Are we limiting our success by not mastering the art of delegation? …. it’s simply a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. – Oprah Winfrey, media mogul
Many managers have asked me for tips on time management over the course of my career. It is a common ailment among those who are new to management. While time management tips and tactics never hurt, I find that when I get asked for this guidance, more often than not, the manager isn’t working at the right level.
Managers, especially those new to the role, recognize that what got them there in the first place was their execution- that ability to rely on their abilities to get the job done. They’re most comfortable digging into the work because there is justification and satisfaction in quantifying a tangible contribution. Often times, this means they’re working the day-to-day alongside their direct reports during work hours, leaving the early morning, late evening, and/or weekend to perform their managerial tasks. It’s a common refrain and a recipe for disaster! Here are some real-life examples of managers I’ve seen working too far into the weeds:
- The CFO who’s calling a customer’s A/P contact to clarify how to apply their payment
- The HR Director who stays late into the evening to help the payroll clerk finish payroll
- The Sales Manager who investigates a new opportunity because his sales rep is too uncomfortable to do it
- The Customer Service Manager who starts his day checking the voicemail from the night before
So what makes an effective leader?
Not their ability to do the work! It’s their ability to get things done through others; which means learning the art of delegating, automating, and eliminating non-managerial tasks. This means turning your priority away from production, and toward connection. Most new managers have the greatest trepidation in this area, so they avoid uncomfortable conversations with their staff and fall back to their comfort zone of churning out work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying managers should never jump in to help their staffs. Managers should pitch in from time to time, to boost morale and improve teamwork, and to stay in touch with the demands of the job so they stay relatable. But this should be the rarity, not the rule.
- That CFO needs to ensure his accounting manager and A/R clerk know how to enter customer payments
- That HRD needs to analyze and improve the process to streamline payroll processing for her clerk
- That Sales Manager needs to find out why the sales rep is hesitant, and teach her how to uncover these opportunities
- The Customer Service Manager can delegate voicemail to any other CSR, freeing him up to connect with staff at the start of each day
How can you help?
If you’re a CEO and what I’ve described hits all too close to home, here are some suggestions:
- Recognize you’re not alone, and what you’re experiencing is the quintessential new-to-management experience
- When looking at who to promote, put more weight on the quality of a candidate’s interactions than on their production
- Speak openly about the new skills necessary to be an effective leader, and the temptation to fall back into the daily work so managers can anticipate, recognize and resist that temptation when it arises
- Provide training to help new managers build and practice people management and inter-personal skills so they may lean into conversations rather than shy away from them
- Give new managers time, resources, and support to make the mental mind-shift
- Provide the Time Management tips they ask for, and any other resource that can help build their confidence in their new leadership abilities
If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate. — John C. Maxwell, American author