My last article in the Leader/Manager/leader Essential Skills series identified delegation as a foundational management and leadership skill. In organizational terms it is the transfer of authority and responsibility to another. In its truest form it isn’t about empowering others. It is simply passing on tasks for others to do. I pointed out that delegation is about teamwork and conscientious intent and not off-loading tasks willynilly. This article will explore the thorny question about how much authority does the manager/leader delegate and who is ultimately held accountable.
How much authority is necessary?
How much authority do you transfer to others during the delegation process? The short answer: it depends on the capabilities of the delegatee. The more capable the delegatee, the more authority one delegates; and conversely the less capable, the less authority one delegates. To help sort this out let’s consider four levels of delegated authority with the first being the highest.
Level 1: Do it.
The “Do It” level assumes the individual has the skills and capabilities of carrying out the delegated task. Here the manager/leader genuinely passes on his authority to the individual. The manager/leader trusts the individual and is confident that she can and will carry out the assigned task. This first level is usually attributed to those who are well experienced, professional in their approach, and have consistently performed well.
Level 2: Do it and tell me later.
There is a bit of testing going at this level. The manager/leader allows the individual to complete the task but wants to know what was done and how it was done to ensure that the task was done right and that the individual gets the right result. The manager/leader is not sure the individual is fully capable of doing the job but is willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Another process is also at work here, that of experimentation and learning.
In the case of experimentation, the delegatee may complete the task and achieve the right result. However, she may not have done it in the same way that the manager/leader would have done it. “How” the person did it was different than “how” the manager/leader would have done it. That does not make it wrong. In fact, in many instances the delegatee’s “how” is often an improvement on the manger’s “how.” The manager/leader can then compliment the delegate for a job well done and in turn learn from the process herself.
Now let’s take the other situation, where the delegatee completes the task but doesn’t get the right result. In this case the “how” used may be incorrect or the individual may not be fully capable of carrying out the task. Here the manager/leader can review the process with the individual in a supportive way and together sort out the better “how.” The manager/leader moves into a coaching or mentoring role, maintains the person’s confidence and dignity, while engaging the individual in a learning process.
Level 3: Plan it but check with me before you do it.
In this case the manager/leader is not sure whether the individual can do the task. The manager/leader wants the individual to develop the skill sets to complete the task, but also wants to ensure the individual has thought through the process and expected outcome.
The approach to Level 3 is what I call “Guided Performance Development.” Engaging the individual by having her plot out “how” she intends to “achieve the result” is somewhat of a delicate process. Sometimes the task is given to the individual in advance and the manager/leader asks her to think about the task and come back to discuss it; other times it is presented with an immediate request about how the individual intends to proceed and what results she expects.
As in level 2, the manger becomes the coach. The coach does not “tell” the individual “how” to complete the task, but asks questions like: “How do you think you should proceed with this task? Why do you think this will work? How much time do you think it will take? What results do you expect?”
There should be give and take in these discussions allowing the individual to come to their own conclusions, while at the same time, giving the manager/leader an opportunity to provide guidance toward a positive outcome. Notice that the questions are open-ended and not directive. The whole exercise is about learning, improving and developing performance.
Level 4: Consult with me before you plan it.
At this level the manager/leader wants to ensure that the individual has the skills and capabilities before delegating the authority to do the job.
This is the lowest level of delegated authority, and usually occurs when a new person comes on stream. Trust between the manager/leader and the individual hasn’t solidified yet, and there is little experience about the person’s knowledge and skill capacity. Essentially the manager/leader is testing for this. The manager/leader wants to ensure the individual is clear about the task, the time lines and what is expected. The difference in this case is that the discussion takes place before any planning takes place. Depending on the learning style of the individual, the manager/leader may use a “show and tell” approach – this is how you complete this task, and this is what you can expect - or, she may use open-ended questions as identified in level 3 above.
The learning approach manager/leader uses presupposes that she has some understanding about the learning style of the individual, that is, the individual best learns from “show or tell” or from a more “indirective” approach with someone who has “self-learning” capabilities.
A manager/leader may also use level 4 with an experienced employee. Usually this is a situation which is new, complicated, untried and the manager/leader may not clearly understand how to proceed. Here the manager/leader may want to brainstorm different approaches with the individual, and then let her carry it forward. Again, learning and experimentation take place. In this case there is a high degree of trust between the manager/leader and the individual based on past performance.
“Delegation provides the perfect example of how to win the demands of getting the job done with the business of providing opportunities for learning and development. The trick is to get double mileage out of something you already have to do. (Source unknown)
What about accountability?
Ultimately the manager/leader remains accountable for the delegated task. Manager/leaders should delegate in such a way that the person feels accountable and behaves like she is accountable. However, as President Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here,” which means the buck stops with the manager/leader. If the manager/leader wants the delegatee to be fully accountable, then she needs to redesign the job description. When the manager/leader delegates, she needs to define accountability so that there is no doubt where it lies and what it covers. Here’s how:
If you are reluctant to delegate there are 11 self-evaluation statements that may give you some insight as to why you may be reluctant. Find the statements by clicking on PDF file below.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Notes: The terms leader/manager or manager/leader are used interchangeably in these articles. In the normal course of events within an organization people assigned to a management or a leadership role call upon the skills ascribed to both leader and manager. There are times when the person leads, and other times when he manages; and other times when he leads and manages at the same time. When one steps into a management position, management skills are primarily required. When the person moves into a more senior position, leadership skills come more to the fore. The focus of this series is on the “essential” or “foundational” skills required for one moving into a management or leadership role. Hence the term leader/manager or manager/leader is used.
I also try to make my articles gender neutral. However, for clarity sake I use the first-person pronoun but you can apply any gender to the article.
An Essential Manager/Leader Skills article. The term leader/manager or manager/leader is used interchangeably. In the normal course of events within an organization people assigned to a management or a leadership role call upon the skills ascribed to both leader and manager. There are times when the person leads, and other times when he manages; and other times when he leads and manages at the same time. When one steps into a management position, management skills are primarily required. When the person moves into a more senior position, leadership skills come more to the fore. The focus of this series is on the “essential” or “foundational” skills required for one moving into a management or leadership role. Hence the term leader/manager or manager/leader is used.
Delegation is an essential management and leadership skill. In organizational terms it is the transfer of authority and responsibility to another. In its truest form it isn’t about empowering others. It is simply passing on tasks for others to do. In brief, delegation is something you “do” to people, whereas empowerment is something people do for “themselves.” Empowerment is more of an intrinsic act and involves taking increasing ownership through self-actualization and initiative. We delegate tasks and the authority to do the tasks; we empower employees to take initiative to complete tasks without delegating them.
A major cause of poor time management and stress management is often a leader/manager’s unwillingness or inability to delegate responsibility to employees. Delegation allows leader/managers to: concentrate on their overall responsibilities, focus on critical opportunities, motivate others, and get the job done. Simply put it is getting the job done through the efforts of others. It’s all about developing and supporting strong teamwork.
A leader/manager has a job to do which is bigger than what she can achieve alone. Therefore, she needs to delegate it to someone on the team. Dr. Peter Honey, a well-respected Occupational Psychologist, points out in his book 101 Ways of Developing People Without Really Trying, when a leader/manager delegates she balances two important factors:
1. The responsibilities or tasks someone else completes on the leader/manager’s behalf; and
2. The authority (or powers) given to the person to carry out the responsibilities.
When the delegator focuses attention on delegating responsibilities (the first factor), there is greater potential for development of the person's skills and abilities. The first course of action for the delegator is to match the individual's capabilities with the delegated tasks. Secondly, when the delegator sees an opportunity to encourage development, she delegates responsibilities that require the person to stretch his capabilities. In this instance, the delegator needs to watch that she doesn’t put the delegated task out of reach of the person’s skill level.
The second factor means the delegator needs to 'let go' and give the individual authority to complete the job without further assistance from the delegator. This allows for authentic delegation and gives an equal blending of the two factors. Now let’s clarify the delegation process.
The Delegation Process
Delegation just doesn’t happen. It is a conscious effort on the part of a leader/manager to get work done. What I found during my coaching sessions was leader/manager uncertainty about how to delegate appropriately. For many of them they just dumped stuff onto to their employees, and others got some aspects of delegation right but lacked consistency. Here are five steps to delegation which should help clarify the process.
1. Sort out the tasks you wish to delegate and define them. Here you are seeking clarity about the tasks you need to complete and the time line in which you need to complete them. The definition of the task is important as it reduces confusion going forward. Often tasks are delegated without clarity. An example of this is when the manager places something on the desk of one of his team members and says, “Will you do this?” without explaining what “this” is, and without giving any indication when the task is expected to be completed. Whenever possible the best time to sort out the tasks is 15 minutes before you leave the office or the night before. This way you can get your work moving first thing in the morning.
2. Identify the delegatee. When you consider who you want to delegate the task to, keep in mind the skill level of the individual. You are asking yourself this simple question, “can the individual do the job you are asking him to do?” If not, then further clarification is required. Sometimes things don’t get done because the individual doesn’t know how to do them and is afraid to ask. So, if you don’t know you need to ask the individual if he can complete the task. If the person doesn’t know how to complete the task this becomes a learning opportunity. If the person does know, then delegate. However, be careful about delegating tasks only to those who know, as those that don’t will never learn. Also, watch whether you delegate only to those located close to you. If you consistently do this, you may lose an opportunity to develop your team members who work in other locations.
3. Set the priorities and time frame for completion. A practice many managers have is what I call stacking – stacking delegated work on people’s desks without setting priorities and time frames for the work. It goes something like this: “will you do this?” and a bit later, “here’s another one for you,” and an hour later another one lands on the desk. Then the manager comes back and says, “have you got this done?” What should the manager do in these cases? Whenever possible she should delegate all the known tasks at one time, set the priorities and the time frames for completion. This allows the delegatee to plan their workload, set their own priorities and work on their most important task. During the day, however, tasks do pop-up without warning. In these situations, make sure the task is important and urgent, communicate this to the person, and set a time for its completion.
4. Let go, Monitor, Revise when necessary, and Encourage. Once the task is delegated and you are confident the delegatee can do the work – you need to let it go. Allow the person to do the work. You are delegating “what” needs to be done, and not “how” it should be done – unless the delegatee doesn’t have the skills to do the job. Letting go allows the delegatee to develop, test abilities, and initiate a different way of getting the job done. This latter is an important concept as often the delegatee has a better way of doing things than the manager. If you have concerns about the skill level, monitor the delegatee by checking back periodically but don’t interfere with the work. Allow growth to take place. Encourage and develop rather than control and seek perfection.
5. Review upon completion. Once the task is completed by the delegatee and the work is back on your desk, or a report is provided to you that the job is done, then it’s time to assess performance. A job well done deserves praise. A job that isn’t, requires more work on your part. Before blame (which should never be part of the review) comes self-assessment. Did you carry out the first four steps in the process correctly? If you did, you should have caught problems before the completion of the task. If you were allowing the person to make mistakes, then the question that needs to be explored is “what did you learn from the experience?” and “how can you improve next time.” It is all about developing team members and giving them room to grow in place and time.
Note: My next article will explore the concepts of delegated authority and accountability. In the meantime, review the five steps of the delegation process and apply the relevant ones to your practice.
Thanks for reading,
Author: Richard P. Fontanie
When we step into a manager's role we usually do so without any preparation about how to become a manager. Somehow by the process of osmosis we are expected to "fit" the position. We may have been excellent employees and shown potential leadership qualities with our colleagues, customers or bosses; but, just because we were excellent employees doesn't mean that we will become successful managers.
We study to become engineers, nurses, social workers, lawyers, accountants, plumbers, electricians (we can keep adding to the list) and through application we become skilled at what we do. Our learning, both formal and informal, is all about our profession or craft and how to apply our skills to the task at hand. We were not taught how to become managers or leaders. Unfortunately, some of us take on a management role when we should have remained in our previous position because that is where we were most comfortable, satisfied and successful.
There are many reasons why employees move into management positions. They could include: the desire to obtain higher wages, more power and influence, or transform systems and processes, or improve team work. In some instances, employees are approached to move up the ladder by a senior manager or employer. Whatever the reason, employees should be prepared for the role, choose it for the right reason, and be aware of their strengths and shortcomings. They need to be prepared for the challenges they will face which require different thinking, focus, perspective, relationships, skills and an added attribute called "art".
Excellent employees pay attention to continuous learning revolving around their occupation. Successful companies ensure their employees are skilled at what they do and invest in courses and programs to that end. When they move into a management role, learning shifts from specific job-related skills to a much broader sphere. Their thinking caps move from the specific technical aspects of their job to the more conceptual requirements of the organization. They now need more knowledge about developing strategies, managing resources, measuring outcomes, and improving products and services. Their thinking role is transformed from job specialization to employee and team development in keeping with the business's overall strategic direction.
Communicating, influencing, coordinating, motivating, setting goals, managing self, delegating, critical decision-making and problem solving, planning, organizing, managing change, and controlling become critical skill sets for a manager. These skills are applied by engaging employees in finding solutions to different company and customer situations, advancing company policy and values, resolving people problems, building and strengthening teams, and negotiating with internal and external stakeholders. What employees now need is a much more expansive set of skills that go beyond specific on-the-ground work.
The relationship with his former co-workers also change as the employee steps into a management position. Many managers try to maintain the same “buddy” relationship they had with their former fellow employees after they step into their new role. This often poses problems for them, especially when they need to enforce unpopular company policy, manage poor performance or take corrective action. Another difficulty often occurs when they feel they can provide information to their "buddy" or "buddies" before it's ready for distribution. In these situations, the new manager gets caught up in a drama that often plays out on the ground floor. A drama which causes rumour and innuendo and ends in a loss of confidence in the manager. The manager's attempt to gain trust using the “buddy-buddy” approach with former co-workers becomes a loss of trust within the leadership team or by the employer.
There are a lot of dynamics going on in the above scenario concerning managerial information sharing. Young managers often confuse the need for confidentiality and transparency, and the use of information as power. The need for confidentiality is generally clear when it pertains to individual personnel matters, but it may not be so clear when the management team (with whom the new manager is now a member) is sorting out a policy decision that may affect members of the new manager’s team and others within the organization. It is appropriate to engage team members in the generality of the policy matter to gain their insight and input (if that is required), but it must be done in a way that doesn’t lead to disruption and discontent. Nor should the new manager use the information as a source of power as in “I know something, but I can’t share it with you.” (a) The situation is further exacerbated if the policy under discussion affects the whole of the organization and other managers do not engage their team members regarding the issue. People talk to one another in organizations, and this is where rumor, innuendo and more discontent becomes rampant. Communication, judgement, discernment and strategic thinking skills are paramount in these situations.
The employee who advances to a management position makes the leap from seeing work from a micro perspective to a macro one. The employee is introduced to broader organizational systems, processes and requirements. The perspective of how things "work around here," changes. The new manager is now expected to think in terms of the "big picture" and develop strategic thinking skills.
There are several forces at work here (yes, it is work): an ability to think long term, connect the dots about activities in motion, synthesize complicated interactions both at the human and systems level, reach a stage within the decision making process that goes beyond what is initially perceived, quickly assess the impact of actions and information on the organization, be aware of the competitive environment as well as those who have an interest in the organization's outcomes, and understand not only "what" needs to be accomplished, but "why" it needs to be done. All leading to a change in perspective.
The primary focus of a manager is the development of the "other." This is a big step from focusing primarily on job specialization. One would think that the essential focus should be on growing the organization and maintaining the company line. Certainly, it is important for managers to promote growth and circle the vision, mission, values and goals of the organization. However, the question that begs to be asked is, "who actually carries out that direction?" The answer must be "everybody," but It finally rests upon those on the front lines who are the "faces" of the organization.
Managers become the conduit and coordinators through which the strategic elements are directed, communicated and controlled. And, he or she can only carry out those functions through the performance of others. So, the focus of the manager is not on himself or herself, it is on the “other”. How the manager performs these functions relate to his or her leadership and management style and the application of the different knowledge, attributes and skills mentioned above.
So, where does the art come in? As managers, we must "feel" the vibes of the workplace culture and apply our thinking, perspective, focus and skills so that the relationships among our team players and colleagues flow with energy and synergy. We become jazz artists taking the lead when necessary, supporting the cast of players as needed, coaching and mentoring performance as required, balancing pressures from above with the needs below and the needs below with the pressures above, and keeping communication, collaboration and coordination in harmony with the overall direction of the organization. Sound simple? It becomes an art form.
So, is becoming a manager just a progression from our specialized work? Or, do we need to be prepared for the role? The answer lies within us, so choose wisely.
Here is an interesting article by Emma Bruder about the same subject from an experiential point of vew: “10 hard truths about management no one tells you about”
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
Up-dated January 9, 2018.
(a) A future article on power and power sharing will explore this topic in more detail.
Many years ago, in a large city located in this land, there was a popular shoe factory. It boasted a long history of shoemaking. It made beautiful shoes and people from far and wide shopped there. To be a shoemaker at this place was a privilege reserved to a select number of learned craftsmen.
Then something happened. Sales began to plummet.
You see the craftsmen made only one type of shoe, one shoe at a time. To pay their craftsmen, management had to increase the price of shoes year over year. Soon, few customers were able to afford them. Consequently, the factory lost many loyal customers. Then other problems began to emerge.
The factory was run by men and the shoes were made by men. Women were not seen as potential customers, so shoes were not made for them. Women pressed the factory for their own style, but management wouldn't hear of it. Then came complaints that the quality of service and repair were inferior. Management knew best and complaints were ignored.
To compound these problems, scandal hit the factory. Some craftsmen were convicted of sexual harassment and theft. Morale hit a new low, several workers resigned, and fewer men applied for work. Some women who were highly qualified offered to help but to no avail. A few women, who found their way into the factory as support personnel, suggested several ways to up-date the stodgy place. They even suggested that it would help if women became managers. They were blatantly ignored. Instead, management searched the land and foreign countries to see if they could find a steady supply of male workers. Still there was a manpower shortage.
Management couldn't figure out why it was so difficult to recruit candidates to train for work that at one time was so highly prized.
Management called several meetings to solve their growing problems. Consultants were brought in. Many recommendations were made but few were implemented. Several reports sat on the shelf because the managers didn't get the answers they wanted to hear.
Sales continued to decline. The once popular Shoe Factory now lost its luster.
As time passed small start-ups entered the market place. They used new technology, better shoemaking techniques and faster production methods. They combed the internet and found new patterns and styles for both men and women. They used a better quality of leather and experimented with soles that lasted. They opened Boutiques and virtual stores and sold their shoes world-wide.
Back at the Old Shoe Factory management heard about this new way of making shoes and the way to market them. Instead of taking heed, they resorted to competing with the start-ups by launching negative ad campaigns. Behind closed doors they laughed at their automated methods saying, "they will never stand up to the quality of our craftsmen," even though their quality was fast fading away. They suggested, "selling shoes over the internet is just a fad, you watch, people will come back to us," except they didn't.
Today the factory closed its doors. The Old Shoe Factory was just too far behind to catch up.
By now you have probably figured out that this is a fictitious story about the unwillingness of management to change and keep up with new market demands. It may seem dated but not too far removed from today's reality.
Businesses continue to close because they didn't keep up with the advances in technology and the changes in society. I wonder how many businesses are preparing for the next generation of technological advances - that of Artificial Intelligence. Will they be like those in the Old Shoe Factory and treat the new trend as a fad? Or, will they take heed and prepare to adjust their strategies to embrace new and emerging advances.
The Shoe Factory story may be fictitious, but the unwillingness to change, the fear of change or a blindness to learning, often keep managers from doing what is best for the company. They keep doing what they they have always done, and that, as someone once said, "is a recipe for disaster."
So my friends don't get too comfortable wearing old shoes when it's time to try on new ones.
Note: Thank you to my friend Emile Kutarna for permission to modify his unpublished story about the Old Shoe Factory. Emile's original story was presented as a parable regarding the difficulty the Roman Catholic Church faces in its attempt to meet new realities and the evolutionary movement of the Spirit. I have taken the liberty to refashion several parts of the story line and apply it to managers who hold back change when change is necessary.
Many managers have difficulty coaching employees about changing behaviour. They find themselves in a tug-a-war between knowing what to do but not knowing how to do it. I often find that the Executive Team expects managers to engage employees in resolving behavioural issues, but managers don't have the appropriate skills to do the job. Somehow, through some magical thinking, they are just supposed to know. If you are in this situation here is an acronym that may help you: REPAIR.
Use REPAIR to remember a process for changing behaviour, your own included. Remember though individuals must have a positive intention to change before any can occur. Without that, there is not much anyone can do. In fact, no one can change another individual's behaviour. Only h/she can do it. The individual must feel a tension for change and conclude that change is necessary. When this happens tension for change turns into an intention to change. When tension turns to intention we can give individuals a process to help them along their journey. This is when you can use REPAIR.
REPAIR stands for Recognize, Examine, Prepare, Act, Ingrain and Reward.
Recognize: The first step to changing behaviour is to help the individual recognize that his or her behavior is causing difficulty in the workplace. Sometimes individuals are not aware their behaviour is off-setting to others. Take John for instance, he blissfully acts like an insensitive bull in a china shop but doesn't recognise the damage he is causing to his own reputation or the "hurtful impact" he has on others. Or take Susan, she doesn't realize that her "nit picking" perfectionist behaviour or her "Put downs" are frustrating her colleagues. John and Susan's manager-coach should bring these behaviours to their attention in a way that doesn't undermine their confidence or self-esteem.
There are situations, however, when employees know their behaviour is not acceptable , but do nothing to change it. In these situations, the manager-coach must be firm but respectful in dealing with the situation. If the negative behaviour persists then the manager-coach may choose to move to disciplinary action = a step reserved for the more serious behavioural issues, and one not taken lightly.
Examine: Once the employee becomes aware of the problem the manger-coach may now ask the individual to examine the cause behind the behaviour. This is getting to "why" s/he acts the way s/he does. For this step the manger-coach could suggest that the individual complete a cause and effect examination with specific emphasis on the negative aspects of the behaviour. Once this is completed, have the individual think about more positive ways of behaving and how those new behaviours would affect his feelings and the relationship he has with others.
Sometimes there is a deep-seated reason for the inappropriate behaviour. Take anger for instance. Anger may have roots that reach back to childhood. It isn't the manager-coach's role to become the employee's psychologist, but to help the individual recognize that anger is getting in the way. If the individual requires professional help, the manager-coach should recommend that the employee seek counselling form an independent source.
Prepare: Help the individual identify strategies for improvement. The manager-coach could: suggest the employee talk to someone s/he trusts to garner ideas about how to overcome the inappropriate behaviour; recommend s/he read articles or books about how to change behaviour; suggest s/he take time out to think about new ways of behaving and the benefits they may have for him and for those around him; or, ask her to visualize how a new way of acting would make her feel and how others would react. The point of this step is to have the individual identify specific strategies for changing behaviour.
Act: Once specific strategies are identified it is time to act. Recommend that the individual take one of the strategies and implement it. Susan, mentioned above, could develop more patience before responding or pointing out the faults of others. Specifically, she could stop and assess the impact of her "nit-picking" before she responds or makes comments. By taking a bit of time out, she may begin to understand how her present way of relating to others isn't the best way to deal with the situation. Re-focusing her thinking away from the "small stuff" to the "more important stuff," or putting the "small stuff" in the context of the "bigger picture," will help her change the way she communicates with others. The simple act of holding off on her comments for a brief period of time may assist her in finding better ways of expressing herself. An action for John, to help him overcome his insensitive behaviour towards others, may be a course in "Influencing" or "Sensitivity Training."
Ingrain: Acting once isn't always sufficient to change behaviour but taking action consistently will. Individuals need to consistently reinforce an action so that the new behaviour becomes a new habit. Sometime during this process, we fall back to old habits. Not to worry, we just pick up where we left off and try again, and again, and again.
Consistent action requires repetition through self-discipline. This is a great time for the manager-coach to encourage and support the individual. The manager-coach could suggest the individual share his desire for change with a trusting colleague or friend and seek their support. He could also suggest the individual repeat positive self-affirmations as a way to take charge of her own change process.
Changing behaviours is not necessarily easy and takes time. The key is to consistently practice the new behaviour until it becomes second nature.
Reward: During the change process, the manager-coach looks for ways to reinforce the positive steps the individual is making towards taking on new behaviours. A short comment like, "I have noticed the positive change you are making (or have made)" goes a long way in building confidence and showing appreciation for the "work" the individual has done to make the change. The manager-coach could also suggest that the individual find ways to reward herself along the journey, particularly when she feels a noticeable positive change in her own behaviour. When an individual works on changing behaviour and it is also noticed by others and provides an opportunity for the whole team to celebrate. However, watch how you do this as a team celebration shouldn't end up embarrassing the individual
TIP: Try REPAIR to change some of your own behaviour before suggesting it to someone else. When using REPAIR with others, listening and engaging them in the process are keys to positive outcomes. Listening is for understanding and engaging is for helping others find their own solutions.
Let me know how the process works for You
Richard Fontanie, MSW, FCMC
Note: he, she, him, her s/he, h/she are used interchangeably throughout this article as the behaviour in question could be expressed by any gender.
One of the great thought leader's of the past 50 years was Warren Bennis (d July 31, 2014). He wrote tirelessly on the topic of leadership. He was a sought after speaker, academic and coach. His book, "Leaders", coauthored by Burt Nanus and his classic "On Becoming a Leader" remain go-to literature on developing leadership strategies and building internal capacity for leadership. One of his early books "Changing Organizations" was instrumental in my initial understanding of organizational culture and change. His work on leadership was seminal in bringing the topic of leadership to the forefront. His clear and forthright writings helped me understand the relationship and balance between leadership and management and how I had both leadership and management responsibilities in the positions that I held.
According to an article by Julie Kirby ( Harvard Blog Post), Bennis was thinking of writing another book which he would have called "Grace." He pointed out that he was not a particularly religious person, but that this word is very powerful. The book would deal with such issues as generosity, respect, redemption and sacrifices. He was quoted as saying: "All of which sound vaguely spiritual, but all of which I think are going to be required for leadership." And, I would say "not going to" but "are required for leadership, today."
Powerful indeed! What a wonderful concept "Grace and Leadership." I think if we want to understand the meaning of the two we will need to go deep within ourselves - to reach a level of consciousness which goes beyond our egotistical self and gets to the core of who we are as a leader - or better, as a person with leadership qualities. We will need to touch our soul so to speak, and in so doing be graced with a transcendence beyond ourselves. This suggests placing our active mind at rest and spending more time in contemplation and meditation.
To be sure, grace-filled leaders will experience internal struggles, maybe even darkness, and hardship. They may be misunderstood, maligned and viewed by some as too soft. They will be tested but being grace-filled their resolve will be strengthened to do the right thing for themselves and others.
Yes, this does bring leadership into the realm of the spiritual world. From my vantage point it means transcending anything negative and focusing on that which is good and worthy. It's based on the principles of: 1) abundance and positiveness (relying on our innate nature to do good), 2) transcendence of self ( moving to a higher level of purpose with humility), and 3) personal discovery (finding a new way to bring the first two to fruition).
The influence of grace-filled leaders will transform toxic and sick workplaces and communities to healthy and vibrant ones. In practical terms this suggests they will rally those around them to forge cultures- whether within or without their organizations - that exhibit compassion, justice, fairness, forgiveness, generosity, respectfulness, and integrity. To do this, however, they too will need to be perceived as compassionate, just, fair, forgiving, respectful, generous and one acting with integrity. And, their power will come from humble and selfless service rather than arrogant and egotistical behavior. My sense is that our troubled world and places of businesses need the wisdom and healing action of grace-filled leaders today.
Fortunately we have proof of grace-filled leaders who can serve as role models for us. Think of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu who promoted reconciliation rather than revenge, Gandhi and Martin Luther King who transformed countries through peaceful protest, and Pope Paul II who opened the doors for a free Poland through integrity and faith based discipline, and Paul Farmer, "an anthropologist and physician who is best know for his humanitarian work providing suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries" . Think of the countless community leaders who bring hope to the downtrodden, health to the underprivileged, and compassion to the homeless. Think of company leaders who promote ethical business practices, hold people to high standards and values and who contribute to the welfare of communities. Think of the artist leaders who share their talents, gifts and wealth. And think of parent leaders who teach their children to give rather than receive, to love rather than hate, to play to enjoy rather than to play to win at any cost.
Grace-filled leaders are all around us and we can become one of them. I wish Warren Bennis lived long enough to write his book, I'm sure it would have been another classic.
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.
It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult."
Warren Bennis on "Becoming a Leader.'
One of the advantages of working with many owners of small businesses is that I have the opportunity to compare the stronger ones with the weaker ones. By watching how they perform I can validate the importance of strong leadership and management practices. The way owners lead and manage successful businesses compared to those who struggle is often stark. The following is an example of the leadership and management practices of an owner of a successful business.
I met Terry over 20 years ago by way of referral from a business associate. He presently owns two automotive dealerships in a community with a population of less than 20,000 and serves a trading area of over 1400 square miles serving more than 150,000 people. His approach to leadership and management has developed over the years. Here's what I found about "Terry's Way."
Strategic Planning: Terry involves his key people in planning and keeps control over the outcome. He spends time ensuring his business plan is current and uses it to keep his business on a growth trajectory. He has a measured approach to development and change and a clear understanding of his marketplace realities.
Management Team: Terry surrounds himself with a strong management team who have well defined roles and responsibilities. He grew his team from within, and when talent and strength were lacking he attracted members from the wider community.
Meetings: He holds regular management meetings. The meetings have agendas. Minutes, and decisions are recorded and are followed up after the meeting. Policy issues are discussed and the over-all activity of the company is monitored against the business plan. He holds general "State of the Business" sessions with his employees and ensures their concerns are heard first hand. He also makes sure his employees interact socially and encourages times for individual and business celebrations.
Delegation: Terry has no trouble delegating important matters to his management team. He allows employees to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. When he delegates he doesn't interfere with how they carry out the action.
Hiring: Job descriptions are well defined and employees are hired based on those job description requirements. Terry's main concern is that there is a proper fit between the person and the position. If there isn't a fit, he has no trouble moving the person to a better fit within the organization, or moving the person out where a more suitable fit may be found.
Learning: Terry regularly reads business related books and articles. His books find their way to an in-house library of current business literature; and, he encourages employees to borrow them. He holds regular technical and people skill training sessions. He understands that the core of his business is all about promoting positive relationships and everyone within the organization needs to continually improve those skills. There are no exceptions including himself. He attends training sessions not only to sharpen his own skills but also to be a role model for ongoing learning. An important by-product of his attending training is, as he states: "to find ways to reinforce the training during the months following the training." He asks himself and others how training fits within the vision and values of his company and what results he should expect.
Customers: Terry knows that customers come first in his business. Without them, he has no business. He has a "make it easy for the customer," mantra that permeates the business culture.
One of my consulting firm's first interventions with Terry was to help him understand how his customers viewed his business and service. We did this through a series of customer focus groups. Terry and his key managers attended those sessions. To this day, Terry continues to glean feedback from his customers through a formal follow-up process and by meeting with them first hand. It's not that he doesn't receive "customer service complaints" but it is his approach to those complaints that is important. He sees them as an opportunity to "do better," and as he says, "we're here to fix what isn't working and make it right."
Technology and Systems: The auto industry has experienced tremendous technological advances since the 1980s, and Terry's Service Department has kept pace with the challenge. But technology has not only affected the way cars and trucks work, it also has impacted the way business systems and processes work. He has developed an improved automated Customer Relations Management system and a more effective use of Microsoft Outlook through the Priority Working Sm@rt program. Terry sees the importance of keeping current with changes in technology hardware and the software that goes along with it.
Terry is first to admit that his business doesn't always run like clockwork, in fact he is sure it never has. No business does. They all have emerging people or technical issues in search of solutions. What's important is that Terry is open to learning, and change and does what is necessary to "fix" the problems as they arise, and does what he can to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
By now you get a sense that Terry is a successful business owner and a leader-manager. His business has grown over the years, kept pace with changes, and developed a loyal customer and employee base. He has improved business systems and processes through a continued learning and application. He has kept his employees current with best practice technological and people skills. He is an authentic, unassuming, and supportive leader who is well respected within his company and throughout his community. He, with the support of his employees, has received numerous industry and community awards and citations. This is one example of proof that strong leadership and management works.
Questions to Ponder: How well do you lead and manage? Do you have a business plan? Do you work the plan? Does your management team show both leadership and management qualities? Do you hire the right people? Have you encouraged a culture of learning, respect and growth? Do you know what your customers say about your business? How do you know? Is your technology current? Are your systems and processes effective? How do you know? The right answers to these questions will put your business on the road to success. They are worth exploring, begin seeking the answers today.
Up-dated from the Archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
All leaders reflect a certain style or behavioural profile from which others begin to describe them. Some are directive and take bold action, others are charismatic and engaging collaborators, others are more methodical and circumspect, while others are agreeable and people focused. Spring is as a good time as any to revisit your leadership style and review how you may be projecting your leadership behaviors.
A leader is involved in three broad areas of work: crafting a vision, influencing others to align with that vision, and championing its execution. Understanding the link between your leadership style and the work you do as a leader will help you adjust to the differing circumstances each of these three areas bring. Let's take a brief look at the four leadership styles.
The Directive Leader: The directive leader is action oriented and moves people to get things done. The danger signs exhibited by an overly directive leader is impatience, insensitivity and lack of concern for others. In their haste in getting things done this type of leader may tend to override others, and blame others because things are not going fast enough. Directive leaders may also push people to the extent that they feel high levels of anxiety and stress which may result in a reduction of overall productivity. Directive leaders can craft bold and dynamic visions but may have difficulty in bringing others in alignment with that vision and miss the nuances that are important when working with people as they execute the vision.
The Analytical Leader: These leaders like to delve into detail, and sometimes have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. They may have a hard time articulating a vision because they see too many options and as a result may have a tendency to constantly change direction. Analytical leaders are usually cautious and like to think things through. However, their tendency to be methodical and attention to detail may give the impression that their vision is the 'only one" and the "right" one. They enjoy the intellectual challenge of crafting a vision and engaging others in aligning the vision. However, they may fall short in overseeing the execution of the plan because they may pay too much attention to detail or procrastinate too long.
The Fitting-in Leader: A third leadership profile sees leaders wanting to fit in with the group or team. They are usually friendly, supportive, collaborative and prone to build stable environments. Their vision is one of a calm organization where people are collaboratively working together in a cooperative environment. Alignment around the vision is key for them and they work hard to harmonize differing points of view so that there is a consistent and an aligned direction. They also seek a collaborative and coordinated effort in the execution of the plan. The watch-phrases for these types of leaders are over accommodating, maintaining stability when flexibility is required and fearing ambiguity and risk when action is necessary.
The Outgoing Leader: This type of leader is one who is outgoing, relational and highly communicative. This leader likes to network, work the phone, bring people together both socially and corporately. They are usually excellent at influencing others and selling ideas. They have a certain charm and enthusiasm about them and exhibit a sense of optimism. They can also be impulsive and disorganized. They are expansive visionaries, and tend to enthusiastically influence others to buy into their vision and excel in keeping others abreast as the plan moves to execution. Their strength ensures high levels of communication but their weaker tendencies could cause disorganization especially if they act impulsively.
Can you identify the leadership tendencies in Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau, Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, George W Bush, Pope Francis, Angela Merkel, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton? Each has a predominate style that reflects the profiles outlined above. If you can pick out the style of these leaders you can see it in others as well as your own.
There is no right or wrong leadership style. The leader goes amiss when he or she pushes the extremities of the style as when the directive leader becomes over dictatorial, the analytical leader becomes paralyzed in analysis, the fit-in leader becomes part of the group rather than the leader of the group, or the out-going leader becomes too friendly or overly impulsive.
The good news is that most leaders have qualities which reflect several of the behaviors identified in each of the profiles above. They are a composite, yet a predominant profile emerges whether that be directive and dictatorial, relational and communicative, quiet and collaborative, or cautious and analytical.
All strong leaders have a sense of confidence, know themselves well and use their strengths to advance their vision, align others around that vision and execute the vision through others while exercising their predominant profile.
Questions to Ponder: As you move into spring is it time to think about your approach to leadership; how do you tend to lead? Can you identify with one of the profiles above? What strengths and weaknesses do you bring to your organization? What quirks do you need to watch out for? What modifications do you need to make in your approach? Do you use your leadership style to meet others' needs, or do you use it to meet your own needs?
If you want to learn more about assessing you leadership profile let us know.
We don't have to wait for a New Year to seize the opportunity to launch out on a new path or new direction. We often respond to the freshness of a New Year by making a list of resolutions, which are often short lived. Rather than making a list of resolutions why not focus your attention in one area and settle on one thing in that area and do it well. We don't have to wait until January to do this, we can begin at any time during the calendar year. As an example, let's take leadership as a focus and identify "inspirational leadership" as a specific quality for attention.
The word inspiration has its root in Latin and originally had a deep spiritual meaning relating to divine guidance. Applying the word to "inspirational leadership" means you become a guiding light for others to follow. You become an example or a model for others; you stimulate, encourage and lift up the spirits of others.
Inspirational leaders inspire followers. They have a certain charisma, an aura about them that lights the fire within the hearts and minds of others. Followers place their trust in them and want to imitate their behaviours because they inspire them to do so.
I can think of numerous inspirational leaders who have graced our world, such as: Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. These leaders inspired people of their time and continue to inspire us today. Through their inspiration they created movements that changed the course of history. I don't want to put limits on our potential but realistically the majority of us will not achieve the same status as these giants of inspirational leadership. Most of us, however, can become "everyday" inspirational leaders.
Think about the people in your life who never made the news, wrote a book, had someone write their biography, or stood way above the crowd, yet they inspire you to become a better person, reach higher levels of performance, or improve the way you do things. You feel blessed as a result just by knowing them. These are the "everyday" inspirational leaders. Here are some of my own examples of people who have inspired me:
These people are "everyday" inspirational leaders. They inspire, not because they amass great sums of tangible assets but, because they radiate those illusive intangible qualities worthy of imitating.
Action: As you ponder on how you can strengthen your inspirational leadership style, use your models - the ones who inspire you - and pick out the intangible quality that you can strengthen in the coming year. Clearly identify it, and ask yourself how you will measure your progress. When this quality becomes ingrained in the way you act you will become more of an inspiration to others - you will be on the road to becoming the "everyday inspirational leader" you are meant to be.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC - Up-dated from the archives of Fontanie Learning Solutions.
Note: Photo by M. O'Neill
It is often said that simplicity is the hallmark of a genius. Strong leaders take complex concepts and boil them down to a simple statement or formula that provides the basis for understanding. Now I don’t pretend to be a genius, far from it, but I have found that there are four simple questions leaders need to ask.
1) Where are we going? The answer to this question lies in the organization's vision, mission, goals, and measurable objectives. Without these statements no one is sure where the organization is headed. We have witnessed numerous occasions where management and staff ran around in circles and operated with sheer frustration when they were unclear about the overall direction of the organization.
2) Who is doing what to get us there? Once the management team knows where the organization is going it is ready to work on designing an effective organizational structure. This includes detailing various roles, responsibilities, accountabilities, Job descriptions and specific work objectives to get the job done. With these in place, work is now structured to accomplish an end and everyone within the organization should know what to do and where they fit.
3) What are we doing today to make things happen? We will never get to our destination unless we make something happen. So clarifying daily, weekly and monthly tasks and priorities to accomplish the work is absolutely necessary. By keeping to task we make things happen.
4) Did we accomplish what we set out to do? The old dictum “you can’t improve unless you measure.” is true today as it was when it was first uttered. The leadership team requires relevant data to evaluate how well and how much was accomplished during the period under review. By keeping score and having the appropriate data it can answer the question: "Did we do what we said we were going to do?"
What to do: Before something runs amok in your organization ask: Do we know where we are going? Are we clear about who is doing what? Are we focused on achieving results on a regular basis? Do we have the tools in place to measure results?
Want to learn more? Mark Light has an interesting book entitled “The Strategic Board.” He fleshes out these four questions in greater detail from a board leadership perspective.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Leonardo daVinci
Author: Richard P. Fontanie, MSW. FCMC
Image from Fontanie Archives