I have known many managers over the years who, despite working with clear guidelines, were unable to work efficiently because they simply did not delegate enough. And when they did, they often distributed their tasks to the wrong people, resulting in their having to step in later on and pick up the pieces. The worst part is that many of these reluctant delelgatory managers had a relatively high level of employee turnover. And that is a crime, especially in times when resources are hard to come by.
This phenomenon is not only traced back to delegation itself but also, too often, to the recruitment process. Presumably at the interview everyone was happy and looking forward to the future. The manager believed that the new hire sitting before them would succeed where his or her predecessors had failed. The new employee may have thought that this was the turning point where their career was really going to take off. So what went wrong?
Anyone who has kept chickens knows that as long as you feed and water them, they will dutifully lay an egg five or six days a week for the first couple of years. At any time they have up to seven eggs at various stages of development inside them, so if you upset a chicken on Wednesday, you’ll have no egg on the following Tuesday!
I keep chickens in my garden. I have the deepest respect for them as indeed I try to have for all God’s creatures (with the possible exception of wasps). But I wouldn’t consider hiring a chicken to solve my customer’s problems. I might, however, appoint a chicken as a train driver to ensure I get to the office on time every morning. With all due respect to train drivers, the point about their profession is that it requires discipline. If they don’t get to work on time , a whole trainload of passengers won’t either. Once on the train, their work environment is rigid; they can’t choose their destination or even their track. But driving the train requires excellent concentration on a task that can be very monotonous, and they have no co-pilot or a friendly stewardess to bring them coffee. Thus a train driver needs a set of skills and personality traits that many people do not have.
In your project or business, if you need a train driver type of person, you have to make sure not to recruit someone who loves to interact with people and prefers to work in a flexible environment. They might keep it up for a time with the necessary level of motivation and commitment, but at some point they will snap, leaving your train stranded miles from the nearest station.
On the other hand, if you need someone who is creative, who can think on their feet, adapt very quickly and is ready to accept change at short notice, then you won’t want a train driver or post office worker.
There are two common errors in interviewing and negotiation: Firstly, not asking the right questions, and secondly not listening to the answers. You will be astonished how often interviewers forget to ask even the most obvious questions. For this reason, learning to ask even the basic questions such as ‘ what are your real expectations from this job, and, what are your career hopes for the future’? is extremely important – they can give you an indication as to where the candidate is going and whether that might fit within your plans. I always make a list of the questions that I believe need to be asked, and I use it as a guide if the interview gets stuck.
If you ask the right questions, then you at least stand a chance of obtaining the information you require. I have met many too many people who know how to ask all the right questions, but who only actually listen to the answers they want to hear.
Of course the interviewee is going to say whatever they think you want to hear, but by creating the right environment and with the right kind of questioning, you should be able to find out if your interviewee’s agenda is different from your own. If there is no synergy then say so right away, don’t assume you will be able to pull them around. This advice applies more broadly than just to employees and partners; it covers all aspects of business life, such as negotiating deals and prospecting for new clients. It has become an overused expression, but looking for ‘win win’ situations is the best thing to do. Agendas may differ, but if the goal is shared and the proper synergy is in place to make it happen, then go for it.
The unwanted loss of an employee or team member is one of the biggest ‘avoidable’ issues you can have.