Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Delegate, don't Abdicate

A key responsibility of any leader is to prepare for the 'next'.  That is, who on the team has the potential to be promoted into a leadership role, either as a direct replacement or somewhere else in the company.

While training and experience are important factors in this consideration, few options are better than delegating in preparing the individual for future responsibilities.  Being given the challenge to do something that normally falls in the job description of the boss affords opportunity on several fronts.
  1. It very clearly signals satisfaction on the part of the manager with his/her team member.  This is an excellent motivator under any circumstances.
  2. The team member gets introduced to more complex decision making situations while still not being fully accountable for the outcome.  This learning process also acquaints the person with the nature of the responsibilities at the next level.  This will be important when a promotion is being considered.
  3. In some situations it allows the manager to off-load duties which are not critical but which need to be done.  In delegating though, the task must be one which is building into the individual, not simply offloading an unpleasant or unrewarding responsibility.
As the leader you must delegate, not abdicate, responsibilities.  You should ensure the following:
  1. You must be perfectly clear about the expectations, including:
    •  the time frame in which the task must be completed; 
    • the scope of authority you are extending;
    • the nature of the outcome, that is, are you looking for something to be done or only a recommendation;
    • any mandatory processes that are applicable;
   2.  You must supervise without interfering.  The individual must understand that you are available to provide direction when required and that you have not simply abandoned them to succeed or fail.
    3.  Others must be aware of the scope of authority that has been granted to assure their full cooperation as it may be needed.
    4.  Finally, ensure that you provide feedback in the form of a proper verbal and/or written review of their work.  How did it measure up to expectations?  How were inter-personal skills developed?  How did the individual grow through the process?

Delegation is an important tool in employee development.  Too often, the leader is intimidated by the notion that someone else may acquire the skills necessary to replace them and thus he/she intentionally limits progress.  This is clearly illogical thinking as one will never get ahead unless and until there is a viable option to replace them.  Lead with confidence and fully equip all those with potential.  Every one gains as knowledge and capabilities are enhanced. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Equal ≠ Fair

There is an old sports cliché that says that for a team to win on a consistent basis '...the best players must be the best players...'  The clear implication is that all people are not created equal with respect to skills and abilities and that some will, naturally, be superior to the majority.  Success depends on these best players exhibiting their skills on a regular basis, perhaps not every time, but most frequently.  This recurring performance affords the highest probability for the success of the team.

The same is true in business.  We are all created equal in the eyes of the law.  But no one is going to suggest that we are equal in terms of our native intelligence, personal ambition/drive, commitment etc.  In these areas we must concede that some are superior to the majority and therefore they are in a position to contribute disproportionally to the overall corporate success. 

Once you get over this reality, it now falls to the leader to create and maintain an environment which recognizes - and even supports - the duality while simultaneously dampening both entitlement and jealousy.  Talk about walking a tightrope!

Here are a few suggestions to help manage a difficult and potentially awkward situation.

  1. Routinely acknowledge everyone's successful contribution.  While the levels of contribution will be different, it remains true that the total is still greater than the sum of the parts.  So celebrate individual successes equally.
  2. Equal does not mean fair, and fair does not mean equal.  Who said that everyone must be treated equally?  The issue really is about fairness and as long as you can justify the difference, within the corporate environment, then opt for fairness not equality.
  3. Be on guard at all times for issues of entitlement or jealousy.  These are natural human responses that can poison a work environment quickly.  For the person who starts to develop an 'entitlement disposition', seek to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.  To the jealous response, remind the individual that the opportunity for personal success typically lies more in the person than the company and that a better effort and commensurate results will lead to better and commensurate recognition.  Put the challenge where is belongs!
  4. Remember that, at the end of the day, your responsibility is to the company and not the individual.  Always to the right thing for the company...and the right thing by the individual. 
  5. Finally, always be ready to give an account for your decisions.  They must be rooted in reality, not favouritism.  Furthermore, your decisions must always be done with a view to motivate, not punish.  If your position can be confidently defended then you must do what you see to be fair.

If you have any other suggestions to add to the above, I will try to share your input in a future blog.

Have a great 2015.  Feel free to contact me if you need any assistance regarding these issues.  And if you have a topic that you would like me to write on, please send your request to me directly at


Saturday, 3 January 2015

A word, if you please...

If, in 2015, you are able to influence any of the following:
      1. The interest rates in North America
      2. Economic growth in Europe or Japan
      3. The price of oil.
      4. The Chinese economy
      5. Vladimir Putin
Stop reading now; this blog is not intended for you!

However, if you are amongst the mere mortal leaders, carry on.

There is a wonderful expression that sounds best when spoken in French.

"...Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose..."
The more things change, the more they stay the same.  For 2015,  this phrase is both appropriate and applicable.  By that I mean that the critical business principles that have created success in the past are the same ones that you will need to rely upon this year. 

As the list above reveals, the macro aspects of the world's economy are beyond our control. Therefore you must focus on those fundamentals that you can impact. 

Historically success has come to those who have excelled at these two principles.

  1. You must establish and maintain an 'emotional' connection with each of your clients.  This does not mean hugs and kisses all around. Rather, your customers must feel valued.  And they must continue to believe that the product or service that you offer truly represents great value.  At the end of the day, people vote with their wallets but price is seldom the determining factor.  In fact, most of us willingly pay more every day simply because the person / company delivering that which we seek has treated us in a manner which has made us feel as though our purchase mattered to them...we felt valued.  We made a personal decision based upon any number of tangible and intangible factors.  But in the end, we exchanged that which was in our wallet for that which we desired.  We made an emotional, albeit practical, choice.  As the leader, you must diligently identify and sustain that emotional connection.  Those who do so most often are also the ones who will be successful.
  2. You must execute your plan better and better each year.  The recommendation that you must '...say what you do; then do what you say...' has the unspoken assumption that you have identified your 'what' properly.  The implementation of your plan is obviously closely related to the first point above.  But to assume that others are not working to establish the same kinds of connections is clearly naïve and potentially fatal.  As the leader, there is never a time in which you can relax or coast on your past successes.  Some small measure of self satisfaction is fine, especially when you are acknowledging your team members' efforts. However, you have a DUTY of care to keep the team focused, alert, and engaged.  This is a daily responsibility; a contract that is renewed every time you report to work.
Leadership matters, regardless of the size of your company or your specific role within that environment.  During these times of such economic, political, and social uncertainty, it is best to hold fast to the principles that consistently deliver success.  Focus on that which you can influence (I hesitate to say control), and leave the macro issues to those who think that they know what to do. 

Take a snapshot of things as they are today and then revisit that image a few times during the year to ensure that you continue to progress towards your goal.  This should be much more than a simple financial analysis.  Make it a holistic picture that incorporates as many elements as you can.  Financial results are only a consequence of effectively responding to the intangible factors of leadership.

If any of this seems to be a mystery, seek assistance now, not mid-year or later.  Believe me, it will not cure itself.