Posts Tagged ‘delegation’

Get those monkeys off your back!

November 4, 2011 4 comments

“As he spoke I saw the monkeys coming towards me.  As they climbed up on my shoulders I peeled them off one by one and passed them on.  In the past I wouldn’t even have seen them coming!”  What a brilliant metaphor for learning to delegate!  This is what one of my coachees told me recently.  For years she had happily accepted every meeting invitation, volunteered for every action point until she realised she really could not carry on taking responsibility for other people’s ‘monkeys’* and that she had to delegate if she was not going to collapse under their weight.

So how did she do it?  A change in her beliefs.  In my opinion the real key to delegation – top tips and guidance are all very well but unless you examine your beliefs and assumptions about taking responsibility and delegating you will never do it successfully and feel comfortable about it.

She realised that she did not have to accept every invitation that came her way – that it was OK not to always be a ‘dog’ ie an enthusiastic puppy eternally bounding excitedly on to every bone thrown to her.  And in doing so she was actually giving others the opportunity to shine and learn new skills.  It was not being lazy and irresponsible to pass things on.  Now she orchestrates and delegates rather than running herself ragged doing everything herself.

So what unhelpful beliefs or assumptions do YOU have that are stopping you delegating?  Might it beDelegation

  • “I don’t have time.  By the time I’ve explained it I may as well do it myself”
  • “It won’t get done properly/on time”
  • “It’s my responsibility”
  • “I’ll look as if I’m shirking if I don’t do it.  People will think I’m lazy”
  • “I need to do it myself to show the team I’m supporting them”

Develop some more helpful ones instead:

  • “Actually this is what management is all about”
  • “It may take longer in the short term but it’ll save me time in the long run”
  • “This will develop some useful skills and experience in the team”
  • “It’ll really motivate Joe if I make him responsible for this”
  • “My job is to help the team by seeing the bigger picture and sorting things out properly, not continually firefighting”

Then you can use those helpful hints and tips to actually do it!  And remember you ARE still ultimately responsible – another  manager I worked with knew one of her team was not doing what she should have been, did not do anything about it,  and cost them both their jobs.

What’s been the successful ingredient for your delegation – or what’s stopping you?

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* Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? by William Oncken Jr and Donald L Wass (1974)  Harvard Business Review

Photo: © Meddy Popcorn –

Best kept secret of transition from professional to leader

October 5, 2011 4 comments

“This is the hardest transition I’ve ever made” to quote a successful software developer after her first three months as a manager.  Why was that?  “Suddenly I’ve found I can’t do everything.  I’m bombarded by emails, requests for information…. I have to be selective about what I do”.

She shared this in a group coaching session I was running to help her and others recently promoted to address the big challenges in their new roles.Leadership tightrope

Although this was several years ago I still find this is one of the biggest shocks to new leaders.  Does it matter? – yes! because as a new leader you want to focus on the big challenges you really do need to get to grips with, not trying to walk a tightrope of something totally unrealistic and unattainable.

Why is it such a closely guarded secret?  Maybe:

  • None of us quite get over that guilty feeling of NOT doing everything?
  • Or feel we’ll lose credibility if we admit to this ‘weakness’?
  • There is still a tendency in many organisations to promote people because of their professional expertise rather than their leadership qualities or potential – this means that when you are promoted you think that’s why you got the job and you need to be even more professional and knowledgeable?
  • Little or no organisational support is provided to help with this transition?
  • It’s hard to break the  ‘habit of a lifetime’ of responding to all requests and demands?

So what’s the answer?

  • Other leaders and HR managers should share what they are looking for in a manager/leader in their organisation  – it’s not just a more glorified professional role – and may not be for everyone who’s great at their job.  One law firm I worked with had a clear framework which specified the responsibilities at each point on the career ladder from Solicitor to Partner
  • Setting yourself a vision and goals and prioritising around these – Stephen Covey’s matrix in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is one excellent way of doing this – prioritising around what’s important and/or urgent (or not!)
  • And one of my enduring themes – it’s about changing your beliefs and letting go ie the value you bring comes from a different source, no one can do this as well as you can so you’d better do it yourself……which brings me to…
  • Understanding how to delegate successfully

And that will be the theme of my next post – don’t worry it won’t be a list of ‘practical tips’ – it’s about what it REALLY takes to delegate successfully….As always I’ve got some real life examples to share with you of the positive benefits and also some dire consequences of NOT doing it well!

As ever, please share your views below.  I look forward to hearing what you think.

Photo: © Aliaksei Hintau –

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