He had a big product launch coming up, and the feedback from his team was clear – you direct me too much and don’t let me do my job. It hurt, and yet it was exactly the nudge he needed because he respected his team and wanted to become more strategic in his role. He made the decision to change, and invited me, as his coach, along for the journey.
Think about yourself as a leader and imagine what you would hear if you asked everyone to give you feedback on the effectiveness of your leadership? Would an issue around delegation emerge?
In my experience coaching leaders and working with leadership teams to implement EOS® in their business, I am invited into the conversation where feedback is given and received. This is a common story in any leadership journey where organizations strive to achieve something more from their business. In all those conversations, delegation is one of the most common barriers that emerges for leaders.
So how do you know if you are delegating effectively? You could do a survey, but I challenge you to take a bolder step and just watch and listen to your team for a week using the Ladder of Control by David Marquet as a lens. The analogy Marquet presents us is a ladder, with the bottom rung being high control by the leader with a corresponding low control by the team member, and the top rung being low control by the leader with high control by the team member.
Words most heard from your people and the corresponding control you are being given or you are exerting:
- “Tell me what to do . . ” (high control from the leader)
- “I think . . .”
- “I recommend . . .”
- “Request permission to . . .”
- “I intend to . . .”
- “I am about to . . .”
- “I just did . . .”
- “I’ve been doing . . .” (low control from the leader)
Your experiment will take a week of normal work with your team. Make a list of all your people and the statements from Marquet (maybe a matrix). At the end of each day, reflect on what you heard from them that day. If a person used multiple statements/rungs, document which topics they seemed to want more control over and which ones they want to give you control.
Finally, think about your default style and how you responded in your conversations with them.
- What rung are you most comfortable operating on?
- What rung does the behavior of your team indicate is how you manage them?
- Where is the opportunity to shift as a leader to help your team take on greater control and you to let go of control?
In my work with leadership teams implementing EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System®), I equip them with tools called Delegate and Elevate™ and the concept of Hitting the Ceiling™ to help navigate this critical leadership change. When it does happen, it becomes such a powerful event for the leader, for the team, and for the business. My passion is “Maximizing growth and minimizing pain, helping people move to and past the tipping point of success.” Let me finish the story I started above to illustrate what this tipping point of success looks and feels like.
We met after the launch was complete, and he reflected how much work it was and how his team had really done some amazing things to get the product out on time and with relatively few issues. In the second set of feedback, his team told him that he had made great improvement in delegating and trusting them. He was not perfect, but our journey had been successful. His smile told me he was proud of himself for becoming the leader he wanted to be – his actions finally aligned with his heart. Smiles with real pride behind them always seem bigger to me.
Listen . . . Lead. Repeat often! ~ Scott
Do you want to explore this topic more deeply and start your own leadership journey to become skilled at delegating? Here are some of my favorites:
- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L Wass
- Management Time: Who’s Got The Monkey by William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass (Harvard Business Review Article)
- How To Be A Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene’ Boer
- To explore a process to make delegate and elevate a cultural norm, read Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business by Gino Wickman.