Category Archives: Organizational Alignment

Delegation: You Can’t Grow Unless You Have People Who You Allow to Grow With You

The single most critical leadership skill in growing companies is delegation. The absence of this skill in the CEO or any of the executive team causes more companies to stall out or plateau than any other reason. The good news, however, is that a leader doesn’t need to be born with delegation skills; these skills can be developed. It requires commitment and an effective process.

The reason why so many executives avoid delegating is because it can feel like a loss of control. Most executives legitimately believe they can do something faster and better than their subordinates. The problem is that as a leader, the job isn’t to do things, but rather get things done through other people and develop those people. While “doing it yourself” can be justified it can also be used merely as an excuse for not practicing solid leadership.

By trying four simple things, leaders can learn effective delegation. The four keys to effective delegation are:

  • Clarity
  • Feedback
  • Measurement
  • Recognition

Clarity – Make sure at the very start that the person you are delegating to clearly understands what the goal is. You must ensure clear understanding between both parties about exactly what the person is to accomplish, the timeframe, feedback required, etc. Great leaders know that even after they have explained what they want accomplished and the person has indicated they understand, there is one more key question to ask: “Please repeat back to me what it is that I have just asked you to do.” Remember great leaders delegate results not tasks.

Feedback – When you delegate, you do so based on the person’s proven ability to handle a task. To reduce risk you need regular feedback while the person is working on the delegated assignment. The frequency and amount of feedback should also be different from person to person – depending on their experience level. So for a very experienced individual you might ask them to stop by your office every three weeks and give you a quick update on how they are doing. But you might ask a new or less experienced individual to give you a five minute briefing every week or two. And the person you have delegated to needs to “own” the responsibility to provide feedback to you.

Measurement – People need to clearly understand your risk tolerance for the goal they are working on. They need to understand what kind of things you want and need to hear about, or things that you don’t need to know about.

Recognition – When people take on an assignment and do it well, you should publicly recognize what they have done. Remember, the job of leaders is to develop people, and delegating goals is a growth opportunity that helps do that.

Every leader needs to realize that one of the most critical parts of his or her job is growing people and the organization, by delegating. And by doing rather than delegating, the next level of managers will never grow and be prepared for greater responsibility. By simply following a process and having discipline, a leader can become very skilled at delegation – and more valuable to his or her organization.

Did YAHOO get it right?

Did Yahoo communicate their No Telecommuting policy correctly? Regardless of your personal stance on telecommuting I think the answer is NO!

WHY?

Exactly!

They missed communicating the WHY. In my opinion they let the media fill in the missing compelling reasons for the change. There does not appear to be any direct link with an overarching vision or direction for the corporation. Absent that link the decision does not pass the WHY THIS, WHY NOW test. Here is what the press (CNBC.com and others) are citing as the WHY:

…. starting in June, Yahoo employees will lose the benefit of working from home. According to an internal memo leaked on Friday to The Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD.com by numerous disgruntled Yahoo employees, the new policy calls for workers “physically being together.”

“We need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home,” reads the memo from Jacqueline Reses, a private equity veteran brought on board by Mayer in September to be the company’s HR boss.

“Hiring, managing and incentivizing talent will be of key importance,” Reses said in the press release announcing her hire.

Obviously Yahoo is trying to change their culture and often that can require dramatic action on the part of leadership. In this case this should have come from the top, Marisa Mayer, and addressed the real WHY. The working side- by- side logic escapes me as it is physically impossible for an entire company to work that way. Why not take it head on and cite the real reason, the compelling WHY. Why not just say we have created a bi-furcated culture of those who are productive and accountable and those who are perceived by their peers as slacking off and not being accountable. We think the telecommuting policy is part of the problem. We need to deal with it.

The Jacqueline Reses quote “Hiring, managing and incentivizing talent will be of key importance,” gives me cause for concern. Had she said attracting, leading and retaining top talent I would be on board, but I’m not. The differences may be subtle to many but my years of making mistakes as a CEO tell me otherwise. Yahoo needs to be a place where people want to work, where you attract vs. hire talent, where you lead vs. manage people( you manage processes). You need programs and a performance management system (aligned with your priorities) in place to retain top talent and not just incentives alone.

Yahoo leadership now faces the challenge of leading their organization through the emotions of change (http://rjeffreykimball.com/blog/leading-change/) . The first emotion requires answering the question WHY THIS, WHY NOW?

You have to give them credit, and I do, for being willing to make tough and unpopular decisions. What do you think?

Jeff

Truly Functional Teams Get More Done

Patrick Lencioni in his book “Overcoming The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” makes the following point. “When people come together and set aside their individual needs for the good of the whole they can accomplish what might have looked impossible on paper.” While doing research for this posting I wanted to find an example of either a great team or by contrast a truly dysfunctional team. Fortunately, we are in the heat of the political season and have an example of dysfunction before us daily. Without risking making a partisan comment I consider the “Team” in this case to be the President and the House and Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle. Therefore they are by definition a small enough group to be considered a team and they are clearly being paid to lead. Let’s examine why they accomplish little compared to a truly functional team that can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

According to Lencioni building and maintaining a truly functional team is hard work and requires a continuous process. Paying attention to these five critical components will allow you to be part of a great team; trusting each other; being engaged in passionate dialogue; support for critical decisions; holding each other accountable; collective not individual results. For this case study I likely could stop here but allow me to examine each component.

1: Trusting each other: A functional team would have to be capable of being open and honest without fear of internal politics. I don’t think our example can meet this test under any circumstances these days. Take a good look at your team are they able?

2: Being engaged in passionate dialogue: Ok, I will give them this at least on the surface. This one component does beg a little more in-depth thought. What is really meant by dialogue ? From my experience first and foremost this requires the willingness to listen to others and have an open mind to differing opinions. It is much more than a willingness to argue or debate. Let’s move on.

3: Support for critical decisions: With the rare exception of a national crisis, my example team does not fare well here. Often times even members of the same party must hold their nose and vote in support for their leaders initiatives. Does your team essentially hold their nose when they fail to show support for a decision? Much like the halls of Congress does the real dialogue occur after a team meeting in the hallways where team members fail to support a team decision?

4: Holding each other accountable: I may have to give my example team an A+ on this one, sorry. But let’s look a little closer. My personal definition of accountability is holding themselves and each other accountable to do what they commit to. Make that a C-.

5: Lastly, collective not individual results: I define this as making their personal needs and ambitions secondary to what is best for the team and organization and setting aside their own ego. In this example case “organization” is you, me and the rest of the country. I guess we can all vote on this one on election days. I encourage you to do so.

To wrap this up, my example team is clearly not “Truly Functional”. Is yours? Teamwork is difficult to achieve but it does not need to be complicated. When your team comes together and commits to what is best for the entire organization they can accomplish amazing results. If you have a truly functional team it is also much easier to get your entire company behind you and achieve organizational alignment.

What do you think about your team? Do they possess the five components of a functional team?

Organizational Core Values, What Are They Good For?

As CEO I had this conversation too often, but we all learn new lessons over time.

“We had to terminate Wild Willie’s employment today.”

“Why?” I would ask.

“He wasn’t a core value fit” was the response.

Of course I was thinking to myself why did we hire him in the first place and why aren’t we hiring the right people? That’s right we, not you. The answer was right there in the mirror. We had not defined and communicated our company’s core values much less incorporate them into our hiring process. To get on the same page let’s define core values in simple terms.

There is no such thing as a right set of core values or the perfect hiring process. You need to discover the values that represent your firm or organization. The discovery process can be as simple as asking this question. What are the good things that your employees do, through their actions which best represent your team? They are more than a list of words as eventually as a leader you will be tasked to bring them to life through the actions, decisions and behaviors of your company.

So what are core values good for? First they are the filter you should be using for hiring the right people (including employees, consultants and vendors). Once hired they provide a decision making framework, or set of rules, for the people who work for you. Essentially a road map for the right thing to do when there is no other guidance available. Lastly they will assist you in assessing performance against a clear set of expected behaviors (a little more later about the impact of failing to do this correctly).

So where do you start, how do you know the people you have on your team are aligned with your core values? Ask this question. Would I hire them again, without hesitation, to be my employee, vendor, or consultant? If the answer is yes you are on the right track to having high performers with a core value match. You will be able to grow your business much more successfully than having to deal with the fallout of having to clean up after a few core value mismatches like Wild Willie.

This post is about emphasizing the value of utilizing core values as a filter in the hiring process. As a first step in the candidate screening process look for core value fits or misfits before you look at experience, capabilities or competencies. If they don’t pass the first test do not consider adding them to your team.

One last thought, you will make mistakes in hiring or contracting. When you realize someone is not a core value fit end the relationship immediately and admit your mistake. Even if the person or firm is a top contributor, cut the ties as the potential down side will always be greater than the perceived lost benefit. There are far too many examples of the potential damage when an organization fails to eliminate core value misfits.

Can you name other core value misfits in your organization or community? Do you agree core values should be the first filter in the hiring process?

Core values, what else are they good for?