Gain more by giving away

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“I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I have too many priorities fighting for my attention.”

Sound familiar?

In times where we are expected to do more with less and where immediate isn’t fast enough, we’ve all felt that way.

It’s worse when we think we must do it all ourselves.

That kind of thinking will make you less effective.  We all have the same amount of time in a given day.  There is only so much you can do, and while you can always do a little more, studies show diminishing returns for each extra hour worked; less time sleeping leads to increased mistakes and negative affects on health.

What is the solution?  Delegation.

The Oxford Dictionary defines delegate as entrusting a responsibility to another person.

There are several benefits to learning the art of delegation.  First of all, it allows you to have more time to do those things that only you can do.

Secondly, it helps you develop employees.  To effectively delegate, you have to clearly define the task, communicate the objectives, and explain its importance.  This gives the employee insight on the business they may not otherwise have.

Delegation also allows an employee to demonstrate skills you weren’t aware they had or to develop skills necessary for them to advance in their career.  Delegation is a key component of investing in your high-potential employees.

Delegation allows you to focus on what is most important for your business.  Effective leaders don’t allow their time and effort to be consumed by things than can be handled by others.  The more senior your role, the less time you spend “doing” and more time thinking and communicating.

By delegating, you maximize your efforts on those things that only you can and must do.  At the same time, you are building a stronger team, demonstrating trust, and teaching skills by allowing them to try new things.  Your company benefits because you are creating an environment where everyone is challenged and to put their skills to their highest and best use.

Stop trying to do it all yourself.  You’ll get more done by giving tasks away.

Are you limiting your team’s success?

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If you are a business owner or leader of a team, repeat after me: “It’s all my fault.”

Wait, what? Yes, the buck stops with you. You are ultimately responsible for your team’s success.

Let’s assume that you have hired a great team. Bright “go-getters” who want nothing more than to be part of a winning team. To succeed in their chosen career. To make a difference. But…

Maybe it seems all you do is put out fires. Maybe the smiles are gone from your employees’ faces. Maybe they are checking out internet job boards for new challenges. Maybe your customers are looking for greener pastures. These are just some of the signs that you haven’t set your team up for success.

Sure, they receive a fair salary in exchange for their efforts, they have good benefits, and they like the casual dress code and the free snacks in the break room, but you haven’t given them the tools they need for success. So what is missing?

Clear goals and consistent feedback.

They need a clear challenge. What are your goals for the year? If your team can’t immediately tell you what they are trying to accomplish for the year, then your chances of success are almost nil. Tell them! Be specific.

Let your team know if they are winning. Once you’ve spelled out the goals, make sure your team knows the score. They really want to win, and the only way to know if they are is to see the results compared to the goal. So tell them! If they are winning, take time to celebrate the success or milestones along the way. Making your goals should be fun.

Hold people accountable. Few things will frustrate team members than someone else who isn’t pulling their weight. That individual will drag an entire team down. When people make mistakes or simply aren’t doing what is expected of them, it is your job as the leader to hold them accountable. Your team expects nothing less – after all, that’s your job as a leader.

The three factors above can do wonders for a group. Consistently ensuring those three activities are performed is the foundation of leadership and will move your team toward hitting your goals.

But that’s not all. There are a couple of other responsibilities your team expects from you. And they aren’t always easy.

Remove people who aren’t working out. As hard as you might try, not every hire is a home run. Some just don’t work out despite all your efforts. Your team knows it, too. If someone isn’t a good fit for the team, whether is it a mismatch of values and culture, missing skills, or anything else, keeping that individual does not help the team and in fact hurts them. It’s your job to make the tough call for the good of the team.

Be open to feedback. Your team has ideas that need to be heard. They do the work day in and day out and have insight on what’s working and what isn’t. Let them tell you so you can benefit from their experience. At the same time, you both must understand that not all good ideas can be implemented. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, once said that “We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number, so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose, so that we can deliver the best products in the world.”

Your team’s success or lack thereof is ultimately your responsibility. They need clear direction, focus, and feedback, and you have to remove the roadblocks. Doing your job by equipping your team makes your team’s job much easier.

Your business is growing….why don’t you feel like you are winning?

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Your business is growing. You’ve got a great product or service, you know your customers, and you’ve assembled a stellar team. But something has changed. Profitability has slipped, tasks take longer to complete than they should, or your team is frustrated. What’s going on?

You are a victim of your own success. Every business owner goes through it. It is part of the maturation process for any business.

What are some of the reasons you’ve gotten here?

You need to quantify your sales pipeline. Are you investing time in customers or entire market segments that aren’t profitable? Are the wrong types of opportunities taking away resources from more valuable opportunities?

Your systems haven’t kept up with your growth. Systems can be tools, processes, and software. As your business grows – in volume, the number and type of offerings, or complexity – you need to re-evaluate how your team executes the critical business tasks required to meet your customers’ needs and make changes as necessary.

Your team is confused or out of alignment. You’ve added people and maybe even entire departments. Valuable, productive employees who once had their hands in all aspects of the business aren’t sure who does what any more. Efforts are duplicated or worse, missed completely. Everyone is working toward different goals. The company culture you’ve built begins to change.

The bottom line is you are fighting fires. The cost of fighting fires manifests itself when you don’t have time to cast your vision for the company or nurture the company culture. You and your team are busy, but your aren’t effective or productive.

Growing companies will go through challenging periods or even seem to stall. It’s a natural part of the process. The key is to make sure you evaluate the root cause and understand the reason(s) why and take decisive corrective action.

Leaders lead…people

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Leaders of all kinds – from CEOs to department managers to Little League coaches, in businesses, non-profits, and volunteer organizations – take on responsibilities that not everyone wants.  Most leaders step into those roles because they feel called to lead.  It’s their duty.  Yes, the recognition and financial rewards may be desirable, but those rewards are not enough to keep a leader motivated.  It’s their calling, their contribution to the organization or the community, and leaders don’t shirk their responsibilities. 

Leaders are called to do many things. They create a vision for the organization.  They develop strategies to achieve goals.  They inspire the team when the chips are down.  They take responsibility when things go wrong.  And they do things too numerous to mention that don’t even get noticed. 

When leaders are engaged in the day to day and doing their best to fulfill their role to the organization, there is on thing they can’t forget:  they don’t lead a business (or department, or club), they lead people. 

What’s the difference?  Only people can follow you.  A leader has followers:  people who believe in the vision and direction of their leader.  Systems, processes, buildings, and ideas are tools of the leaders and followers; they are useless without team members to use them to go where their leader is taking them.

In the midst of the whirlwind, leaders must not forget the people they lead.  They won’t be successful without them.  How can a leader make sure he or she doesn’t forget the people they lead?

Be visible.  Schedule time to be in the office.  Let the team see you and know you are engaged.  People want to talk to the people who are leading them.  Despite all the great advances in technology, talking to someone in person has a profound impact.

Get to know people.  In a large organization, it may be impossible to know everyone on the team but spending time with some individuals up and down the org chart will reap benefits throughout the organization.  Spend time talking to people as you walk around, in the break room, or at lunch.  It doesn’t need to be something about work either.  Learn something about them and their families.  Work is only one aspect of their lives.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  A leader must keep the team informed.  Are we making progress?  Are we reaching our goals?  Do we need to change?  What dangers do we face?  Make checking in with your team a regular part of your schedule. 

Listen.  Listen more than you talk. Your team has a lot of knowledge from their position on the front lines.  They see problems and have answers the leader may not have insight into.  Your decisions have a real impact on real people and sometimes they just want to know you care. 

Anyone who considers themselves a leader needs to look around everyone once in a while and make sure people are still following them.