Are you delegating or abdicating?

There’s an important difference between delegating and abdicating. When you delegate to someone, you give them responsibility for something, but you stay in the information loop. Abdicating is when you give somebody responsibility and then you disappear and you’re not in the information loop. Then what happens? All of a sudden someone says, “Do you know what’s happening?” Now you have become the classic manager of all time; what I call the Seagull Manager. You fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out. Why do you do that? Because you didn’t know what was happening in the first place.

If you’re delegating, you’re turning over responsibility to someone else, but you’re still in the loop so you know at what point you might need to get involved again and maybe help in some way. But if you turn your back on the situation, you have abdicated and you are helpless. You become a seagull manager. And remember—people don’t like to be dumped on when you haven’t been around.

So delegate, don’t abdicate. People don’t mind you being in the information loop because then they can get your help when they need it.

Points of Power Can Help Self Leadership

The concept of power in the workforce has a negative connotation.  It brings to mind such associations as coercion, manipulation, and even corruption.  This does not have to be the case. Power has many positive aspects, and everyone can learn to explore and harness different sources of the individual power they have in the workplace.  By developing their own sources of power, employees will be less dependent on others for the leadership they need and thus be better able to take initiative and make a greater contribution in their jobs.

In our program called Situational Self Leadership, we take a different perspective on power.  We suggest that “The sole advantage of power is the ability to do more good.” Thus, if you want to do more good for yourself and more good for the people around you, it is important to learn how to tap into your own points of power.

Points of Power.  There are at least five power sources you can develop in any job, all of which relate to each other in varying degrees: Position power, task power, personal power, relationship power, and knowledge power.

Position power is inherent in the authority of the position you have.  You have position power when your business card has a title printed on it that indicates you have the power to manage people or command resources. My dad, an officer in the Navy, used to say, “The best leaders are those who have position power and never have to use it.”

Task power is power that stems from being good at a particular task at work and being able to help others with a process or procedure they may need to do.

Personal power comes from your personal character attributes such as strength of character, passion, inspiration, or a personal vision of the future.  Personal power is further enhanced by the strength of your interpersonal skills, such as your ability to communicate well and be persuasive with others.

Relationship power comes from association with others through friendship, personal understanding of a colleague, cultivation of a relationship, nepotism, or reciprocity (trading favors).

Knowledge power is about having expertise in an area. This is often through knowing a special skill or group of skills in your job, but is also evidenced by having certain degrees or certifications indicating special training.  Knowledge power can often be transferred from job to job or from company to company–it is a general type of power.

Charting Your Points of Power

An enlightening activity is to list a number of workplace situations or conditions where you feel you have the power to influence outcomes or people.  Next to each item, categorize the type of power you have in that circumstance.

Now draw a five-pointed star with ten hash marks from the center to the tip of each point.  From the center of the star, mark off the corresponding number of responses you listed in your assessment of each type of power.  The farthest hash mark you indicate on each arm of the star becomes the new tip of that arm.  Connect these new points.  The resulting graphic should be some semblance of a star, with certain points having more emphasis and others having less. This will show you at a glance your primary points of power.

If you want to be a real star in the workplace, try to develop a strategy to balance the points of power where you work. Some examples:

·       You have high knowledge power due to expertise in analysis and are often asked to analyze situations and report your findings in meetings.  However, you are weak in personal power and a poor communicator.  Your strategy might be to take a presentation skills course or to ask someone to critique a presentation before you give it to the group.

·       You have high task power and need to present an idea to the head of your department, but are somewhat weak in relationship power.  Your strategy could be to ask a coworker who has the ear of the department head to give you feedback on how he or she thinks the department head will react to your idea.

·       You have task power and are working on a very visible project, but you lack position power, which might make it difficult to get support.  Your strategy could be to use your task power to solicit a sponsor or champion who will help promote your project and your credibility.

·       You have personal power, but are weak in relationship power. Your strategy might be to use your social skills to network.  Ask others for instructions, attend meetings of professional organizations, or schedule lunches to help build relationships.

Take advantage of the points of power where you are strong.  Use your power in a positive way to do more good for yourself and those around you.  If people throughout your organization are enabled to develop their sources of power, it could create a more even playing field for everyone. Power doesn’t have to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

How to Evaluate Your Leadership Style

Today, I’m going to give a short, one-question quiz.  Here’s the question:  How do you rate as a leader?

I don’t ask this question flippantly.  It is a question I’ve asked countless people at the leadership seminars we conduct.

As leaders, most people rank themselves as being very close to a minor deity or at least Mr. or Ms. Human Relations.  Seldom do leaders give themselves low marks. Strangely enough, when the tables are turned and people are asked to rank their boss’s leadership style, we often find many supervisors graded as being adequate, merely OK, or at worst, office autocrats who depend heavily on the often-referenced “seagull management” technique as their sole line of attack—they leave their people alone until something goes wrong, and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump all over everyone, and fly out.

More often than not, we find that leaders lull themselves into thinking they are top-flight leaders because they think they use a supportive or coaching style, which someone told them are “good” leadership styles.  Not too surprisingly, this isn’t the way they are seen by those in their department, office or store.

To get a true and accurate answer about the question above, it is necessary for you as a supervisor to honestly determine how your employees perceive your leadership style. These are the folks who know you best.  They have first-hand experience with your leadership style and operate on their own perceptions about it.  They are the best judges of your managerial effectiveness. However, getting an employee or subordinate to give his or her honest feedback on your leadership style is difficult.  People fear being the messenger who will get shot for bearing bad news.  Hence, they are naturally reluctant to be totally candid.

Employees are sharp observers.  In the past, they may have gone to their leader and made an honest suggestion such as, “Ken, I think our Thursday afternoon meetings are a waste of time.”  If the supervisor answers with an outburst by saying, “What do you mean a waste of time?  Are you kidding? Those meetings are important,” it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that one thing the leader doesn’t want to hear is the truth.

It is important to remember that when people you supervise tell you what they honestly think about your style of leadership, they’re really giving you a gift.  When someone gives you a gift, what is the first thing you should say?  “Thank you,” of course!  Then it’s a very good idea to follow up by saying, “Is there anything else you think I should know?”  When a person learns that you won’t become defensive or hostile when he or she gives you an honest evaluation about your style, you’ll find that you’ll be given many nuggets of truth which are extremely valuable.  My advice would be to encourage people to give (feedback) at the office, and to give often!

Just remember, what you think about your own leadership style really doesn’t matter.  In addition, there is no one correct style, nor is there a “good” or a “bad” style.  Rather, style is judged by those immediately influenced by it.  It’s your people’s response to your style that matters.  If you are getting the right response consistently—high productivity and morale—then you’re doing just fine.  If not, then perhaps it’s your style that needs changing, not your employees.

How Do You Replace A Key Manager?

The first thing you need to decide when you lose a key manager is whether you need to hire a “winner” or a “potential winner” to replace this person.  Winners are individuals who have demonstrated that they can do the exact job you need done.  They are hard to find and they cost money, but they are relatively easy to supervise.  All they need to know is what the goals are.

If the last manager was a winner and you worked well with that person, you might need to search extensively to get the same type of individual.  If you can’t afford or don’t think you can find—or take the time to find—a winner, your next alternative is to hire a potential winner.  Potential winners are individuals who have promise, but have not demonstrated the ability do the specific job you need done.  They are less expensive to hire but they require time and training to develop the skills for the job at hand.  Do you have that kind of time?  Can you afford to train someone to take the last person’s place?

As you interview an individual, how do you tell whether you have a winner?  Let me suggest a process you might use.  When you interview job applicants, attempt to find out as much about them and their background as you can.  As they explain their past, probe with appropriate questions along the way to learn how they have arrived at their current position in life. After you get a sense of the person’s personal and professional background, share with him or her the key responsibility areas in the position you have open.  Be as detailed as you can regarding your concerns and expectations. This process will give you an initial sense of the quality of person you are dealing with.

After this phase of interviewing, you will be able to narrow down the field to the best potential candidates for the job.

During the second interview, give the person a pad and pencil and have him or her prepare a strategy to follow if he or she were to get the job—that is, what would be done first, followed by what would be done within the next three, six and nine months.  Give the applicant an hour to complete this task. Tell him or her that you will want to read the prepared statement as well as listen to an oral presentation.  This will give you not only a sense of the person’s ability to think and plan, but it will also indicate his or her level of initiative, organization, and creativity as well as ability to communicate and present ideas verbally and in writing.

After you have heard the presentation, talk about it. Ask what kind of supervision he or she would need from you in each of the key responsibility areas of the position: Close supervision (known in Situational Leadership® II as a Directing leadership style); both direction and support along with participation in decision making (a Coaching leadership style); support, encouragement and listening (a Supporting leadership style); or could you leave the person alone with minimal supervision (a Delegating leadership style)?

Suggest that the amount of direction the person will need will depend on his or her level of competence in the areas of responsibility, and that the amount of support and involvement you will provide will depend on his or her level of confidence in performing each task or goal.  For example, for you to effectively use a Delegating leadership style, the person would need to be highly competent and confident at the task at hand.  Whereas, if the person is an “enthusiastic beginner” (SLII® language), more direction will be needed.  Suggest that the person look at each of the responsibilities separately and be ready to talk with you in terms of what kind of supervision might be necessary.

While your new candidate is working on analyzing his or her own development level and the appropriate leadership style needed to be effectively supervised in each responsibility area, you would do the same in relation to what you have learned about the person. After you each have analyzed appropriate supervisory approaches on various tasks or goals, you would come together and talk about the kind of supervision that person would probably need.

What is fascinating about this exercise is that you are essentially contracting for a leadership style with the person before he or she has been hired.  This way, you can find out whether this person is a winner who can be generally supervised or a potential winner who will require a greater degree of direct supervision and control.

Hiring a replacement for a key position is not a simple task—it’s something that must be done with great care.  The ideas I’ve presented here have helped me many times to make the best hiring decision—I hope they help you, too!

Effective Leaders Don’t Need to Be Specialists

Some folks wonder whether or not it’s true that a good leader can manage anyone—even someone doing a job the leader doesn’t understand or someone with skills the leader doesn’t have. And, if it’s true, how is it possible?

In fact, leaders are often responsible for individuals who perform tasks the leader may never have personally done. This is why you sometimes hear of managers and executives who successfully change jobs from one industry to a completely different one. How is this possible, you ask? First, leaders often coordinate activities of highly skilled, mature employees who are often capable of  working with little supervision.  Second, leadership is primarily a people activity. If a person has good people skills such as the ability to motivate, communicate, and listen, then that person has the most important attributes of being a good leader, regardless of the type of work being done by direct reports.

If an employee is working in a specialized job with which his or her manager has had little or no experience, that manager can still help that employee achieve top results by listening to find out what that person needs to successfully do the job and working to meet those needs. In addition, a good leader can be a sounding board for ideas and can help talk through problems. A leader can also represent the importance and value of the person’s work to others within the organization.

In short, an effective leader must be resourceful.  Remember, a common definition of management is “getting things done through others.”

This description of a good leader differs from the popular image held by many people.  The effective leader or manager is not an all-knowing, multi-talented “super worker.”  I’m glad to report that this stereotype is on its way out. We don’t need leaders who are good at everything—we need leaders who are very good at a few things, such as helping workers get what they need to complete their jobs or being adept at coordination throughout an organization.

Peter Drucker, one of the top leadership gurus, claimed that the best model for tomorrow’s organization is that of a symphony orchestra.  In such an organization, a single person—the conductor—coordinates the performance of hundreds of specialists. The conductor communicates directly with each musician and can tell the musician what is needed to achieve the right combination of sounds without knowing how to play the tuba or the drums.

Effective leaders must know and be able to communicate what is expected.  They provide the big picture.  They don’t need to know exactly what must be done by specific individuals or departments to achieve those expectations.  Effective leaders set goals and then translate those goals for others using clear communication. This ensures that the number of management levels between the CEO and those doing the job will not need to increase.  Many organizations today have fewer layers of management and wider spans of control for leaders than typical hierarchies in the past.  Increasingly, organizations will become loose-knit clusters of specialists who are served by their leaders.

Remember: Leaders are more likely to be effective at managing anyone if they have or develop the skills that are related to people and not specifically to a job or profession.