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Delegating – Let It Go!

When I was merchandising manager at ACDelco, my team was responsible for liaising with the managers of our 36 different product lines — over a billion dollars worth of auto parts! 

In one instance, one of my employees was managing support material that would go into thousands of stores.

Jill, my agency representative, produced one of the pieces (a poster) and showed it to me upon completion. I was surprised at what I saw, as it wasn’t at all what I had imagined. Jill saw my reaction and assured me it could be changed.

And that was surprise number two for me. I remember thinking “why would I change it?” No, it wasn’t what I would have done, but it was okay the way it was. I trusted my employee to do her job. 

Risk and Reward

This particular situation was not complex, and it was not a high-risk decision. Yes, it was going to cost thousands of dollars, but it would work just as my employee had intended.

So, it was easy for me to “Let It Go.” 

Trust and Delegation

Trust and delegation go hand in hand. This was not delegating in its purest form, but rather, trusting my employee to do her job and not imposing my own view. Leaders who trust their employees to do their jobs, and delegate when the time and situation is right, realize many benefits:

  • Time savings 
  • Empowering employees
  • Developing employees
  • Tapping into the wisdom of the system for more ideas
  • Diverse approaches
  • Building trust
  • Creating and harnessing energy
  • Focus on priorities
  • Productivity increases
  • Making use of strengths

In more complex situations, letting go of some of our beliefs about delegation can be even more beneficial.

Let Go Of Beliefs

What might you need to Let Go of in order to delegate more? I’ve heard some of these from leaders I’ve worked with who have shifted gears:

  • Let go of the time and energy it takes to manage the work that your employees can and should be doing.
  • Let go of the idea that if it’s going be done right (whatever “right” is), you have to do it yourself.
  • Let go of the habit of holding on to something, when others could be learning and growing by doing it (and maybe even doing it better).
  • Let go of constraining talented employees from using their strengths.
  • Let go of the fear that if you don’t do it, you might be viewed as a weak leader.
  • Let go of the thought that teaching someone else to do the work will take more time than it’s worth. (It might take more time initially, but invest for the long run.)

Self Reflection To Act

The reality is that leaders are less productive if they’re trying to do it all. A few questions that can get you started today:

1.   What specifically am I holding onto that can/should be done by someone else?

2.    What is keeping me from delegating? (fear, my beliefs, skills gap, lack of process etc.,)

3.    What would the benefits of delegating be, to me and/or others? 

4.    What is the first step I can take today to delegate?

5. When specifically (time/day) am I going to do this?

6. How do I measure success?

7. And, how can I do more of this? 

I won’t break into song with Disney’s Let It Go theme, but permit me one line of encouragement:  “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore…”

The results that come from your choices to delegate will be worth singing about.

Please let me know how it goes, how it goes.

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Inviting An Employee Off the Bus

In 2016, one of my clients was going to let an employee go.

This employee had been at the organization for some time, and he knew his stuff, but the “fit” was not good. The employee’s communication style with clients, and interactions with fellow employees was not positive. They felt they had tried everything.

A Save

However, with some coaching intervention and tools, the client was not only able to keep the employee on the bus, but another employee remarked they wished they could clone this “new version” of the employee.

Leaving The Bus

While it’s often quite possible to keep an employee on the bus who some think may be a lost cause, there are other times when employees don’t have the right skills, aren’t a good fit for the culture, not engaged etc., when the ride must come to an end, and the exit door must open.

For some leaders, however, letting go of an employee is the most difficult thing they do at work, for many reasons; a long-time employee has been committed to the company, may not easily secure another job, is very likeable despite not being a fit, etc.,

When All Else Has Failed

When it’s clear an employee needs to be invited off the bus, there are a number of guidelines to follow below. Number four is something I regularly see as a coach:

  1. Make sure it’s legal + no surprises – Whether fit or performance, have you discussed expectations and given the employee an opportunity to improve?
  2. Be prepared – Every employee reacts differently to the news. If you’ve followed guideline #1, the employee will likely know what’s coming. Be kind, but not lengthy. Don’t go on and on. And do offer an exit interview. You will likely learn something. 
  3. Be generous – When you’re letting someone go, if you are able, be generous. No matter the situation, the employee will likely experience financial hardship. If you can be generous, do.
  4. Don’t delay – After you have made efforts to remedy the situation, don’t delay. Other employees know when someone is not doing their job, not a good fit, not committed etc., Keeping an employee on the bus when he/she is not working out negatively impacts employee engagement. “If what this employee does/doesn’t do is okay, I guess it’s okay for all of us.”

In The End

After the employee has been released, leaders often feel increased energy, see an uptick in engagement, and increased productivity.

If you’ve been waiting to invite an employee off the bus, delay no more.

Make room for employees who want to find a seat, who will do the type of work you need, and be a good fit. Who knows, they may even bring a few more passengers and clients along with them! 

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Why We Shouldn’t Be Giving Advice

The ability to communicate well impacts everything we do at work. Expertise in what I call Conversational Leadership extends even beyond work.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes

A critical element of Conversational Leadership is whether you’re most often asking questions or giving advice.

Advice As Pain

While I don’t have the research reference to share with you, a friend who studies the brain recently shared with me that giving advice lights up the same area of the brain that pain does. Ouch!

advice Read more

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False Harmony and Teams

Harmony at the Keyboard

My Grammy played piano for a living when there were supper clubs and people dressed to the nines to go out on the town. She was a wizard on both the piano and organ and enjoyed sharing her immeasurable talent.

Harmony for Grammy came in the combination of the black and white keys, chords and notes, use of the stops and pulls on the organ, and the impressive management of the pedals…especially those organ pedals.

I remember Grammy playing with great purpose, energy and joy. Hers was a job with a lot of flurry and motion.  And harmony. Her music was first rate.

Harmony and Teams

We know what harmony sounds like on the keyboard and at the symphony, but what does it sound like for teams in the workplace?

How about a quiz to test it out:

Which of following teams is likely high performingin committed, accountable and delivers results?

Team A:  This team gets along perfectly with no disagreements, they move smoothly through meeting agendas, and any difficult discussions are generally had outside of the meetings. They seem harmonious.

Team B:  This team has diverse views that are encouraged and often expressed in the meetings. The courage (from encourage) to raise concerns and differing views has been honed over time. The invitation to engage has been underpinned with the trust that has been intentionally developed.


 Which team do you want to be on?

 You already know the answer because:

  •  You’re on one of these teams
  •  You lead one of these teams
  •  You played on a sports team
  •  You learned about this at home
  •  You’re just plain smart

Let’s look at the teams.

False Harmony

Team A – There’s not much information about the team in my example, but this team likely has what Patrick Lencioni calls False Harmony. At a glance, it seems like this team gets along because there are no disagreements. The problem, however, is that there are no disagreements because there is a lack of trust and people are not willing to share openly. Because they don’t share openly with one another in their meetings, commitment, accountability and results don’t follow as they should.

The best teams invite diverse and opposing views. Done well, the team communicates skillfully, and is positive, innovative, and more productive.

Teams Playing In Sync

Team B – Teams that can professionally and respectfully disagree do so because they have taken time to build vulnerability-based trust, so that even when they disagree they are able to express themselves—and respect diverse opinions. They don’t have to be right.

  • When one team member has a different view than another (and diverse experiences and views are sought out on high performing teams), she expresses her viewpoint with the company goals in mind, not advocating for her own goals.
  • When a team member thinks a decision should go one way and the leader ultimately decides to go a different route, having expressed his viewpoint, the team member agrees to support the decision in both words and action.
  • When team members understand one another’s communication preferences and see the strengths in each other despite disagreement, teams effectively move toward organizational goals.

Researcher and author Judith Glaser shares five steps to elevating conversations on teams, which can lead to harmony.

  1. Creating safety and transparency
  2. Building relationships
  3. Listening to understand
  4. Focusing on shared success
  5. Testing assumptions and telling the truth with candor and caring

Without knowing all the details, you might wish to focus on these, then measure the improvements in your teamwork.

Harmony In Organizations

Healthy and harmonious cultures are made up of healthy teams, with real harmony, not false harmony.

When leaders and teams are intentional about moving the bar on teams, the same purpose, energy (and even joy!) that came out of the hands of my Grammy, show up.

First-rate outcomes are the result.


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Keeping Your Employee On The Bus

One of your employees or direct reports does not seem to be on the right bus. We’ll call him Employee. He has said he’s aligned with the company’s values, and he is a hard worker, but his behaviors do not seem to match up with the company values, and oftentimes he doesn’t do the right work.

Plus, his communication style often offends other employees and he unprofessionally and in strong language tells his supervisor he’s wrong in front of customers.

There are other things going on, but that’s the heart of it. A supervisor, who we’ll call Supervisor, thinks it’s time to get Employee off the bus.

What If You Could?

But, what if you could keep an employee like this on the bus? What if the employee could change? What if he could contribute fully and work productively with his colleagues and supervisor instead of continuing with this current ineffective approach? Read more