Archive for December 2008

The Rules of Delegation

December 29, 2008

In recent weeks, I’ve devoted a number of posts to the hiring and development of leaders within an organization. Fundamental to your success will be your ability to delegate effectively and the degree to which you teach others when they should delegate.

If you want to be a successful manager, you will have to give up the belief that you can do everything yourself. Learning to delegate is difficult for many managers. Sometimes this is because we don’t have confidence in those working for us or we wonder if they can do as good a job as we would. Sometimes our own lack of self confidence kicks in or we are averse to taking the risk that a failure might occur.

When done properly, the benefits of good delegation are significant. It will allow you to devote your energies to more appropriate matters, develop your people, motivate your staff, and grow your succession pipeline.

These are the circumstances when one should consider delegating.

  • When there is a lot of work to be done in a limited amount of time
  • When you feel someone has particular qualifications appropriate to the task
  • When someone expresses strong interest in the task
  • When you think that a person might benefit from the responsibility.

There are also situations when you should not delegate.

  • When the task is typically part of your specific responsibilities, except in emergencies
  • When it is something you would not be willing to do
  • When the task is not suited to the person’s capabilities (This would be guaranteeing failure.)

In our next post, we’ll present specific guidelines that will allow you to delegate effectively.

A Gift for the Holidays…

December 24, 2008

Without a doubt, we are experiencing one of the most painful economic periods within the last fifty years. Far too many people have lost jobs and it is still uncertain that we have reached the low point in this ever-widening crisis.

Yet, as the holidays roll around, I find that I am becoming much more optimistic about the opportunities that I believe will soon appear. There a few reasons why I feel this way.

First, I believe that we are developing a new understanding of our connection to one another. I see more and more people delivering encouragement to their neighbors and looking for ways by which they can strengthen one another.

Sometimes, it shows up in small ways. Here’s one.

This past weekend, my community experienced a very heavy snowfall. A year ago, you would have seen each homeowner shoveling his or her own homes.

This year, it’s been different.

Me and women, young and old were working together to shovel each other’s driveways. There was a palpable sense of we were all in this together. And everyone seemed to appreciate this sense of teamwork.

The second reason that I am optimistic is because I think that after all of the bailouts and the scandals and the anger for the lies and greed, Americans want to believe and trust again.

Much has been said and written this election year about the desire for change. But I sense that it is more than change for its own sake that people want. People want integrity and honesty.  They want transparent governance and leadership. They want an end to the philosophy of looking out for number one. They are recognizing if I am only for myself, then who am I.

People want to believe again. And they want to trust their government, their community and business leadership and their family and friends. They want to experience and demonstrate moral courage.

What all this might augur is a shift in what we value and how we view each other. We are learning that our business leaders are not worth admiring if they are judged by how much they earn. Rather they should be judged by their practices and the way they have earned their fortunes.

Character matters.

And indeed, learning this lesson seems like a pretty good gift for the holidays.

Happy holidays to all.

What I’m Telling My Clients – Part 2 (or how they can create their own economic stimulus package)

December 23, 2008

So what would a client referral meeting look like?  Here’s one possibility.

The underlying context to this meeting is the recognition that the greatest challenge that any business owner faces, particularly in these challenging economic times is to drive new business to the company. The second greatest challenge is to fix a problem or capitalize on an opportunity that they might see but don’t quite know how to address.

Each of these referral meetings would last an hour. Only a small number of clients, perhaps six to eight clients, would attend each meeting. Ideally, they would have complimentary businesses.

Each client would  discuss

  • What values his or her company provides,
  • Its ideal client and
  • A particular problem or opportunity that it is facing.

The idea is to try to get each a client new business via referral or find them a company that can help them meet a pressing need or opportunity.

That’s the whole agenda.

The only thing that is required is that each company approach the meeting with a mindset to offer a warm referral to any of the companies represented in the room. By doing so, this gathering of leadership would create more growth and value.

And each company will get more business and / or be able to grow its business more effectively.

What I’m Telling My Clients – Part 2 (or how they can create their own economic stimulus package)

December 18, 2008

As the bailouts and their discussions whirl about us and as the list of companies laying off or employees or shutting down operations grows longer and longer, I began to wonder if there wasn’t a small business version of an economic stimulus package that could be implemented.

And if there was a version of economic an economic stimulus package for small businesses, who could and would provide it?

It appears to me that there is such a “package” out there and the ones that can provide it may be small business themselves.

Arguably the greatest challenge that any business owner confronts, particularly in these testing economic times, is to drive new business to his or her company. Fundamentally speaking, as it always has been, the key to long term growth is to “grow the pie” and attract more business. Provide more appropriate services that make a difference and you will earn more business and a greater share of the customer’s wallet.

Many companies provide services to organizations and businesses that are in related fields. Others provide services to companies in a wide range of industries. What if, each company leveraged its customer list to grow their clients’ businesses?

Imagine, if you will, a meeting of six or seven of your clients who work in one industry but provide different services within that industry. More than likely, each of these clients knows other companies within the particular industry. Because each of these companies is your clients, you are related to them and a reservoir of trust has been established.

Suppose next that each one of your clients attending this meeting was asked to participate with the intention of referring one of its customers to one of the businesses represented in the meeting. The economic impact of these referrals would be profound.

Referring clients to one another would create a reciprocal relationship built on real economic value. Additionally, in effect, because your business would be in the upper parts of the minds of your clients, the number of people selling and promoting your value and services would grow geometrically as the trust that you have demonstrated in them would be returned in their discussions with their clients.

In a short time, you might discover that you have an army of salespeople selling your value.

In the next post, we’ll take a look at the structure of such a meeting and how to make it work for you.

In the meantime, please write and share some innovative ways you are growing or helping others grow their businesses.

Making your leadership team successful

December 12, 2008

Here are two questions worth considering.

  • Who is most responsible for the success of your leadership?

The success of each level of leadership is heavily influenced by the monitoring, measuring, and coaching of the leaders directly above it. If you want to increase the likelihood of success within your pipeline, it is incumbent on you to dedicate your leadership to this process.

  • What influences the likelihood that your people will execute successfully?

It should be clear that one of the core success factors is to have a team of leaders with the proper skills, focus, and values.

Still, even by applying this process, you may never be completely successful. In some organizations, professionals will not readily accept people if they don’t have credentials in the field so your choices are limited. In these cases, we have no way of knowing how the person will respond to the tensions, frustrations, and relationships of staff work.

When an executive places a person in the wrong job, s/he must correct it. Not removing them is a false kindness because in the short and long term it is cruel to the individual, the direct reports, and the company to keep that person in that role. But there is also no reason to let that person go. The appropriate course of action, and with planning this is often accomplished, is to return that person to the old job or an equivalent position.

Sometimes, the position itself is the reason for the lack of success. When a ship would have several fatal accidents, it earned the moniker “widow-maker.” The owners would not keep sending out the ship – instead they would break it up. Whenever a job defeats two people in a row and these people in their earlier assignments had performed well, a company has a widow-maker on its hands. . The executive should consider abolishing the job because it may not be doable.

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action – Part 2

December 9, 2008

Let’s continue on our path to growing our leader. When our leader moves to this next level, he or she has become removed from communicating with the individual contributor.

From Managing Others to Functional Manager
Skill Requirements
  • New communication skills must be developed to reach all levels.
  • Understand and manage areas outside of one’s own work experiences.
  • Illustrate the maturity to take other functional concerns into consideration.
  • Become proficient at functional strategy and the ability to blend that strategy with the overall business strategy.
Time Applications Participate in business team meetings and work with other functional managers. Team play with other functional managers and management of competing resources is vital. Limit the focus on functional matters. Delegate functional responsibilities to direct reports.
Work Values Shift here is from talking to listening to not only direct reports but customers, vendors and industry analysts so that more facts and perspectives may be gathered. Adopt a broad, long-term perspective (three years). Focus is on pushing the technical, professional and operational envelope, looking for sustainable competitive advantage rather than immediate but temporary edge. Understand the relationship between the function and other functions as well as the overall corporate strategy. Appreciate the work that is outside one’s own experiences.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Favoring and concentrating on areas where the individual is most comfortable, thereby undervaluing the unknown.
  • Failure to make the transition from an operational-project orientation to a strategic one (e.g. more focused on short term, demonstrates a poor sense of how the business operates.)
  • Immaturity as a leader-manager (e.g. lack of a control or measurement system, need to control everything, doesn’t trust others especially subordinates in unfamiliar areas, isolates himself except for a few direct reports where he or she has relationships).
Management’s Role in this Transition Place these managers on task forces, teams and committees of managers from different functions or with different backgrounds, skills and experiences. This will allow them to learn about new areas of work, develop new relationships with people who use different skills and methods.

Create meeting opportunities with other functional managers to discuss how they can work better together and what other opportunities exist for synergies.

Watch for development of and reinforce traits of maturity such as humility (aware that others may know more about something), delegation, communication and strong information flows within their organization.

By now you have probably noted that the common theme is that the skills in each of these passages are not the ones that you will use to become effective at the next level.

Let’s see if this trend continues.

From Functional Manager to Business Manager
Skill Requirements
  • Significant increase in autonomy, unfamiliarity and complexity at this level with a clear link between efforts and marketplace results.
  • Where he or she had to understand different functions before, he or she must now rely and integrate the functions and their leadership.
  • Balance future goals and present needs and make appropriate trade-offs.
  • The issue is no longer can we do something technically but rather will we make any money at this and is this profitability sustainable.
  • Become skilled at working with a wide variety of people and become sensitive to diverse functional issues.
Time Applications Shift from doing time to thinking time.
Work Values Learn to trust, accept advice and receive feedback from all functional managers even though they may never have experienced these functions personally.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Uninspired communications that doesn’t allow them to get their message across. This is because they are used to motivating a group of functional people who shared a particular “language” and now must address groups with different “languages”.
  • Inability to assemble a strong team of direct reports
  • Failure to grasp how the business can make money. This manifests itself in the failure to develop expense reduction or profit building programs. .
  • Problems with time management particularly in working upward, with direct reports and customers.
  • Neglecting the soft issues such as culture, feedback or organizational belief systems.
Management’s Role in this Transition Help business managers to learn to value all functions and assemble and rely on a strong team of direct reports. Encourage the business manager to spend time with each of his functional mangers to learn. Have them set goals which can serve as early warning systems of problems. Suggest that the business manager take an appropriate functional manager on trips to become more attuned to the marketplace.

Our next post will address two critical questions:

  1. Who is most responsible for the success of your leadership?
  2. What influences the likelihood that your people will execute successfully?

The Leadership Pipeline Model in Action

December 4, 2008

The “Leadership Pipeline” model can be scaled for small and large companies and includes six major leadership passages.  For example, in a small company of less than twenty people, the only real passage is a variation on the first one, Managing Self to Managing Others. The owner usually moves from individual contributor to managing others. It is only once you begin to hire others that these passages of leadership start to occur.

In the small business version of this model, the work within the group and enterprise levels is done by the Business Manager. The Functional Manager and Manager of Others levels are combined so there are really only four levels to address.

The small business model looks like this.

Level 1: Manage Self

Level 2: Manage Others

Level 3: Functional Manager

Level 4: Business Manager

Let’s take apart a couple of the levels and see how we can help our people become better leaders.

When one is effective at the “managing self” level, one’s skill requirements are primarily technical or professional. One contributes by doing the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives. From a time application standpoint, the learning involves planning (so the work is completed on time), punctuality, content, quality, and reliability. The work values to be developed include acceptance of the company culture and adopting professional standards. When people demonstrate an ability to handle these responsibilities and adhere to the company’s values, they are often promoted to first-line manager.

Managing Self
Skill Requirements Do the assigned work within given time frames and in ways that meet objectives
Time applications Plan so work is completed on time, be punctual, deliver quality content and be reliable
Work Values Accept the company’s culture and adopt professional standards

This high performer is now ready for the first leadership stage. Let’s see what s/he needs to do to become effective in her/his new role.

From Managing Self to Managing Others
Skill Requirements Plan work, fill jobs, assign work, motivate, coach and measure the work of others. There are some individual contributions to the work product.
Time Applications Reallocate time so that one’s own work is completed and help others perform effectively. Set priorities for unit and team. Stop putting out fires, seizing opportunities and handling tasks themselves.
Work Values Delegate and get results through others. Value managerial work (rather than tolerating it) and the success of others. The passage begins a shift toward a great emphasis on planning.
Signs this Level Has Not Been Mastered
  • Views questions from his or her people as interruptions
  • Fixes their mistakes rather than teaching them to do the work properly
  • Refuses to take ownership of the success of his or her people, distancing himself or herself from their problems and failures.
Management’s Role in this Transition Create measures so that these performers make the transition effectively. Survey the direct reports to get feedback. Intervene and coach extensively when problems are observed. . Reinforce the need to shift beliefs and guide the leader in becoming effective using the new skills that are required.

As you can see, to be successful at managing others, our manager will have to shift from many of the things that made him or her successful when he was accountable for only his work. There must be a shift from “doing work” to getting work done through others.

In our next post, we’ll look at the remaining levels of the small business model outlined in Ram Charan’s and Stephen Drotter’s book, The Leadership Pipeline.


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