If You Want Better Then Be Better

I would hazard a guess that every person on earth wants “better.” They want to do better, have better, speak better, love better or just plain be better. 

It doesn’t matter what race they are, it doesn’t matter what country they are from. Their faith or lack of faith, their age, and their level of education doesn’t matter either. Everyone wants better.

I’d guess a day hardly goes by that the majority of humans don’t think of something or someone that could be better. Sometimes that “thought” turns into a complaint. Sometimes people will give voice to that complaint by saying “why doesn’t somebody do something?” 

Why indeed! 

Can you imagine a world in which that question was never asked? Can you imagine a world in which instead of asking that “why doesn’t” question they just did it?

Can you imagine a world in which YOU never ask that question but instead just do something?

I’m reminded of a poem first shared with me 25 years ago by my great friend and mentor, Mark Norman. I think of this often when I fall into the trap of thinking “somebody” ought to do something. Here is the poem: 

Your task,

To build a better world said God.

I answered: “How?”

The world is such a large vast place

So complicated now,

And I so small and useless am,

There’s nothing I can do.

But God in his great wisdom said: 

“Just build a better you”.

                          Author unknown

There are certainly many things that could be better that you and I have no control over.  Trying to control those things will only add unneeded stress to your life. So instead of trying to control what you can’t why not commit to controlling and bettering what you can.

You!

One of my goals for each day is simple: be a little better today at something than I was yesterday. It’s a worthy goal and some days I achieve it. I achieve it on the days when I intentionally go after it. The key to achieving almost any goal, even simple ones, is intentionality. You won’t get better by accident, you’ll get better by purpose, on purpose, for a purpose.

Decide today that the “somebody” who “ought to do something” is you. Make a plan, set a goal and get after it! 

Always remember, when you make a difference for even one person you have made a difference for the world. Even if that one person is just little ol’ you.

Stop Micromanaging Today!

Congratulations! You have completed the seven step delegation process we discussed in my last post. You’re sitting back and anxiously waiting for the task to be completed successfully and on time. 

If you have fully followed the process, not skipped any steps and are certain the delegation plan would achieve the desired results then you just might have a chance at a successful outcome.

Might! 

I say might because even with a sound delegation process and perfectly executed plan success is not guaranteed. In fact, there are three possible outcomes to even the best delegation process and only one of them equals true success.

The first possibility is that you “buy back” the delegation. It works like this: the person you delegated the task to comes to you with a question. You, for some reason, are too busy to lead at the moment so you tell the person “you’ll take care of it” and presto, you just bought it back. With this outcome you’ve accomplished nothing. The  person you’ve delegated to now has reason to doubt their ability and the next time the task needs to be done you will more likely than not be the person doing it.

The next possibility is that you put the delegation in limbo. It works like this: the person comes to you with a question about the plan. You tell them that you will get back to them but you never do. The delegation is now in limbo. When you have your follow-up meeting they tell you the task is not complete because you never got back to them.

All you have succeeded at doing, other than demoralizing the person you delegated to, is convince yourself that you were right all along; doing it yourself or micromanaging people is the only way to succeed.

There is however a third possibility. You establish accountability. It works like this: the person you delegated to comes to you with a question, problem, obstacle or concern. They ask for your “help” or come right out and say they don’t know how to  do the task.

Here is your moment to truly lead. If you are indeed certain that following the original plan will lead to the objectives being met then hold them fully accountable to follow the plan. Tell them THEIR plan is solid, tell them to stick to the plan. Assure them their answers are in the plan. Tell them you’ll see them on the follow up date and you know they will have succeeded. 

If you do anything other than establish accountability you risk looking like and in fact being, a micromanager.  

Don’t risk it! 

How to Stop Micromanaging

In my last post I wrote about the damage done by micromanaging. I could write for hours and hours on this scourge to all things productive. It limits the growth of every type of organization by limiting the growth of it’s people. It kills moral, it kills productivity, it kills profitability and eventually, it kills the organization.

But there is a way to stop micromanaging in it’s tracks. It’s called delegating!

Now as all micromanages will tell you, delegating doesn’t work. They say that if you want a job done right then you must do it yourself.

To all my micromanaging friends I say this: that’s a bunch of bunk!

If you delegated a task to someone and they failed at the task then it’s likely the failure was caused by YOUR poor delegating skills. As a leader you failed to delegate properly and further convinced yourself that you MUST micromanage to ensure the success of your people.

That’s dead wrong and it will lead the to creative death of your people and the financial death of your organization.

Let’s talk about what effective delegation looks like. Before we begin let me remind you that authentic leaders invest time with their people. Poor managers spend time on their people. Effective delegating will require an investment of your time. The good news is that if you do it right, it’s a one time investment for that task.

Effective delegation can be broken down into a seven step process, here are the steps:

1.  Select the Person – As a leader you must first decide who you will be delegating to. You have a couple of choices here. You can delegate to someone you know will get the job done, someone who is already proficient at the task. (This does not ensure success, they still need clearly defined objectives and outcomes to measure their progress and results) You also have the option to truly help someone grow by delegating a task to someone who will have to be pushed well outside their comfort zone in order to succeed.

2.  Plan the Delegation – Next you must plan all details of the delegation. What will be delegated, the deadline for completion, budget and resource requirements. You must also determine how results will be measured. The measurements must be fairly black and white. Opinions cause disagreements, the measurements can’t be based on opinion or emotions, you’ll need facts, figures and deadlines as your measuring tools or you risk a failed delegation.

3.  Meet with the person taking on the task – In the meeting, delegate by explaining what the task is and why it’s important to the organization. Explain the why and how of your decision to delegate to this particular person.

Next, explain the results to be achieved, be very specific here. If you leave “wriggle room” it likely that success will wriggle away.

Explain the rules and limitations of the delegation. Again, specificity is a key here. The person you’re delegating to must know exactly what they can and can’t do. They cannot come back to you for clarification during their task because that gives you an opening to micromanage. Set the guidelines up front, set them firm and make them consistent. Don’t give the person OR yourself any excuse to escape this delegation.

Next set the performance standards for the task. These are the measurements. No gray allowed here, the more black and white the better. When the time comes to evaluate the success of the task you do not want a debate. The outcome, whether or not it was met must be crystal clear to all involved.

4.  Ask for a Plan of Action – The person you’re delegating to should develop their own plan of action. How will they accomplish the task? Can they stay within the rules of the delegation, will it be completed on time?

5.  Review the Plan – The next step is another short meeting where you review their plan with them. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you mess this up the delegation will fail. YOU must be absolutely certain that their plan will result in the task being completed on time and successfully. If their plan will not accomplish the required outcome then you must coach the person to adjust their plan accordingly. Now, here’s YOUR challenge: keep your micromanaging monster in the cave; COACH them to change THEIR plan. DO NOT make this into your plan. They must have ownership.

Here’s another big challenge for you: their plan may be different than the plan you would have developed. Who cares! If their plan will meet the objectives, stay within the guidelines and accomplish the task, then let them go with it. If everything has to be done your way then it’s possible you may just be a hopeless micromanager.

6.  Implement the Plan – The majority of plans fail because they are never implemented. As important as the completion date is to the success of the plan the start date is vital as well. Make certain you have agreement as to when the person will begin. Set a date, even set a time on that date. Specificity is what makes delegation work!

7.  Follow-up – On the date agreed to, meet one final time to assess the results. If YOU didn’t mess anything up the results should be exactly what was required. You have just helped someone grow into a more productive member of the team. You demonstrated exceptional leader’s skills. You and the person you delegated to can now share a great success. Congratulations!

Congratulations maybe…. There are really three possible outcomes to this delegation process. How this delegation will play out is ultimately up to you, the leader.

In my next post we’ll discuss the possible outcomes and how you can impact each one.

How Micromanaging Kills a Business

Let’s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micromanages your people then you’re a leader with very serious limitations. You’re also a leader who likely won’t think much of this post.

Leaders who insist on micro-managing, have a problem; they believe they must check on every detail and they are most likely an insecure leader. Their leadership is based on a lack of faith and trust in other people. It is repressive. It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential, and it discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. 

They take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success, they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence, hurt their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit.

They limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow, and they also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.

They don’t trust their employees or their judgment, and they are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. They are cheating themselves of the ability they are paying for. 

Micro-managing may work for a while but in time, it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged as the talent to create and move forward has been banished by the micro-manager.

The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and let other people make some decisions and perhaps even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization and it’s people will be severely restricted. 

People who are micro-managed stop being productive. Given even the most basic of assignments, they “learn” to wait for direction. If they are micro-managed long enough they completely disengage from the organization and simply “go through the motions” until they finally leave or are fired. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps but it does eventually die.

Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader. 

If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders but it’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves. 

My next post will discuss a seven-step delegation process that virtually ensures an effective outcome. If you want to build your people you won’t want to miss it! 

How to Develop Your People – Part Two

Most, yes, sadly most, organizations get so busy doing the urgent things that they forget to do the truly important ones. Sometimes they even forget to do the most important thing of all – develop their people. 

I believe it’s most important because when it comes right down to it organizations, companies and teams are about the PEOPLE who make them up. Your company can have the best technology, the best systems and the best process but if it is staffed by overwhelmed and under-appreciated people it will struggle to succeed.

Great companies and great leaders are intentional in developing their people. They build the whole developmental concept right into their business plan. They know that success rarely happens by accident and neither does people development. 

Pull out the plan for your business or organization right now. Go to the section on developing your people….can’t find it? Then get yourself a new plan and get it immediately before you waste anymore time struggling in areas that you don’t need to.

Developing your people begins with an understanding that most people simply don’t know how to be successful. A very few people can succeed by being told what to do but almost all people need to be shown. Most people need a model of success. They need to see successful behaviors in action. They need to see that if they put in the effort that they too might succeed.

How conscious are you of your role as a model for your people? How do you make certain that you are the model they need?

Great companies and leaders know that most people are naturally motivated. YES, you read that right. Most people are motivated until somebody comes along and de-motivates them.

Clearly, no leader in their right mind would do that intentionally but they do it all the same. The number one way to de-motivate a member of your team or organization is to micro-manage them. Micro-managing sends the message that they can’t be trusted. It says they just aren’t good enough to do the job on their own. 

People have a built in need to be valued and trusted; micro-managing sends the message that they are neither. If you feel the need to micro-manage your people there can really only be two possibilities: either you hired the wrong people or you’re not giving them the skills they require to succeed. Micro-managing exposes the weakness of the leader, not the weakness of their people.

Great companies and leaders know that developing their people takes time. There are two types of mindsets in business; one says that we “spend time on” our people and the other says we “invest time with” our people. 

If you see your people as a time “expense” you’ll likely never do what it takes to develop them. If you see your people as an “investment” then you have a chance to develop them into your organization’s leaders of tomorrow. 

Let me be clear about this; if you really want your business to thrive, if you want to build a world class organization then you simply MUST develop your people. It really isn’t optional. 

The most current research available shows that less than 25% of employees describe themselves as “fully engaged” and nearly a third say they are “completely disengaged.” Some may even be “actively disengaged” meaning they actually look for ways to damage the organization.  

Employees who believe they don’t matter and employees who believe they are not trusted tend to disengage pretty quickly. 

Do you really think you can grow your business and be successful when 75% of your people are at best just sort of engaged? 

Do you still think developing your people is optional? 

I didn’t think so!

How to Develop Your People – Part One

I could go into almost any company in the world and ask the leadership of that company  what their greatest asset is. Almost without exception they would say their people.

They would say their people make the difference. They would say their people are their “strategic advantage” and they would say developing their people is critical for their long term success. 

They say all the right things. 

Unfortunately saying it doesn’t get it done. Merely saying it doesn’t accomplish much at all. Companies that want to be good say the right things. Good companies do the right things. Great companies know why they do them and they do them intentionally.

Great companies know that their people NEED to feel worthwhile. They know that even their top performers need positive feedback from time to time. Great companies provide their people with constant and consistent recognition. They don’t recognize their people in their “free time” or “when the have a chance.” They are incredibly intentional about it, they plan for it and they make recognition part of every company gathering.

How do you feed your team’s need for significance?

Great companies regularly offer encouragement to their people. They coach constantly and they coach with a spirt of approval. They make mistakes seem easy to correct and they offer real suggestions on how to do better next time. Companies that develop their people don’t criticize their people without using compassion to soften the blow. They know there is no reason, ever, to tear their people down. 

Do you coach your people with an attitude of approval or criticism?

Great companies know that people don’t follow leadership, they follow a leader. Authentic leadership is a “person to person” kind of thing. If the leader doesn’t care about the people they lead then the people they lead won’t care to follow that leader. Authentic leaders never just say they care, they show it and they show it intentionally. Frequently!

How do you show your followers that you care about them?

We’ll continue this topic in the next post. Until then ponder these questions and remember, if your people don’t think you’re a leader then you’re most likely not.

Now Here’s a Plan

I am not a big fan of sayings or clichĂ©s. Two of my least favorite are the saying that says  “plan your day and work your plan” and the cliche that says “if you don’t have a plan to succeed then you do have a plan to fail.”

The problem with both of those, as with many sayings and clichés, is that they happen to be true.

I’m also a big believer that you should avoid using the words “always” and “never.” Those are pretty big words and there are usually exceptions to both of them.

That said, I would say that if you don’t have a plan to succeed you’re almost always going to fail. I’d also say that if you don’t have a plan for your day then your day is never going to go according to plan. 

Now, here’s the problem with this whole planning thing: it takes time. If you’re like most people, you would much rather be out there “doing it” then sitting around planning to do it well. 

The most successful people fight the urge to “just do it” and instead first develop a plan to do it well. Here’s one thing that almost all successful people have in common – they see planning as an investment of their time and not an expense of their time.

To increase your chance at true, long-lasting success you should have short, medium and long-range goals and plans to achieve all of them. Your plan for tomorrow does not have to be elaborate, it could just be a couple of bullet points. Your long-range plan should be as detailed as you can make it. 

Whether it is a one-day plan or the plan for the rest of your life, the key to making it work is to include action steps along the way. No plan, not even the best plan, succeeds if it is not implemented. 

 Each day you should be getting closer to a goal and as each day begins you should know specifically what you will accomplish that day in order for that to happen.

You should also know that almost certainly your plan will not survive intact. It will require changes along the way. Circumstances, events and even people in your life will change and you will likely want and need to make some adjustments. The fact that your plan will change on your path to success is not a valid reason for not making a plan.

If you’ve never had much success at developing plans then start small. Just make a plan for one day this week. Adjust it as required throughout the day. Do that a few weeks in a row and then make a plan for an entire week. You’ll quickly discover that your plan will seldom stay together exactly as you had in mind. You will also discover that you still had more control over your day then if you had no plan at all.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re planning to succeed then you had best be planning!