Articles about "delegation"


Businesswoman stressed out

Overworked and overwhelmed? Consider these 7 questions

If you’re feeling swamped at work these days, you’re not alone. I’m not talking “I don’t get to go out for lunch very often” busy. I mean “I’m buried in work, never fully off the clock and still feel I’m letting people down” busy. I hear it regularly from the managers I teach and coach.

It’s a function of the downsized staffing but increased demands and responsibilities in changing organizations.

The story is familiar: to hit budget numbers, the company cuts head count but leaves fully intact the expectation of quality, service and measurable results. (I’ll give CNN president Jeff Zucker credit. Referencing the depressing specter of buyouts and layoffs, he didn’t try to spin it as some great opportunity for the survivors to work smarter, not harder. He said “We are going to do less and have to do it with less.”)

Businesswoman stressed out

But what about those who are doing so much, perhaps too much, these days?  Their leaders often suggest that they do a better job of delegation. They may be right. Even when staffing is strong, managers often hesitate to delegate. For perspective, I looked for my first Poynter.org column on delegation: “Why We Don’t Delegate, but Could.” I wrote it in 2002!

But delegation alone isn’t enough today. Front line managers need to work with their leaders to take a comprehensive look at workloads, workflow, strategies, systems and shifting priorities in changing times. They need to constantly communicate about effectiveness, efficiency and yes, exhaustion.

As I work with organizations that are trying to do just that, I developed 7 questions for leaders and managers to ask themselves. I hope you find them helpful:

1. Whose job is it, anyway? This is a call for clarification of the manager’s role. What are the most important responsibilities he/she should have? What tasks have gravitated to that person because of tradition, or a particular talent, or simply by default? What assumptions underlie the manager’s list of duties, and is it time to challenge some of them?

2. When I feel guilty about delegating, what’s the reason?  Some managers fear that delegating is simply dumping on others, a confession of incompetence and or a sign of slacking off.  Empathy, expertise and work ethic are all commendable qualities of managers, but shouldn’t stand in the way of a rational review of one’s workload.

3. Do I secretly love certain tasks and don’t want to let go? This one is self-evident. If you simply love keeping a hand in certain things, even if they are not essential to your management role, what’s the cost/benefit ratio? Only you and your leaders can assess whether the joy is worth the ripple effect it has on other work and people. It may be. Just be transparent about your decision to keep doing that task – and open to revisiting the impact.

4. What do I have to learn to teach before I can delegate this? Managers often keep doing a task because they’re ill-prepared to train others how to do it. They don’t want to take the time to build an instruction guide or plan, or don’t feel comfortable training others — so they keep doing the work themselves. Admit it: this is a problem you can solve.

5. How can I maintain quality over things I delegate? Concern about quality control often causes managers to avoid delegating. But you CAN keep close enough touch to ensure things will go well. When I wrote about delegation in my book, “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know,” I highlighted a quote taken from some terrific feedback that a boss in one of my seminars received:

He never rests on his laurels and is always seeking ways to improve our performance, even as resources contract and the pressure on staff increases. He is not afraid to delegate; he stands back and lets you get on with it, but he is always close at hand, seeking updates on how the job is going, asking if assistance is needed.

6. What ambitions of ours are most helpful? When do we get too distracted by shiny objects? Management teams need work together to determine when they are committing to projects without sufficient analysis of the potential impact. It looks like this: We go to a meeting to talk about a new idea, initiative or tool. We’re high achievers, so we attack that idea with 100% energy and attention. We don’t think in terms of tradeoffs of time and effort. We plunge in. And later, we may celebrate it or regret it. Innovation is critical to business success, so I’m not arguing against it at all. But be strategic rather than impulsive on the front end as you choose to pursue opportunities.

7. What can we kill without fear of capital punishment? There’s a reason I saved this one for last. If you, as a manager, want to persuade your leadership that it’s time to STOP doing something, you need to demonstrate that you’ve looked at every other alternative, especially your own performance. The powers-that-be can see that you aren’t whining or not up to the task of management. Rather, you’re a self-managing, high-performing partner. Together, you’ll assess whether a task or project produces sufficient return on the investment of your time and talent.

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There’s one more critical piece of advice I give to managers who want to delegate effectively and help those to whom they delegate succeed. I share it in this companion podcast.

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What Great Bosses Know about 6 tips for new managers

Following their promotions, new managers often experience a curious combination of feelings: pride and panic. Sound familiar?

The pride comes from being recognized as a high performer. You’ve been told you are someone with the potential to help an organization’s product and people improve. The panic comes from another message: a phantom voice in your head that whispers: “This is the day they find out you’re really not qualified for this job.”

You fear that the phantom voice may have a point. After all, you were probably dropped into management with no special training. Yet, each day you’re asked to solve supervisory problems that are often surprising but rarely simple.

That’s why it’s helpful to listen to a few other voices — veteran managers who have walked in your shoes. They’ve been through the pride-and-panic stage. They’ve learned from experience and are willing to share their wisdom.

Candy Altman

At a recent Poynter seminar for New Managers, our visiting faculty instructor Candy Altman brought just such voices into the conversation. Candy’s a corporate VP of news for the Hearst Television stations. She rose through staff and leadership ranks of TV stations, overseeing and mentoring countless managers. She surveyed some of them for her presentation “Six Mistakes New Managers Make.” From their top “new manager” gaffes as well as her own, she developed her list.

I’m sharing it here, and adding links to additional resources on the topics she addresses:

Six Tips for New Managers from Candy Altman

1. Delegate: You can’t do it all yourself, and if you do, two things happen — things won’t get done well and you won’t live up to your responsibility to train those who work for you.

2. Don’t stay in your comfort zone: New managers do this by gravitating toward people like them when hiring and focusing on tasks they know.

3. Adapt your skill set: Recognize that the skills that made you great at your old job may not translate to your new job. Understand that you will be dealing with a lot of gray areas in your new job, where your old job might have been fact-based.

4. Build your time management skills: Build them for work and for your life. If you don’t, you will be tortured all the time and feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. If you don’t find time to enjoy your life outside of work, you will burn out.

5. Know that it’s lonely at the top: Understand, truly understand that managing people can be isolating. You are making decisions that affect your employees’ livelihoods. You are evaluating them and giving feedback. You are no longer their after-work, dinner and drinking companion. Make new friends outside work.

6. Define and communicate a vision: What do you stand for? If you want people to follow you, you must lead with a clear mission.

I hope Candy’s list helps you keep the pride and calm the panic. For good measure, you can check out the list of related posts for new managers below this article. As you can see, aspiring great bosses are our favorite people!

And you can listen to this podcast, in which I identify the one very big and needless nagging fear that new managers should put to rest:

Poynter’s “What Great Bosses Know” podcast is sponsored by The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

You can download the complete series of these podcasts free on iTunes U. Read more

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