Tag Archives: delegation

A Framework for Leading Strategically

You’ve probably spent some time over the past few months creating your business plan to map out the actions necessary to achieve the organizational strategic plan. Planning is an important component of achieving organizational goals. You have to know where you want to go in order to make it happen. But many leaders struggle to put their plan into action and actually achieve the results identified in their business plans. So how do you dust off your well-crafted plan and actually put it into action?

Many leaders confuse being busy with being productive. They get so caught up in the day to day activities, and can’t seem to find time to focus on strategic initiatives and make any traction. The cycle continues, and they feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and unsure of how to get their team into action.

In order to achieve exceptional results, you need to create clarity for yourself and your team, and you need a framework for implementation.

One of the main reasons leaders don’t achieve their business plan objectives is a lack of clarity. They come up with the ideas, but fail to translate them into specific actions and delegate them appropriately. They may have created a solid business plan, but they struggle to get their staff to achieve the goals. Often this is because they haven’t taken the time to share the plan with their staff, and neglect to develop a system to ensure the objectives are accomplished throughout the year.

Yet with a simple framework, you can set yourself up to work smarter and more purposeful this year. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to align your team around the business objectives and create success. By following the practices below, you can develop a simple framework in under one hour that will ensure you stay focused on what’s important and lead your team to a successful year.

  • Schedule one strategic meeting a month. In his book, Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni suggests a framework for meetings: quarterly off-site, monthly strategic, weekly tactical, and daily check-in. This ensures your team has scheduled time for both strategic and operational discussions, and allows you to assess your progress often. Most leaders focus on tactical meetings and get bogged down in details and issues. A monthly strategic meeting will ensure you and your team are pulling back to see the bigger picture and keeping sight of the overall goals. This meeting is focused on discussing, analyzing, brainstorming and deciding on critical issues that affect long term success. Open your calendar now and schedule one monthly strategy meeting with your team through the end of the year.
  • Communicate the plan. It may sound obvious, but many leaders fail to communicate the business plan for their functional area with their managers or employees. Neglecting this step sends our staff into different directions with little clarity or understanding of what they should really be working on. It’s easy to just keep the status quo and continue to get mediocre results when your team isn’t crystal clear about how they should be spending their time. Start by scheduling a meeting to kick off the year with clarity and excitement as you share the vision, business goals, and projects with your managers and staff. Explain why you are focusing on these goals this year, and how it will benefit them and the organization.
  • Schedule important events and appointments now. Most leaders allow their days to be filled up by meetings, interruptions, emergencies, and distractions, and never seem to find time for the important areas of leadership like coaching employees, attending industry events, and personal development activities. Effective leaders make these important actions a priority, and schedule them in their calendar at the beginning of the year. In order for you to reach your business goals, you need to ensure you are supporting, coaching, and guiding your employees along the way. Don’t push coaching sessions aside because you don’t think you have time. Coaching and developing employees is important for them and important for you. Coaching increases productivity, engagement, and success for employees, which translates into leadership success for you. Schedule recurring sessions in your calendar now for the rest of the year with each of your direct reports before your schedule fills up. Other important events to schedule now include conferences, professional development workshops, and even vacations.
  • Create a delegation list. One of the most important skills of leadership is effective delegation. When you delegate, you free up your time to focus on more strategic projects and issues, and you empower your employee to take ownership of the project or process. You cannot possibly complete everything in your business plan by yourself. In order to achieve your business objectives, you need other people to support your efforts. Start by reviewing your annual business plan and making a list of each project or task you can delegate, who you will delegate it to, and the timeframe for completion. In your next coaching session with each employee, delegate the projects or tasks. Be sure to explain the “Why-What-When”, Why you need it (what strategic goal it ties to and the importance of that goal), What you need (providing any important instructions, parameters, and background information), and by When (the deadline). Establish the appropriate check-in process to ensure you are kept in the loop.

What is easy to do is also easy not to do. While these practices are simple, most leaders don’t take the time to be purposeful and end up managing at a tactical level, not leading at a strategic level. A small amount of effort can lead to much better results. If you want to be an exceptional leader and achieve your business goals this year, you need to operate at a strategic level. Take one hour to implement these four practices, and you will have a system in place to lead you to success.

I’d love to hear from you: What practices do you have in place to ensure your team achieves the business goals? Share your tips in the comments below.

4 Signs You Should Not Be a Leader

When I was first promoted to a leadership role, I had no idea what was in store for me. I thought my job was to give instructions and answer questions. Little did I know that there was a lot more required to be a successful leader. It took some time for me to understand what skills were important to be an exceptional leader. I believe many people have this experience; they are promoted to a leadership role without fully understanding the expectations of what it takes to be successful. Can you relate?

Whether you are currently in a leadership role, or you aspire to a leadership position one day, here are four signs that you should not be a leader:

  • You prefer to work alone. The very essence of leadership is about inspiring others to bring out their best and achieve goals. This requires consistent coaching, supporting, and recognizing employees. Exceptional leaders don’t see these as duties they somehow have to fit in. They see them as a responsibility to foster the potential in each employee and the team. They realize that spending time with their people is a great investment toward mutual success. It’s okay to prefer to work alone, but that probably means you shouldn’t be a leader. Cultivating relationships is the foundation of inspiring people to make their best contribution.
  • You avoid confrontation. Most people don’t like confrontation, but leaders need to be willing to put those feelings aside and have the necessary difficult conversations. There is a universal truth in leadership: people will not always meet expectations and things will not always go as planned. As a leader, you will often need to approach uncomfortable situations with your employees, your peers, and even your boss. Exceptional leaders don’t avoid these conversations, they see them as a necessary responsibility for working through issues and moving things forward.
  • You prefer doing technical work. One of the biggest challenges that holds leaders back from being successful is the inability to delegate. Many leaders who were once superstars in a sole contributor role have a hard time not putting their technical expertise to use every day. Yet this can be precisely the reason a leader is not successful. The competencies for a leadership role are very different from a technical role. Leadership is about getting results through people, not by yourself. So if you prefer doing technical work, that’s a good sign that you should remain in a technical role where you can shine.
  • You think the people side of the business is “too soft”. Two important elements of successful leadership are getting results and fostering positivity. You cannot have a successful team if you don’t have both of these elements. If you think employee engagement is something that is not worth your time and effort, you should not be a leader. Engagement leads to higher productivity, which leads to results. Exceptional leaders spend most of their time coaching, appreciating, supporting and developing their employees. If this “softer” side of the business is not appealing to you, you should not be a leader.

Leadership is not the best career path for everyone. In our organizations, we need to make it okay for people to opt out of being a leader. We shouldn’t just want anyone in leadership. We need people in leadership roles who are willing and capable of serving others and focusing a lot of time and effort on the development of their people. We need people in leadership roles who understand the importance of delegation, coaching, and recognizing employees. And we need to stop promoting the superstars to leadership roles because we think it’s the next natural step. It’s not the best next step for everyone.

It’s okay if you want to spend most of your time working alone and focusing on your technical expertise. And it’s a good sign you should not be a leader.

What do you think? Should being promoted to a leader be the next step for an employee who performs exceptionally in a technical role? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

My Confession…

I have a confession to make: I struggle with delegation. My mind is often in overdrive, and stopping to ask for help is not one of my strong points. A couple of months ago, I came to a breaking point. I was printing out materials for a leadership program, and the ink in my printer ran out. I didn’t have another cartridge, and I had to run to Staples in the middle of the day to buy more ink. In that moment, I thought of the all the important things I needed to be doing, and it was not buying ink.

My business has been growing, and I was wearing many hats as a business owner: coach, consultant, accountant, marketer, and administrative assistant. I was becoming so bogged down in the details, that I wasn’t able to focus as much on the strategic side of my business. I realized I could not reach the next level in my business if I didn’t learn to work smarter and focus on the most important areas. I decided to hire an assistant, and I’m already seeing an increase in my productivity and a decrease in my stress level. I see her as the backbone of my business; she takes care of very important things behind the scenes so that I can focus on what I do best.

Most of us know we should delegate more. We may be very busy every day, but most people aren’t very productive. And on some level, we become addicted to the busy feeling because it makes us feel we are getting something done; even if it’s not the best use of our time.

 

Here are two strategies that helped me “train” myself to delegate more:

 

Envision leading at a higher level. Take just 15-30 minutes to think about what your leadership would look like if you were operating at the optimum level in your position. For me, I envisioned a clean, organized office, systems in place to run my business (like an accounting system), having more space in my calendar for creative time, being proactive in marketing my programs, an updated and refreshed website, developing new programs, and consistently sending resources to my clients. I realized many of these things I don’t have to do myself (accounting system), and having someone else do them would allow me the time and mental energy to focus on the other areas (developing new programs, sending resources to clients). This motivated me to want to delegate.

Keep a log. Throughout your day, keep a running list of things you are doing that are not the best use of your time. At the end of the day, determine which of these tasks can be delegated to someone else and write that person’s name next to the task. After one week of logging, set up a meeting with your team or the individual to teach them how to handle the tasks (and in many cases, no teaching is involved; it’s more about letting go). Here is a partial list of my items: filing, invoicing, bookkeeping, registering for conferences/events, contacting a vendor for information, ordering supplies, and updating my website.

A trait of highly successful leaders is the ability to focus on key areas and delegate lower level tasks. It is a core leadership skill, and often determines if a leader will move toward success or derailment. Just remember: you can have it all, but you can’t do it all.

Where You Should Spend 80% of Your Time

Have you ever left the office at the end of the day, knowing you worked really hard, but unable to pinpoint what you really accomplished? I used to have many days like this; days where I was really busy, but I wasn’t able to find the time to work on the most important areas that would make the biggest impact in my role as a human resources executive.

There is one exercise you can do that will dramatically change your leadership and how you work. If you do this exercise, you will become massively more productive and save so much time in your day, that you will be able to really focus on the areas that are important in your role as a leader.

The exercise is to define your key result areas. The key result areas of a position are the three to five main results that you must accomplish to perform the job successfully and make the maximum contribution.   It’s the value the position brings to the organization; the reasons why the position was created. The key result areas can’t be delegated (although you may delegate tasks or duties that support your key result areas) or outsourced. Defining your key result areas gives you clarity around what you should be doing so that you can focus, be highly productive, and make the most impact in your role.

Most leaders struggle to be productive and get results because they are very vague about what they should be doing on a daily basis. They spend most days being reactive and putting out fires. Defining your key result areas identifies the most important areas you should be working on; where you should be spending at least 80% of your time.  

Here is an example of possible key result areas for a human resources executive:

1. Create a strategy to develop and maintain an exceptional work culture that engages employees

2. Coach and develop the human resources employees to be successful in their jobs and reach their highest potential

3. Create a strategy for developing the organization’s leaders into highly effective, engaging and successful leaders

4. Create a talent strategy to attract and retain the most exceptional employees in the metro area

Your key result areas may be different based on the size of your organization and the company’s strategy. But notice they are not low level tasks that can be accomplished by staff members. Most leaders spend 80% of their time on tasks and 20% of their time on key result areas. To be an effective, successful leader, you must spend 80% of your time on key result areas.  

What are your key result areas? Set aside a half hour to get clear on your key result areas and then evaluate how you are currently spending your time. Delegate or outsource the tactical areas that can be handled by someone else. If you find yourself saying, “I am the only one who can do this task,” then develop a staff member to handle it. Remember that delegation doubles your productivity. Review your key result areas when planning your month, week and day, and you will become much more productive, effective leader.