100% Jodi: Delegating as an Opportunity

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In the last 100% Jodi episode, we covered what to consider when you are reviewing your responsibilities to decide what you need to focus on and what needs to find a new home. In this episode we’ll cover your next steps to make those change so you are focusing on those tasks that only you can do or those tasks that will get you closer to accomplishing your goals.

Hello, I’m Jodi Flynn and welcome to the Women Taking the Lead podcast. I’m an executive leadership coach, author, speaker, workshop facilitator and I have the privilege to work with women leaders to hone the skills that will allow them to thrive in Senior Leadership. My absolute joy is to work with women who are still recovering from their last promotion.

I am now settled in my new home in Norfolk, Virginia. And thanks to the beauty of technology, I’ve been able to continue to work with women all over the world as I transitioned from Maine to Massachusetts and on to Virginia.

I do individual and group coaching as well as workshops and team retreats. I am the current President of the board for The Maine Women’s Conference and on the Board of Advisors for LeadHERship Global.

The Steps to Successfully Delegate Distracting Tasks 

Let’s do a quick recap. In the episode, Are You Afraid of Success or Are You Afraid of More Responsibility?, I challenged you to consider that what might be holding you back from pursuing your next big opportunity may be an underlying concern that if you take anything else on, you’ll get crushed by the weight of responsibilities.

If you feel like you are narrowly hanging on in your current role, the thought of an expanded role would logically be out of the question. However, what I typically find working with women leaders is that they are more than competent to take on a greater role, but they have not adjusted how they are operating as a leader to allow more bandwidth.

There are many reasons for this and some are easy to address by asking a question, making a decision and following up to see it through.

Some reasons require addressing our mindset and the identity we are holding on to that is trapping us in a situation where we are doing work that we don’t need to do or could reassign.

In the episode, What Responsibilities Should You Keep?, I guided you through a process of deciding what responsibilities needed to be realigned based on the resources you have, your values, and your goals.

If you have not listened to those episodes yet hit pause and go back to give them a listen. These episodes will set you up to get the most out of what I’m going to cover with you now.

And if you have a team, I’m also going to move forward with the understanding that you’ve asked your team if they have some bandwidth to take on more or have had the previous conversation with them as well.

If you are hitting snags there, you may want to ask them a few questions. Are they doing things that someone else could be doing? What are they holding on to that isn’t moving them forward or serving the overall needs of the team?

Sometime your team, like you, are hesitant to take a more because they are trapped in a situation where they’re not using their time efficiently.

And by team I’m also referring to family. What could someone else in your family take on to lighten your load a bit? Don’t assume that because you are stretched that everyone else is or that, because of the current pandemic, they can’t take on more. Studies show contributing to the overall wellbeing of a group and doing for others makes us feel good. If you have a family member who isn’t’ feeling so good, being able to contribute may make a difference for them.

Know What to Expect of Yourself and Others When Delegating

When you are in the process of moving a responsibility to someone else there’s a few steps you don’t want to miss. To have success delegating tasks a few things need to be communicated and make clear.

In terms of expectations, let’s first distinguish between delegation and abdication. The distinction comes at the level of accountability. If you are accountable for something, you can delegate the task but ultimately you will be answerable to what gets done and how well it gets done. If you are accountable for a task today but you will be shifting the accountability to another person, department or division, you are no longer responsible or answerable to what gets done and how well it gets done going forward.

Let me give you some examples. If you are volunteering as the Treasurer of a non-profit organization and you are stepping away from this commitment, after your last day you are no longer responsible or accountable for anything that is done after you leave.

However, if you are the CFO of your organization and delegate a piece of the board presentation to your team, you are giving your team the responsibility of that task but if the quality of what they put together is not up to standard, and you deliver that presentation to the board without checking to make sure the information is accurate, it will reflect on you. You can delegate the footwork of the presentation to your team, but you will still need to make sure the finished product is ready to be delivered. It’s your presentation.

I don’t want you to fall into a trap of delegating thinking you are abdicating responsibility, so it’s important to be clear on what involvement you still need to have.

I have some clients that have gotten to such a level of trust with their teams that they don’t need to double-check their work. They know the finished product is going to meet expectations or even exceed expectations. But if a mistake was made, they never appoint blame to their team. They own what happened and work internally to find out what happened and what can be done differently going forward.

However, when you’re first delegating a task to another individual you are going to be a part of the training and the double-checking of the work to be sure they are picking up what you are training them to do

Communicate to Everyone Impacted – It’s All About Positioning!

When you are shifting responsibilities, you want to identify all those who will be impacted by the change and communicate the change to them in advance. No one likes these types of surprises.

Any change in who is responsible for a task will likely involve a change in processes and maybe even procedures. To make a smooth transition that needs to be documented and communicated to all those involved.

Ask yourself, who might resist this change? Those individuals my require a specific communication that will reassure their objections and outline how this change benefits them.

I have a client who was changing the level of customer service items she would handle. These items disrupted her ability to get her most focused work done and her team was fully capable of handling all but the most complex and critical items. However, she had customers and vendors that had been working with her for many, many years. Although their calls were infrequent, she knew they expected to have all their calls transferred to her to handle personally.

In a written communication to each of these customers and vendors she explained that she was assigning specific senior members of her team to handle all the VIP transactions and as a highly valued customer, they were chosen to be a part of this special group. She conveyed that because of this change they would get a higher quality level of service but if for any reason something could only come to her, she would be happy to return their call within a day.

Do you see the positioning? She wasn’t saying I can’t be bothered with you so I’m giving you to someone less qualified. She was honoring their importance and describing the change as a way to give them a higher level of service.

This is how you get buy-in. Not many people love change but will go along with the change if they see that the change benefits them. Make sure you are communicating to anyone who will be impacted by the change, and position that change in a way that illustrated the benefits they will enjoy with this change.

Allow Time for a Learning Curve – It is a Curve!

Another expectation I want you to set for yourself is that delegating this task may take some time. This is why you don’t want to wait until you are over capacity to begin the transition. Where many people go wrong in delegating, especially perfectionists, is they expect the other person to know how to do the task as well as they do it almost immediately.

We forget that there was once a time we were new to this task as well and we may have made some mistakes. We forget that we have mastered this task and because of this, the task is easy for us.

Adjust your expectations to allow for time and mistakes. You can prevent some of these pains by having well-documented and easy to follow procedures. Can you create training videos that may even include a screen share walking through each of the steps?

Schedule time for job shadowing, one-to-one training, and regular touchpoints to go over how they are doing taking on this new task. Be both direct and encouraging. If they are doing something incorrectly don’t play it down. Point it out and help them do better. Always convey your trust that they will master this task in time. Celebrate when they get it right and always convey your appreciation of them for taking this task off your plate.

Delegating tasks requires an initial up-front investment of time, energy, and possibly money, but the time, energy and money you will save in the long run makes it all worth it.

Untangling Yourself from Commitments to Volunteer

Let me start by saying that is my personal belief that volunteering our time and talents is key to living a life that brings satisfaction and fulfillment. That being said, are you overcommitting your time and energy or have you committed to volunteering in a way that does not honor your values or the goals you have for yourself?

If that’s the case you need to make some changes.

First, if the volunteering you are doing aligns with your values and goals but does not align with your skills and talents, see if there is the possibility of shifting to a role or duty that allows you to bring the most value.

Of note, sometimes the point of the volunteering is not to build or share your skills, it’s just to contribute to the overall work that needs to get done. There are many organizations whose most critical need is bodies to do the work. If you know this going in, and it makes you feel good to help out in this way, keep at it. Do it cheerfully and you will feel satisfied and fulfilled with the volunteering.

Now let’s address another scenario. You are currently volunteering for an organization and that organization’s mission, or the way they deliver on that mission, does not align with your values and goals and you do not have the influence to make changes. You are likely finding yourself becoming less and less enchanted with the work. If that’s the case, it’s time to step away.

Do this gracefully and with integrity. If your commitment has a start and end date, can you serve out the time you committed to? If you cannot, can you find someone equally competent who can fill your role? Can you renegotiate how much time and energy you contribute?

If your commitment is open-ended, give the organization a notice of the end of your commitment. What is a reasonable amount of time that they can find someone to replace you? Have they communicated any expectations of how one completes their volunteering agreement?

Much like a soft no, give a soft but clear communication, preferably in person (or via a call if you’re in the middle of a pandemic) and follow up in writing. Expresses your appreciation for the opportunity and your intention to complete your commitment by X date. Leave with a sense of goodwill and with your integrity intact.

And much like delegating, know that when you step away from this role you open up the opportunity for someone else. We worry about the harm we’ll do by giving away a task or role and don’t often think of the good that comes of it. Just because you may not be loving it, doesn’t me no one else will.

I hope with these 3 episodes you now see the opportunity that delegating and realigning your commitments can create.

As always, I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!

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