You can’t do it all

New year, new learning strategy to come.  I’ll post about that later this year but thought the story of a quick 1-1 coaching activity this week might be of interest.

A manager mentioned to me that they were struggling with time management activities (remember this post) and asked if I had any resources I could let them have.  I met up with them and we talked through the issues they had.  It was fairly clear to me quite quickly that this was a delegation issue, more than a time issue; the lack of time available had come about through poor delegation practice.  I’ve found this is quite common in many managers who have been promoted through the service/function they work in – the desire to achieve tasks is stronger than the desire to demonstrate successful management of the tasks.

There’s more to delegation than just this; team morale, attitude, knowledge and skills, intra/inter team communication, etc can all be contributory causes to a managers lack of delegation activity.  The manager and I spoke for a short while and came up with the following list as a way of classifying the tasks that they complete.

1. It’s Mine, Don’t Touch

These activities belong to the manager and the manager alone.  We walked through their ‘to do’ list and email inbox to find activities that fell into this area.  Aside from staff appraisal and supervision, absence and conduct issues, we couldn’t find much more here.

2. It’s Mine, Do Some

The manager felt this level of delegation is appropriate for a new task/activity that a staff member hasn’t completed before.  The manager wanted to retain accountability but felt they could delegate some clear responsibility to their team.  This level was common in the manager’s ‘to do’ list; lots of activities where they retained command and control.  I asked how their team felt about these activities and they replied that they felt the team never really committed to them.  No accountability?  I wonder why.

3. It’s Yours, Report Regularly

At this level, the manager realised that they were able to set appropriate reporting timetables – these could be daily, weekly, monthly.  The difference between level 2 and this was the way the manager could hand the accountability to the staff member yet retain some control.  They also realised that it was more likely they’d get engagement from their team.  The manager had a lightbulb moment here.

4. It’s Yours, Report Exceptions

We had a brief discussion about how the manager solved the team’s problems.  Activities that the team did requiring their support fall here.  It’s also the next natural level from the one above.  I trust you to report daily, then weekly, then monthly, and subsequently only when things are different.  Rather than these being the time for the manager to demonstrate their technical knowledge, we talked through how these were natural coaching opportunities. They’d ‘got’ the premise of the levels by now and they identified these moments of ‘burst learning’ with their teams.

5. It’s Yours, Report Completion

Quite simply, tell me when it’s done.  If the team can’t achieve, the manager needs to look at the expected completion times, and use these moments to identify if any skills, system, or strategy needs are evident.  These should be the day to day activities of the team; if they’re not completed, the team fails.

The manager’s been using this rating system for almost a week and got in touch on Friday to say how much of a difference it’s made – classifying their tasks and activities daily in this order, allocating to the team, engaging the team more regularly at the start and end of the day.  This may just be a win.

What do you think?  Can activities be delegated like this?  Can a manager (or anyone for that matter) look at their to do list and classify work on a daily/weekly basis like this?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments box.


3 thoughts on “You can’t do it all

  1. Struck a chord with me here Andrew, I used to deliver our authorities Time Management training and a high % of those attending did not really need to be there at all because the issues they had were all due to poor performance management from their supervisers. If their manager had sat down with them to discuss the issues rather than abdicating responsibility and putting them on a time management course then issues would have been sorted out much quicker!


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