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The only way to get something done is to do it myself!

If you can’t manage yourself, your time and your priorities, how can you manage others?

If you find yourself always in crisis mode, the only way to get out of it is to develop a better leadership team so that they can handle the issues. You need to learn to delegate in the right manner, and have the right people to delegate to.

A key task for every manager is to develop their successor. Otherwise, how can any manager move on to a greater role and take on new responsibilities? I’ve seen too many people employ candidates who will not threaten their role. Their insecurity reigns and distorts the fundamental task of delegation.

A successful leader strives to employ people who are smarter than them, or at least show promise to be so. We tend to accept 70 per cent performance from our employees, because it’s too hard to either mentor or remove them. Low performance makes it difficult to delegate and results in an overwhelming amount of work for the leader.

A few years ago a member brought an issue to my TEC group lamenting just this situation – his staff didn’t seem to ever get things right or take responsibility, he doubted their competence and he had to do everything himself.

The group suggested he start hiring better people who had demonstrated capability. To do so, he would have to pay well over the price he was currently paying staff. It was a relatively small company, and to hire the right candidate meant paying them more than he paid himself.

Encouraged by the TEC group, he took the plunge. Five years on, it has proved to be one of the smartest decisions he has made.  With total confidence in his manager, the member has been freed up from day to day operational issues to go out and do what he should be doing – creating a future for the business.

Training your people to come to the table with solutions when they have an issue is fundamental in successful delegating. When I hear a leader complaining that he/she is constantly interrupted by staff, I am hearing a leader who is not delegating effectively. Even with the right people in place, if the leader doesn’t delegate responsibility, authority and accountability, they will be plagued by continuous interruptions.

[Next: Setting up a process]

Set a process in place for when a team member comes to you with an issue. Let them know they must also come to you with a number of possible solutions, and outline their preferred solution.

During the discussion, you may add further options and help the team member explore them, however the team member must decide how they’re going to solve the problem. Even if it seems the wrong decision to you, unless it’s critical to the business, let them try it and report back on the result.

This strategy will help your staff start taking responsibility for decisions and free up your time to start working ‘on the business’, rather than ‘in the business’.

A good delegation tool we use in TEC is Susan Scott’s DecisionTree, from her book Fierce Conversations.  The Decision Tree outlines a structure that assists companies in consciously developing grassroots leadership within their organisations, freeing up executives to take on more challenging responsibilities themselves.

See a quick outline of the decision tree below.

Leaf Decision Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.

Branch Decision Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly or monthly, whatever is appropriate.

Trunk Decision Make the decision. Report your decision before you take action.

Root Decision Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organisation.

For a more comprehensive insight, I advise you to hunt down a copy of the book.

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Harvey Martin

Harvey Martin

Harvey Martin is Regional Chair of Victoria for The Executive Connection (TEC), a peer-to-peer mentoring organisation that aims to create better management and leadership practices amongst its members. Harvey has held a number of CEO roles throughout his career, and consults in marketing and strategic management for a wide range of organisations including the agricultural, manufacturing, IT and service industries. Harvey can be contacted via email: Harvey@tec.com.au

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