depends” for both.

Is it okay? Yes, it is ok. There are many tasks you need to have completed, and you need to have people you can trust to do good work and do it quickly. The more people you have that you can put into this category the better. It usually isn’t many, and sometimes it is zero. The key to expecting more of these high performers is to communicate with them. Let them know they are one of the top performers and you need them to understand why you will be asking more of them than others. They need to understand the upside to doing more work.

In my experience, people are fine with doing more work if they know they are appreciated. It’s great to know you are a top performing and is very motivating, the problem becomes when they see they are doing more work but are not getting the appreciation. It is important to reward people in ways they responsive. Take time to understand who these people are and what they want in life and their career.

In addition to communicating with them about the additional work, it is also vital to ensure you don’t get carried away. If every project and other tasks you have go to the same person, they are going to get frustrated. No amount of praise can balance the scale of massive overwork. Additionally, others are going to notice a few things in these situations. First, others in the organization will see you are always giving your star more work and will start to believe you favor them. Second, they will not be pulling as much weight as your star worker. This can lead to boredom, which will only exacerbate the problems they already have with you favoring this one employee. Finally, because of the above, you will be ineffective as a leader and manager. People will disengage if they are not already and it will take months, if not years, to get them to trust you again.

If this is happening to you, its time to have a conversation with your boss or supervisor and let them know you love being valued and given the additional responsibility and trust, but that it is harmful to the team. If your boss isn’t receptive to this type of feedback, try a group approach or get another supervisor to try to talk to them. The consequences of doing nothing will be devastating to the team!

Stubborn Leaders Murder Culture *Even When They Make the Right Decisions*

Try changing someone’s mind. Even trying with a trivial matter, is formidable. Now try changing your boss’s mind. Add in the authority, experience, and most likely an emotional connection to a process or product and the task becomes virtually impossible. Even in the face of substantial evidence, hard data, and consensus among the rest of the team many leaders still fail to change their minds. If you need examples of what this looks like take a look at television shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, The Profit with Marcus Lemonis, or Shark Tank. These shows are filled with owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs that can’t look objectively at anything to make the right decision. People can be so determined to stick with how they want things to be that they will literally go out of business because of it.

   Except when a CEO is making decisions, large organizations absorb the adverse effects of stubborn leaders. They are usually less evident, and without that instant negative feedback a poor business decision will normally come with, like a decrease in sales. Many of these people are good people trying to do the best they can. It is tough for experienced and high-level people to admit they don’t know everything. And often, this approach is based on their ambition to promote or succeed. They will try to limit risk. I covered this topic in an article HERE. Essentially, being stubborn destroys any positive culture there may be in the organization. It replaces it with a culture of mistrust, low energy, high employee turnover rate, low morale, and most of all frustration. Even when these leaders are making the right decisions, if they aren’t listening and adjusting to input from their people, the same frustrations occur.

   Unfortunately, the only real solution for the people who work for one of these leaders is to try to stay positive, know your worth and don’t give up. Don’t go in full force and try to change their minds; this will only cement their opinion. Instead take a softer approach, give them your opinion, and then move on.

   If you are a leader, you must take the time to self-reflect and ask yourself if you are stubborn. Be honest with yourself and use real-life examples to support both sides of the argument. Try a round of 360-degree feedback if you are struggling with self-reflection. It is not easy to admit you are not good at something but there are few things more important than trying to be the best for your people. The best thing to try is to purposefully incorporate ideas from your team into your decision-making and make sure you give them credit. Even at the cost of some productivity or sales. It will be worth it in the long run.

Supervision 101

My first day as a supervisor sucked! I let several employees go home early even though there were still a few hours left to go on the shift. I was very excited to be able to make the decision and take responsibility for my decisions. I felt powerful and important. I wanted my employees to like me and think I was an excellent supervisor for letting them go home. With about two hours left before the shift ended, two airplanes were having mechanical issues in flight and had to make an emergency landing at my location. I did not even have close to enough people to work the airplanes. I had to go around the organization and beg for help. It was a very humbling experience. When my manager found out, his only comment was, “I guess you won’t do that again.”

One of the first and most significant transitions an employee makes is the transition from worker to supervisor. In my example, I made a bad decision; it wasn’t because I was a bad supervisor, it was because I didn’t have experience and I was trying to impress my subordinates. There were a few lessons I learned that day. First, you have to have some foresight and plan for some likely possibilities. Second, doing the right thing is always the right thing. Doing what you think your people want is not always going to be the right thing. Lastly, making mistakes are awesome when you learn something from them.

Once you are a supervisor you will notice that your standards are the standards that your workers will achieve. The cut corners you allow and the broken rules you allow will determine your ability to lead the team. If you have low standards, that is where they will work. The key is to have high standards. They can’t be so high as to be unreasonable, but they must he high enough that is takes real effort and practice to achieve them. Every team I was ever a part of that was happy and productive was lead by a supervisor that had high standards.

The last tip and I think most important one is to change your focus from technical ability to focus on your people. Be great to your people. If you are a server in a restaurant and you get promoted to supervise the servers, you are faced with an almost endless stream of problems. Some will be about the work, but many will be about interpersonal relationships, teambuilding, team performance, personal performance, morale, and the list goes on and on. Personal lives will always bleed over into professional lives. So treat people like they matter. Give them the training and skills they need and be genuinely concerned for their well-being and you will be much better than many supervisors leading people today!