Mistakes in Motivation

August 22, 2016

How many times a week do you hear, “We’ve got to motivate our people?” This is usually followed by an idea or two to try to entice people to be more productive.

Seeking to motivate employees is a thought pattern leaders use every day, so what’s wrong with it?

Trying to motivate workers shows a lack of understanding about what motivation is and how it is achieved. Leaders who think this way rarely get the increased motivation they seek.

Reason: Motivation is an intrinsic phenomenon rather than something to be impressed upon people. Motivation is not something managers “do to” the workers.

The only person who can motivate you is you. The role of leaders is not to motivate workers, rather it is to create the kind of culture and environment where workers are inspired and choose to motivate themselves.

An example is when a leader sets a vision and goals, then allows people to use their initiative to get the job done as they see fit.

Why do many leaders try to motivate people by using either incentives (like bonuses) or threats (like penalties)?

1. Poor understanding of motivation

The notion that by adding perks to the workplace we somehow make people more motivated is flawed.

Over 50 years ago, Frederick Herzberg taught us that increasing the so-called “hygiene factors” is a good way to reduce dissatisfaction in the workplace, but a poor way to increase motivation.

Why? – because goodies like picnics, pizza parties, hat days, bonuses, new furniture, etc. often help people become happier at work, but they do little to impact the underlying reasons they are motivated to do their best work.

2. Taking the easy way out

Many leaders believe that by heaping nice things on top of people, it will feel like a better culture. The most direct way to improve the culture is to build trust.

By focusing on a better environment, managers enable people to motivate themselves.

3. Using the wrong approach

It is difficult to motivate another person. You can scare a person into compliance, but that’s not motivation; it is fear.

You can bribe a person into feeling happy, but that’s not motivation; it is temporary euphoria that is quickly replaced by a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.

4. Focusing on perks

Individuals are willing to accept any kind of treat the boss is willing to dish up, but the reason they go the extra mile is a personal choice based on the level of motivational factors, not the size of the carrot.

A better approach to create motivation is to work on the culture to build trust first. Improving the motivating factors, such as authority, reinforcement, growth, and responsibility creates the right environment for motivation to grow within people.

How can we tell when a leader has the wrong understanding about motivation?

A clear signal is when the word “motivate” is used as a verb – for example, “Let’s see if we can motivate the team by offering a bonus.”

If we seek to change other people’s attitude about work with perks, we are going to be disappointed frequently.

Using the word “motivation” as a noun usually shows a better understanding – “Let’s increase the motivation in our workforce by giving the team the ability to choose their own methods to achieve the goal.”

For an organization, “culture” means how people interact, what they believe, and how they create. If you could peel off the roof of an organization, you would see the manifestations of the culture in the physical world.

The actual culture is more esoteric because it resides in the hearts and minds of the society. It is the impetus for observable behaviors.

Achieving a state where all people are fully motivated is a large undertaking. It requires tremendous focus and leadership to achieve. It cannot be something you do on Tuesday afternoons or when you have special meetings.

It is not generated by giving out turkeys at Thanksgiving. Describe motivation as a new way of life rather than a program or event. You should see evidence of motivation based on trust in every nook and cranny of the organization.

Focus on improving the culture rather than using carrots or sticks to create true motivation.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Dealing With Risk

August 15, 2016

I saw something in the social media a while ago, that said “Give chances: don’t take them.”

I propose a different slant on the topic: “Give chances and take them.”

Since I am rather risk averse, the notion of not taking chances has a comforting ring to it. On the flip side, none of us can make progress in life without taking some kind of chances. Finding the right balance between taking calculated and strategic risks versus foolhardy ones is worthy of some analysis.

The trick is to determine the difference between smart risks and dumb ones. We need a system that helps us sort them out.

Focus on a personal risk that you have taken in the past year. Think about the process you used to sort through the risk/reward ratio and how you ultimately decided to make the plunge or not. In retrospect, would you do it again?

Do you thank yourself for taking intelligent risks, even if sometimes they do not pan out?

My system is to have a good strategic plan for my life. It covers my professional as well personal life. Every year I renew the plan and refresh what I intend to do for the next year. Having a written plan allows me to turn down some tempting things without feeling guilty for missing something.

For example, this year I made a strategic decision to back off on some teaching to allow more time for product development. That meant sacrificing current income in order to have the potential for a better future.

The result was not guaranteed, but the risk vs. reward tradeoff was a good one for me this year.

I have also made some heavy investments in my speaking career that are already starting to pay off and are bringing me more speaking engagements on my topics of trust and leadership.

Having a plan helps me know which calculated risks might be the best moves to make. The plan is never perfect, nor do I adhere to it with shackled rigidity. I believe we need to be flexible and alert to possibilities we may not have considered.

Still, operating with a backdrop of a well-considered plan has been quite useful in my life. I recommend the practice to you, and here is a link to the system I use, called “Renewal.”

Giving chances, allowing ourselves and others to try things, is a formula for enabling growth. We need to feel empowered to take a chance when it is prudent and encourage others to take responsible risks as well.

Sometimes we also need to give second chances in order to reap the true payoff. If we are too quick to pull the plug when an attempt at something goes sour, then we limit the learning experiences that come from overcoming failures.

I believe we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. We need to fail more intelligently and make corrections to maximize the life lessons. It is all about learning.

For example, walking and talking are easy for most people. Recall what it is like for a child to learn to walk or talk. It is simply a series of numerous failures followed by support and more chances that allow the eventual learning to take place.

But what if you had a stroke and had to learn these skills all over again? Thankfully, most of us never have to endure that agony. One person who did, and wrote insightfully about it, was Jill Bolte Taylor.

Jill wrote a wonderful book entitled, My Stroke of Insight. Here is a link to a TED Talk she gave on her experience. As a practicing brain surgeon, she suffered a massive stroke that destroyed the left side of her brain.

In her book, she described the painful process to regain full control of her functions, with the dedicated help of her amazing mother. She literally had to relearn how to walk and talk while using only the right side of her brain.

In the process, she discovered a kind of inner peace that is available to us all if we simply train ourselves to access it. I recommend this book to anyone who struggles with depression. It is not only about getting a second chance, but about the amazing personal skill of modifying our own thought patterns.

Giving second chances to ourselves and others is also an empowering activity. We allow the person to take ownership of the situation and figure out how to do better in the future. With this approach, people can take a creative and uplifting road to improvement rather than dwell in defeat.

The Connection of Risk and Trust

There is a direct link between risk and trust. If you trust someone, it is axiomatic that the person could disappoint you. You take that risk when you trust him or her.

Trust without risk is like a meal without food.

If you find one, the other has to be there. For example, it is impossible to drink a glass of water without trust.

If each of us would concentrate on taking intelligent chances with the right strategy and then extend chances if things go wrong, we would find the world to be happier and more productive, because we would be learning more all the time.

Key Points

1. Risk is present in most actions. We often overlook the risks involved in daily life.
2. Risk and trust are joined at the hip.
3. Taking calculated risks is good for us.
4. If there is no risk, there can be no progress.

Exercises for You

1. Name five risks you took before breakfast today.
2. Count the times a coworker or superior makes a risky decision in a single meeting. You will be amazed. It will open your eyes.
3. What system do you use to sort out the risks and get them lined up so you know which ones need the most attention?
4. If you took a risk that did not work out, how can you more quickly recognize the mistake?

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

New Book in 2014 – Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change For more information go to http://www.astd.org/transition


Leadership Essentials

August 8, 2016

Despite the thousands of articles and books about leadership, some myths remain that are very stubborn. One myth that bothers me is that really good leadership is remarkably difficult. Hogwash: really good leadership is simple.

Let’s examine a short list of the things that are not needed to be a great leader, and contrast them with another list of things that are essential.

Things not needed to be a great leader

1. You do not need to be brilliant. Sure, you do need a functioning brain and the ability to conceptualize options, but there are plenty of thinkers in every organization. The leader does not need to be super intelligent; in fact if you push it to the extreme, a leader with genius IQ will have a difficult time relating to people in the organization and end up grossly misunderstood.

2. You do not have to be perfect. Leaders who concentrate on doing everything correctly miss big opportunities because they have a low tolerance for risk. Making foolish blunders is not the mark of a great leader, but a person who has a good batting average and is willing to take calculated risks generally makes a better leader. The ability to make an honest mistake and admit it to people shows the leader is vulnerable, which is an endearing characteristic that builds trust in most circumstances.

3. You do not need to look the part. Having studied successful and struggling leaders in organizations of all types, I can tell you that the top echelon of leaders in most cases are indistinguishable from their underlings that have more “normal” physical appearance (whatever that means). Some of the best leaders I have ever met wear a polo shirt to work.

4. You do not need to be a workaholic. Successful leaders do work hard, but the best ones recognize that to be exceptional, they need to have balance in their lives. They take the time to refresh and enjoy an active family and social life. When I see a leader who is married to the job and thinks only about work related issues, I see a person who is near burnout and does not realize that a little rejuvenation would improve rather than diminish the overall performance.

Things you must have to be a great leader

1. You must have a set of positive values. Not only must a leader have values, but he or she must adhere to them at all times. When I see a set of values and ask the CEO if he always follows his values, I often hear weasel words like, “Well… we try to always follow our values, but sometimes it is very difficult to do so.” Rubbish! When things are most difficult is when following your values is most important.

2. You must have high Emotional Intelligence. According to Bradberry and Greaves in Emotional Intelligence 2.0, the definition of EQ is, “Your ability to understand emotions, and your skill at being able to use that awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.” Leaders with low EQ have significant blind spots, as noted by Daniel Goleman; they cannot see their own inconsistencies.

3. You must have passion and humility. The rare combination of leadership traits was highlighted in Good to Great, by Jim Collins. The passion for the vision allows a leader to have the stamina and tenacity to pursue challenging work. The humility keeps the leader from being too aloof with people.

4. You must have great people skills. You need to be able to work well with people at all levels consistently over time. All of the people skills are important with special emphasis on communication skills.

Of course, we could name hundreds of other things that leaders either need or do not need to be great, but these eight factors are important things that I often see being confused by incumbent leaders. If you spend most of your energy pursuing the traits that are not needed and not enough emphasis on the essential traits, you are going to come up short as a leader.

Exercise for you

Try to expand on my lists of the things that are not needed and the things that are essential to be a great leader. It will clarify your thinking about what is important, which will lead to growth for you.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online,  Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust In Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

 


Playing Carnival Games at Work

August 1, 2016

Do you know leaders who solve problems daily? Of course; all leaders do this. Isn’t that the major function of leaders? When leaders solve problems, the organization performs better and employees get along better together.

Solving problems is critical to business success. Unfortunately, in many situations leaders spend all of their time solving problems and reacting to crises, so it becomes like the carnival game of “Whack-a-Mole”.

I believe the ideal day for a high caliber leader consists of making sure the entire organization is grounded with a set of values and behaviors that everyone agrees to follow.

The entire population knows their mission and has internalized the vision as to where they are going in the future.

They recognize there are a number of change cycles from where they are in order to achieve the vision, so they have developed a great strategy with tactics and measures to help them chart the path to success.

All of these things are part of the strategic process that is a prime responsibility for all leaders. Leaders should be spending the bulk of their time creating and reinforcing the strategic plan and creating the culture.

Unfortunately, there is a paradox in most organizations where the leader is served up a never-ending supply of problems to resolve. Let’s picture a leader named Alice.

She comes to work on a typical day with 2-3 problems left over from the previous night. Her calendar is jammed with meetings to report on the status of problems or work on emergency situations.

She “inherits” several new problems or crises every day. Sometimes the problems are waiting for her outside her door when she arrives in the morning. There are certain to be several new ones when she looks at her inbox.

She instinctively knows the organization could run a lot better, but there is simply no time to even work on a good strategic plan. So, poor Alice runs herself ragged and just keeps her head out of the water on most days.

She goes home exhausted, kicks the dog, and tries to clear out a few more issues online before going to bed.

I call this condition the “Executive Whack-A-Mole” syndrome, after the famous carnival game. Every time a mole comes out of one of the holes you whack it down, but there are others emerging all the time. You can never get them all down at the same time, and they keep coming up faster and faster.

This problem is not universal, but it is far too common in most organizations. There is a way out of the game, but it requires courage and vision. The way out is to invest time creating an improved culture and workflow within the organization.

Leaders need to see their prime role as creators of culture and systems, not just problem solvers. Developing an environment of higher trust is an investment that pays off many times over the cost. This shift in mindset has numerous advantages.

First, carving out time where the entire team can work on trust issues will result in less friction between people in the future. Since many of the “problems” have to do with people being unable to work together efficiently, this investment pays off in two ways.

1) Employees work better together with fewer problems, and

2) employee satisfaction improves, resulting in greater productivity.

Second, by focusing on teamwork, the leader emphasizes that all employees are capable of solving the inevitable business problems. The leader has many willing hands to lighten the load of problem solving in the future.

The employees feel good about having greater responsibility as well. They become empowered and trusted to handle many situations previously delegated upward to the leader.

Third, the tendency toward executive burnout is greatly reduced when there is time set aside to work on the culture. Getting out of the “rat race” every few weeks to think about what is happening is cathartic. People have the opportunity to vent and rebuild relationships in a “safe” atmosphere.

In some situations this is best handled with the help of an outside expert schooled in conflict resolution.

Having a facilitator is especially important if the leader is part of the problem. Working on the culture is usually expanded to include better strategic planning and vision definition. Now employees have a stronger stake in the future of the organization because they helped define it. This ownership means they will put forth more effort to make it a reality.

When working with executives, I nudge them to consider devoting 15-20% of their calendar time each quarter working to develop an improved culture of trust. That means scheduling their time and that of their team to get away from the office and do some systems and capability building looking at the bigger picture.

When I suggest this, most executives look at me as if I am from another planet. They will say something like, “You must be insane. We could not possibly carve out that much time to be away from the office. You obviously do not have a clue how busy I am.” I simply tell them to enjoy their “Whack-a-mole” game because, with their perspective, there is no way out of it.

In the time crunch on every executive, many believe it is impossible to invest as much as a full day every three or four weeks. They are too busy solving problems and crises.

However, those leaders who do carve out that much time, find the payoff is far greater than the investment. It leads to a stronger, more productive, and less problem-filled organization. It also leads to fewer health problems due to burnout.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.

Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

 


Does Happiness Beget Morale?

July 22, 2016

Are morale and happiness really the same thing? We say that people at work have high morale when they are happy, but does one always follow the other?

I can imagine that they are linked in some way, but it is possible to have high morale even if you are not particularly happy with your current job.

Since this article will explore subtle differences between these two words, it would be wise to start with an attempt to define each one:

Happiness – is about feeling good. It is a state of well-being, satisfaction, and contentment.

Morale – is about having enthusiasm. It is a state of confidence, loyalty, fulfillment, or common purpose.

Think about some job or activity that you have had in the past that you really did not enjoy very much. You were not cheerful while on the job, but you might have had high morale because it was getting you somewhere.

A good example might be working toward a college degree. I recognize that, for most people, reading textbooks, writing papers, and taking exams are not fun activities.

I remember many times being very unhappy with the stress of being a student, yet while not enjoying the work at all, I still had very high morale because I knew the education would pay off in the end, which it did.

Lack of education does not doom a person entirely, but it severely limits the potential to experience all that life has to offer. This limitation lowers the potential for happiness. In “Kodachrome,” Paul Simon wrote: “…and no, my lack of education has not hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall.”

Let’s find an example of the reverse situation: Happy, but with low morale.

There are numerous ways this can happen. You might be in a situation where you are working for a leader you do not respect and who tries to bribe people into being engaged in the work by letting them get away with things and giving away perks beyond a reasonable level.

This leader has one thing in mind: make people at work happy. Well, he can accomplish this and make me happy about all the goodies he is providing and that he lets me go home early whenever I want.

Although I may be happy, I suspect my morale would be low after a while. Reason: I am not challenged and am given things that I do not deserve.

Another example might be when working on a specific project that I know is important. I am working in a not-for-profit organization. Here I am happy because my labor is going for a good cause. The result of my work is helping many needy families.

I have to tolerate the fact that my boss is a hopeless micromanager who needs to know the details of everything I do and wants me to do everything how he would do it. I can be happy with my contribution to society, but my morale is low because of the working conditions I must endure for the privilege of making that contribution.

The concept of motivation is more closely linked to morale than to happiness or satisfaction. Motivation is a state of desiring to do something, and for the most part, it is generated intrinsically rather than by external factors.

Some valuable insight about motivation and happiness was provided over 60 years ago by behavioral scientist Frederick Herzberg, who taught us with his “Two Factor Theory,” that the controlling factors for happiness are different from those that generally cause motivation.

Herzberg called the things that keep people from becoming unhappy “hygiene factors.” These would be things like pay, bonuses, nice offices, clean restrooms, comfortable furniture, and parking close to the building. If the hygiene factors are missing, then people are going to become dissatisfied, but piling on more hygiene factors is not the way to create higher motivation or morale.

The “motivating factors” of responsibility, accountability, autonomy, flexibility, caring, and other less tangible factors have more power to create morale and motivation.

We see that there is a general trend that happy workers have high morale, and I grant that is usually the case. The two concepts are not the same, and neither are they hard-wired together.

To have the most productive workers, not only do they need to be reasonably happy, but they must simultaneously have high morale. Leaders need to test for both conditions.

Key Points

1. Most of the time happiness and morale go hand in hand, but it is not always the case.

2. In trying to improve morale or motivation, it is not a simple matter of making people feel happier. You don’t just add more perks.

Exercises For You

1. Imagine you are at a party and, surprisingly, Frederick Herzberg himself shows up. You want to ask him some questions about his Two Factor Theory. What three questions would you ask? How do you think he would respond?

2. Name a good way to make someone happier. Now name a good way to increase someone’s morale. See the difference?

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Pooper Scooper at Work

July 16, 2016

My wife saw a truck the other day with an advertisement on the side for an organization called “Doody Master.” For a fee, they will come to your yard and scoop up all the little doggie muffins they can find. I suppose there are worse jobs, but really that is about the bottom (sorry, no pun intended there).

She suggested that many organizations need someone to scoop up all the human doody that people leave around the office for each other. How quaint!

Human beings working in close proximity have a remarkable capacity for driving each other crazy. It happens in organizations of all sizes and types; there are few exceptions.

When we do find an organization where people do not leave nasty little messes for their co-workers to step in, we will see a culture of trust and respect at the core.

The more I thought about it, I realized there are actually categories of doody, and maybe we could be more effective if we eliminated the sources of the mess.

What a novel idea: prevent the doody in the first place, and it eliminates the requirement to clean it up. Here are some prevention ideas:

Assume best intent

When something does not seem right, people have a tendency to assume something evil has prompted it. For example, if you get an e-mail from a coworker asking where you were yesterday, you might assume she was trying to scold you for missing an important meeting.

You might drop some doody with a sarcastic note back stating, “I intentionally missed that meeting – I figured it was totally useless.” After reading your reply, she calls to tell you that her inquiry was because she came to your office yesterday to deliver a late birthday gift, but you weren’t there.

Assuming the best intent until all the facts are in would prevent many nasty messes from ever happening.

Forgive and forget

Grudges can linger on for years in some circumstances. People who are angry with each other go out of their way to make life miserable for the other person. They undermine the positive things and set the rival up for failure whenever possible.

It becomes like a food fight of childish behaviors. Some Twitter exchanges come to mind when thinking about a food fight.

The antidote here is to remember that we are adults and try to act that way most of the time. Cut the other person some slack. There is no need to toss those mashed potatoes.

Don’t be a Chicken Little

We all probably know someone at work who goes around spreading gloom every single day. It is as if there is not enough pain and worry in the world, and this person is self appointed to correct the problem.

Imagine the impact on your organization if you could wave a magic wand and have the most negative person in your group turn into someone who always looks on the bright side of life: sort a reincarnation of Mary Poppins.

It really can happen, if the negative person is handled properly by leaders. I have written on how to accomplish this feat in my books. The technique is to “adopt” the negative person, find out what makes him or her tick, and begin to enroll this person as a positive force rather than a negative anchor.

With time and commitment, most negative individuals can be turned into positive forces within the organization. It is not possible to save every negative person, but each one that can be turned around creates major improvements in the overall culture.

Turn “gotchas” into “thank yous”

By creating a culture of respect and trust, we can reduce the human tendency to catch others doing wrong things and to rub their noses in it like when trying to train a puppy not to make a mess on the carpet.

When people look out for the good in others, they learn to find the best parts, and things go a lot more smoothly after that. The Pygmalion Effect is more pervasive and stronger than we realize.

When we seek to find the good in others, it is there in abundance.

Unfortunately, if we are looking for dodo, we are sure to find plenty of that to step in as well. It is a matter of mindset.

Use Your Emotional Intelligence

Whenever someone says or does something that really pushes your buttons, try to take a step back and consider the implications of your reaction to the stimulus. By refusing to take the “bait” that was dangled by the other person, you are taking the high road, and you come out the winner.

Try to take greater pleasure in avoiding a nasty confrontation than you would by putting the other person in his or her place. The trick is to build in some dwell time and not flash a response when the bait is thrown your way. It takes great restraint and some practice, but the rewards are delicious.

The most powerful way to prevent interpersonal messes is to remember we are not Golden Retrievers. Instead, seek to use the Golden Rule every day, and see a greatly reduced need to clean up ugly messes at work.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763


Delegation and Micromanagement

July 9, 2016

The two concepts of delegation and micromanagement are related and make interesting topics to analyze and dissect. I think it is ironic that most leaders have difficulty doing enough delegating, but they seem to have no problem doing plenty of micromanaging.

Let’s take the concepts one at a time and then put them together to uncover some antidotes.

Why don’t leaders delegate more?

The simple answer is a combination of fear and laziness. The fear comes from the realization that if something important is delegated to an underling, it may not get done up to the standard that the leader would do himself. (Note: I will use male pronouns here to avoid the awkward “he or she” language throughout. Clearly the issues in this article are gender neutral.)

The laziness comes from the realization that to teach someone else how a task should be done is usually more time consuming than to just do it yourself.

A leader might reason that it is a better use of his time to get the task done and move on than to invest the time to explain the deliverables in great detail and then teach the underling how to accomplish the task, then wait for it to get done, and finally deal with the problems if the job is done poorly.

The result of not doing enough delegation is that people in the organization do not get developed; the leader is overstressed trying to do everything himself, which leads to low empowerment of the workforce and a grumpy boss. Also, the work product is continually accomplished through the leader’s paradigm, which may stifle more creative solutions lurking in the minds of the underlings.

Why do Leaders Micromanage so much?

Few things sap engagement and trust within workers as much as being micromanaged. When you are told what to do and then given explicit details about how to do it, all creativity and enthusiasm are snuffed out. Furthermore, you feel the boss does not trust you to do the job right, which is exactly the signal being sent to you.

Leaders who micromanage people are often not even aware they are doing it. They are really just trying to be helpful and prefer to call it “coaching.” Since they have a sincere desire to have things go “right” (according to their playbook), they invest in monitoring how things are progressing so they can make corrective suggestions early in the process when changes are easier to make.

If you are guilty of micromanaging more than you should, how can you tell?

Look for clues in the body language of the people you are coaching. A stiffening of the facial muscles is an indication of stress. Also, watch the hands; if you see the fingers clench into a semi fist posture when you suggest that the person try something, it is a good bet that person is feeling micromanaged.

Another easy way to tell if you are too intrusive with your suggestions is simply to ask the person. “Am I being too prescriptive here?” often will generate an honest reply, especially if you have not bitten off the person’s head the last few times he has opened up about his feelings or expressed an opinion.

You can also ask other people if you have a tendency to micromanage. Have the topic of micromanagement be on the agenda for group meetings and have an open discussion about the level of coaching you are giving. It may lead to healthy and valuable input.

Micromanagers are not well liked or well respected because they send signals that the workers are not trusted to do the work correctly without constant intervention. They sap the organization of vital enthusiasm and creativity.

You may not be aware how much micromanaging you are actually doing. It becomes a habit, and it feels like the right way to get things accomplished, yet in the end, it undermines the culture of trust and leads to low engagement.

Combining more delegation with less micromanagement

In the hubbub of everyday activities, it is easy for leaders to get on the wrong end of both conditions. They fail to delegate enough, and the things that are delegated are managed too closely. The remedy for these problems starts with awareness.

First, examine your own actions and ask yourself if you would be better off making some changes. If the answer is yes, then it is a simple matter of deciding, one case at a time, to reverse the logic. Consider an action you would normally do today and ask someone else to do it. Once the specification of deliverable is crystal clear and verified for understanding, back off on the coaching for how to do the job.

You can let the person know that you are always available to help out where there is a question, need, or desire, but you are not going to hover as much as you have historically done. Watch the body language when you say those words, and if you see a faint smile, you will know you are heading in the right direction.

If you are coaching other leaders who may have struggled with delegation and micromanagement, print out this article and give them each a copy of it, then have an open discussion someday as a “Lunch and Learn” session. It will be a very rich conversation.

Step out of your comfort zone when delegating, and trust that the task will be done well. You may be surprised that the quality of solutions made by empowered underlings is far better than you would do yourself.

Accept that on occasion you will not be thrilled with the solution, but the benefits of creating an empowered workforce far outweigh the small risk of having to do it over.

Exercise for you: Today, try to delegate more tasks to others, and make a special note of how you coach people to do their work in your organization. Try to be as objective as possible, so that you’re not fooling yourself. Make sure you are viewing your actions from the point of view of the workers rather than through your own filters. Ask yourself what would be the result if you were able to delegate more and scale back your micromanaging tendencies by about 50%.

Increasing your awareness of the tendency to micromanage is really the best defense against overusing this hurtful practice. You can improve not only your own productivity but also that of the entire organization by scaling back on your interventions and trusting others more. It is really just a bad habit, so it takes some real effort to change it.

The preceding was derived from an episode in “Building Trust,” a 30 part video series by Bob Whipple “The Trust Ambassador.” To view three short (3 minutes each) examples at no cost go to http://www.avanoo.com/first3/517

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of: Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change, The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind. Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. For more information, or to bring Bob in to speak at your next event, contact him at http://www.Leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com or 585.392.7763

New Book in 2014 – Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change For more information go to http://www.astd.org/transition


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