You’re all fired up, you’re clear on our vision, you have a plan (of sorts!) and the team are ready (well, kind of!) The road is clear to crack on with what needs to be done…
But — and, my goodness, it is a big BUT — despite it appearing you have all the right things in the right places, you just can’t seem to get off the starting blocks. When you do, you seem to suffer from a problem that I call the ‘stop–start syndrome’, even with the very best intentions, things never quite happen as you expect.
Delegation (or a severe lack of it) is the problem. While I love you all in the financial services dearly, the sector is full of perfectionist control freaks who, while they try very hard to remember that other people can have good ideas, tend to believe their way is the only right way!
The challenge is very real, but the three-step solution is so simple.
Ultimately, teamwork and true collaboration are the key to a business’s success, which is why it is essential to have robust and scalable processes in place for delegation and getting stuff done.
We all know that requests for tasks to be completed can come in from all directions: from clients, colleagues, business associates and suppliers. Each of these people has their own agenda which is why everyone within your team (you included) should remain focused at all times, both on why the task is being requested in the first place, and also on how it should be delegated and completed.
1. Delegation is an art
- If the required task needs completing by someone else it is vital the handover process is effective. A misunderstood task could result in catastrophic outcomes, so this should be avoided at all costs. Be clear about what is expected and make sure the person undertaking the task has all the information they need from the outset.
- Adequate time should be allocated to the handing over of key tasks. Notes should be taken to make sure the instructions and details are clear, and can be recalled at a later point if needed.
- Be clear on both the absolute and desired outcomes. Ambiguity doesn’t help anyone.
- During the handover meeting – which should be scheduled into all diaries – both parties should be clear about the work involved and the time allocated to complete it. Any potential issues should be raised, discussed and resolved at this point.
- Agree check-in points. It’s no good discussing what needs to be done at the start but then not again until the end. You don’t want anyone to go off-track and waste time. Work-in-progress meetings are recommended throughout the task.
- Once the action points have been agreed, these tasks should be incorporated into either the master ‘to do’ list (see below), the task planner or project planner.
2. Deadlines are a must
I love a deadline! Everyone needs a deadline and the primary deadline rule is no task should be delegated or requested without a deadline attached. We are all really busy, we all have more stuff on our lists than we have hours in the day, so the main purpose of a deadline is to focus the mind – be that your mind or someone else’s.
Think about it – when you’re facing a mountain of tasks, after the initial panic ‘How the hell am I going to get all of this stuff done?’ panic, the question becomes ‘What do I focus on first?’ Most people are drawn to starting and, hopefully, completing tasks that have direct deadlines attached to them. In fact, most people do their best work when a deadline is fast approaching and the pressure is on. Why? Focus… the deadline is forcing them to focus.
With an imminent deadline there’s no time for faffing, over-thinking or procrastinating. It’s time to focus and get it done. So, if there isn’t a deadline associated with a task, give it one – even if you have to make one up. Trust me, with a deadline, everyone’s a winner, baby!
3. Remember the rules
- There are only so many hours in the day – don’t over-commit or over-promise. If you do, you will only under-deliver.
- Being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive.
- Lists and structures, whether held as hard or soft copies, are crucial to success.
- There’s always a more effective and efficient way of doing something – so strive to find it.
- We are not designed to multi-task or multi-focus so, wherever possible, don’t even attempt to.
With the summer upon us and holidays in the diary, give yourself a break, stop trying to do everything yourself. Ease off on the obsession for everything to be perfect, sit back and for once see what others are capable of doing when given the trust and space to do so.
Michelle Hoskin is founder and director of Standards International