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Delegate to Increase Employee Morale

Delegate.pngWhen you delegate, you demonstrate care and commitment to growth and learning. But, sometimes it’s hard to let go of the rope.

According to Gallup, only 34.1%* of the US workforce is engaged with their work. Engagement includes having someone at work that encourages their development and believes their opinions count.  If delegating doesn’t come easily to you, it may have a lot to do with where you are in your life’s journey, the kind of person you are, and your role in the firm.  Let’s tackle a few of these.

What do you expect to happen when you delegate?

Before we hired our first employee at Trumpet, an advisor told me that to get into the mindset of delegating. I needed to be OK having a job function I previously performed, to be completed at an 80% level.  As a young business owner, it never rang true to me.  If you hire the right people, they will outperform you – isn’t that the point? 

As I look back, I think what she meant to convey was (1) don’t expect perfection when you start to delegate.  If you’ve been doing job function for a long time, it’s not reasonable to expect someone to perform at your level right away and (2) don’t expect the job function to be performed the way you would have done it.  Let’s explore number two first.

Changing mindsets on “the way” to do it

I recall learning to cook a favorite recipe from my mom.  At one point, she took the knife out of my hand to show me how to chop correctly.  What message did that send? There is a “right” way and you are doing it wrong.

Have you ever had a similar experience, where a colleague is interested whether you follow the same steps they would have or recommend, to reach a similar outcome? 

Even though I rail against being told how to do something “the right way,” I sometimes find myself fighting the urge to do that to others – darn nurture vs. nature! 

Dictating the “how” to do something creates a dependency you don’t want for a number of reasons.  The person you want to hand off to cannot move forward without constantly running things by you first.  Talk about demotivating. 

It may also leave them feeling that there’s no room for creativity, growth, or improvement. After all, where do they get to grow if they’re strictly fulfillment?

Showing someone the ropes doesn’t mean “show them the rope”

Think of a seasoned advisor in a meeting with a newer advisor.  If you’re the advisor with more years under your belt, do you ever end up “taking over” the client meeting, even though that was not your original intent?  If so, one approach might be to shift strategies.  Instead of partaking in meetings with newer advisors, schedule time following their client meeting to discuss plusses and deltas from *their* perspective.

How you frame this internal, “after-meeting” meeting is really significant.  Instead of a mentoring or coaching session (which could turn into telling someone how to do it), frame this instead as an “exchange of ideas” or a jam session.

Ask the advisor who conducted the meeting to share her plusses and deltas.  Here are some good areas to cover: “I’m curious to know – what went well?”  “I’d like to hear more about what you observed.” “Help me understand - what did you come way from the meeting wondering about?”

As appropriate, share only your perspective. “When I hear a client ask about X, this is what goes through my mind.  I feel this, I think this. – What do you think?”

It’s so tempting to say – When I hear a client ask about X, here’s what’s really going on.  You need to dig at Y.”    See how that second approach is prescriptive, telling someone what to do instead of sharing an opinion? 

It’s tricky - language here is important.  A subtle shift between sharing what you find as opposed to describing “the way things are” is the difference between having the most amazing conversation with a teenager vs. them tuning you out with a bunch of head nods only to make your lecture end faster.

When you imagine a jam session, you imagine ideas going both ways.  A jam session flows freely.  You are not trying to prove a point or exhibit how deep your knowledge runs.  You are only trying to get your teammate to play with you, which means you want them to engage with you.  That is the entire game – get them to volley the ball back to you by sharing another of their thoughts.

Getting prescriptive = not trusting me

Isn’t it so easy to think being prescriptive is being helpful?  “Like hey, here’s what I learned – I’m giving you the shortcuts, so you can learn a lot faster and I can save you the pain of making the same mistakes I did.”

From what I’ve come to understand, giving someone suggestions on how to do their work means the person on the receiving end does not feel like you trust them to do a good job.   Does it matter that is not your intent?  That you are really “just trying to help?” and you really do trust them?

Not one bit, and Wow, is that a shocker!  

To drive this home a bit, can you imagine ever undermining a client’s trust, when you work so hard to build that trust?

Well, then think about it. I know this is going be hard, but what an interesting question to ask a member of your team – how does my behavior undermine or build your trust?  Until you have a frank conversation like this, you may not realize a member of your team thinks you do not trust them. 

If you’re thinking so what? They need to “earn” my trust, that’s a different conversation all together – one that we’ll tackle on an upcoming post on “the opposite of quality assurance is…trust”

For those of you who have this nagging feeling that being prescriptive can cause long term relationship damage, our next post has techniques on (1)how to move away from telling people how to do their work and (2) how to help people in your firm who have the “give directions”  mindset to shift to a new approach.


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Jo Day

Jo Day

Jo loves learning about interesting problems and how people are solving them. Jo is well known for connecting people and ideas and is a great catalyst (moo!) to change. Where some people see the world through rose colored glasses, Jo sees the world through processes. When Jo isn't hanging out with her family, Jo's favorite hobbies are being anywhere outdoors and coming up with new business ideas – just for fun!