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Good Delegation: Critical to Employee Engagement

The act of delegating is one of the most crucial times in the relationship between a leader and a member of his/her team. This conversation is rife with underlying nuances:

  • Are you a collaborative leader or a dictator?
  • Do you have confidence that your team member knows what s/he’s doing?
  • Do you trust this team member to get it done on time and as agreed?
  • Do you like or only tolerate each other?
  • Will this go smoothly or can you expect problems?

All of the above are many of the reasons I devoted my first employee engagement book, The Incredibly Useful Book of Delegation to this very topic. The delegation conversation, if done well, goes a long way toward resolving any or all of the nuances outlined above.

Socratic Delegation is a process that takes both the guesswork and the tension out of this conversation. It flips it from, “Let me tell you what to do and how to do it,” to “Here’s what needs to be done and when. Walk me through how you think we should do this.” Simple, yet very powerful.

Using the Socratic Delegation Process goes a long way toward increasing employee engagement. In the old style of delegating, the person most engaged in the planning conversation was the leader. He gave instructions while the team member listened and maybe took notes. Socratic Delegation flips this around and has the team member strategize about how to accomplish the task. That means s/he becomes engaged in a way that the old style rarely elicited.

But don’t believe me. Try it for yourself! Get your own copy of the Step-by-Step Delegation Process by clicking one of the links below and start having collaborative conversations with your team. I predict that, not only will they become more engaged but productivity and accuracy will increase.

For Project Managers: Step-by-Step Socratic Delegation for Project Managers

For Leaders with direct reportsSocratic Delegation Step-by-Step for Leaders

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Do you delegate or command?

Happy 2017! Remember, you get more of what you focus on so, if you’ve been commiserating with others about how awful 2016 was, STOP IT! Otherwise you are well on the way to a repeat performance in the New Year. Let’s instead focus on how we can leverage the clean slate that is handed to us every January 1st by the Gregorian calendar.

commands-by-megaphone-fotolia_99177515_xsSpeaking of clean slates, why not use yours to improve employee engagement in your organization by getting better at delegating? I’ll be focusing on the topic of delegation for a while in my blogs because my new book on the subject is nearly complete and will be launched sometime during the next month. I have much to share.

Why did I choose to spend so much time doing a deep dive into delegation?

In my work with teams over the years it has become abundantly clear that most people in leadership—executives, managers, supervisors, project managers, team leads, even parents!—are confused about how to delegate well.

Our early models for delegation were our parents and it’s a pretty safe bet that, at least at the beginning of your ascension into leadership, you relied on their examples to “be the boss.” As you ponder that assertion, do you find it to be true?

All parents are different so I’m not going to assume that yours were like mine but the model I grew up with was, “Do as I say and RIGHT NOW.” There was no discussion, no opportunity for clarifying questions; it was a time to jump into action or face the consequences.

Maybe your parents were great at giving orders but not so great at follow up to make sure it was done. Or perhaps you grew up with indulgent parents who didn’t ask you to do much. Instead, they did it for you.

It’s important to know whether your current style of delegation is working well. Does your team deliver on time and as you requested? Or are there too many “do-overs?” Are you in clean up mode more than is comfortable? Are you doing more of the work than your team?

A first step in delegating well is to stop giving directions. Stop telling your team HOW to complete tasks. If they already know how, it’s insulting. If they don’t, it’s important for you to find that out. Here is a quick delegation process for you to experiment with this week:

“This is the (measurable) result I’m looking for.

I need it by __________.

How do you think we should do it?”

I call this method Socratic Delegation after the Greek philosopher. Socrates did not teach his students in the traditional way, by lecturing. Instead, he asked them questions, inspiring them to think and come up with their own ideas.

We will dive deeper into Socratic Delegation in future blogs. For now, I encourage you to try the technique outlined above at work and/or at home with your children. See what happens. Notice what you learn. Were ideas identified that wouldn’t have surfaced if you’d simply told them how to do it? Did things get done correctly the first time?

Please let me know what happens or if you have questions: Silver@SilverSpeaks.com

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The Gift of Positive Expectation

Encourage, Discourage Fotolia_37582774Whether you are a leader or an employee, giving yourself and others the gift of positive expectation is a key to having work that is thoroughly engaging.

It starts when you wake up

  • When you wake up in the morning is it with a groan or a smile? Are you happy to be alive or is the jury still out? When my friend William, who is very positive, wakes up, he raises both hands toward the ceiling and waves them around. He tells me, “If I don’t feel a coffin lid, I get out of bed, happy to have another day.”
  • As you’re getting ready for work are your thoughts centered on expectations of having a good day at work? Or are you already steeling yourself for problems?

The Law of Attraction dictates that you get more of what you focus on. Shorthand for that is:

  • If you expect negative experiences, that’s what you will get.
  • When you expect positive experiences, life gets really good really fast. EVEN YOUR WORK LIFE.

It impacts productivity at work

If you are a leader at work (officially or not) you have a great opportunity each day to impact your company culture by giving coworkers and those who report to you the gift of positive expectation. Expect people to do good work. Encourage them by catching them doing something right and let them know you notice. And practice this on yourself, as well. Stop waiting for your boss to notice all the great things you do. Keep your own personnel file and write yourself up for good performance; keeping track of all the things you do well will result in you getting even better at your job and more productive. This is the same impact you will see when you do the same for others.

Fact: psychologists tell us it takes seven positive statements to offset a negative one. Ponder that for a moment. Think about the impact when you know someone important does not have faith in you.

Some of you use others’ negative expectation of you as motivation to try even harder. “I’ll prove them wrong,” you say to yourself. Because you use it to motivate yourself, you think having negative expectations of others will also motivate them, and it may. But it is much more motivating to want to live up to positive expectations than negative ones. When you have faith in someone, they usually will work hard because they don’t want to let you down.

Fact: Human beings would rather be right than happy. When you have positive expectations of others, you will go out of your way to notice the things that support your faith in them. Conversely, when you have negative expectations, you will notice all the things to support that belief!

Start practicing giving the gift of positive expectations. I’m not saying you won’t be let down from time to time; you will. However, when you expect the best from others and watch for it, you will be blown away by how often they rise to meet your expectations. Employee Engagement will rise and so will morale.

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5 Powerful Questions to Influence Performance

Number 5

  1. How do you think we should approach this?
  2. What obstacles might prevent you from completing it (at all, or on time)?
  3. What resources do we have, and what others do you need?
  4. What’s a reasonable deadline?
  5. What do you need from me? –OR- How can I support you?

If one of your goals is to increase performance and employee engagement (and it should be) then getting your team members involved in planning how a task or project should be done is a simple and powerful way to do so. These five questions will do just that.

Of course, if they have been used to you simply telling them what to do and how to do it, the initial shock of your new approach might be significant. If this is a new style for you, let them know what you’re doing and why so they can be part of the culture shift versus suspicious about what the heck is going on.

Far from the Command-and-Control model of yesteryear, the questions above are designed to get the person to whom you are delegating immediately engaged. Use them at the very beginning of any new initiative and watch how quickly your team gets involved.

P.S. Once you ask any one of these 5 questions – STOP TALKING! Let them answer, even if it takes a while.

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Socratic Delegation? Whaaaatttt…?

Do you know how each of  your team members thinks about and approaches his/her work?

Do you have an in-depth understanding of each staff member’s capabilities?

Do you know how to empower your team?

Communication solutions and mind control with a group of communicating human heads on a labyrinth or maze pattern with a laser light connecticn the thinking network of two brains.

One of your most important roles as a Leader is to understand the core competencies and capacity of your team.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you are familiar with the Vulcan Mind-Meld a touch technique that allows a Vulcan (Mr. Spock) to merge his or her mind with the essence of another’s mind.

As a leader within your organization, it would be useful for you to be able to do your own mind-meld. The more you are aware of how your team members think—how they plan to carry out the tasks and projects you assign them—the more impact you can have on the results achieved.

A quick and effective way to achieve this is through the process of delegation using the Socratic method. I call it Socratic Delegation.

When you delegate using the time worn “command and control” method, it does little to increase your understanding of what your team is thinking and capable of doing nor does it increase their ability to think for themselves or problem-solve.

One of our readers, Dean, responding to a blog I’d written on this topic put it best:

“Awesome! What a timely reminder for me not to over-manage. I’m constantly railing about how people learn by doing—not by being told or reading. Yet I continue to leap into problems because (my ego) knows how to fix it. I can’t teach empowerment to marionettes.”

When you utilize Socratic Delegation, you begin to develop your knowledge of each team member’s thought processes when it comes to work and achieving results.

What exactly is Socratic Delegation? Here is the process:

Socratic Delegation 101

Step #1 – Identify the task or project

Step #2 – Clearly identify the measurable result or outcome. (By the way, this is often the culprit of problems. If you don’t clearly define how to measure success, how is your employee to know?)

Step #3 – Meet with the employee or team to whom you are delegating and have the following conversation:

  • “Here is the end result I am looking for __________ and here is the date I need it _______.”
  • “Would you walk me through how you think it should be done?” (Or “how we should approach it?”)
  • Listen and only listen until the end. Take notes.
    • If you identify a problem and interrupt to mention it, you may also interrupt the employee’s thought process.
    • It could be that the employee will, while talking the task through, identify the very problem you noticed and correct it.

Step # 4 – Fine tune

  • If, while the employee was outlining his plan you noticed any potential concerns, bring them up. Use questions:
    • How will you get to that point?
    • Where are those resources coming from?
    • Help me understand…
    • What tools are you planning to use?
    • What obstacles might stand in the way of getting this done on time?
  • This fine-tuning process is your opportunity to coach the employee and develop his skill level.
  • It’s also an opportunity for you to learn some approaches you hadn’t thought of yourself.
  • It allows you the perfect reason to acknowledge the team or employee for their critical thinking.

As you lead your team be certain that YOU are clear about Steps 1 and 2. Each step is crucial to achieving success.

Whether you are a C-Suite executive or line manager, your role as a leader is to produce results through people.

Delegation is a core competency and something that, once you master it, will make you one of the few rather than one of the many. Start with Socratic Delegation as outlined above and hone it to fit your team culture—and watch as results increase and mistakes decrease.

As always I appreciate all feedback you provide. Send me your comments and stories. You and I are working together to change the work world. Your input is part of my Socratic Method.

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