Step Up

It seems a lot of people I speak with are doing more and more and more at their organizations – whether because ‘it’s hard to find people these days’ or ‘we’re not filling positions when someone leaves.’ One of my clients told me last week: “If you do a good job here at your job, you get someone else’s job to do.”

At some places, this approach could be a signal to lay low, do just enough to get by and let others pick up the extra slack. Elsewhere, it could be an opportunity to take on new challenges, display previously unknown skills, or set yourself up for a promotion.

Doing the work of three people isn’t sustainable forever – and no one wants to be taken advantage of; however, in the short-term, it might be worth the extra hours and energy drain. 


Forward Motion

Whenever I meet another coach – especially new ones in this art – I’m quick to offer any guidance or materials I have that might help them. So many people helped me learn and grow during four careers that I can’t imagine not sharing anything I have with someone.

A few weeks ago I spoke with a person who’s been coaching for a short time, then sent her several redacted documents to use: project agreement, introductory emails, role definitions, feedback report, development plan, progress tracking. The next time we spoke she said: “I can’t believe you did that. Some other coaches I’ve met protect those things like they’re gold.”

I told her that approach doesn’t make sense to me. Operating from a place of abundance just seems like the right thing to do. It solidifies a relationship… and I’ve found it always comes back to me many times over. I gain more than I give.

Right now I’m working on a project that involves something I haven’t done in many years. When I contacted two coaches I’ve mentored for several years and asked for help, they quickly responded: “Of course, whatever you need. I’m there.” 


Why First

In September 2009, Simon Sinek gave a now legendary 18-minute TED Talk: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. It’s one of the five most watched with more than 60 million viewings. A month later he released the bestselling book START WITH WHY.

Soon after, Dr. Gary Sanchez, a dentist who loved the idea of WHY, called him. Simon answered. (He was easier to reach then.) They discussed what’s the way people determine their WHY and how do they communicate it to others. (Simon later revealed that before the TED Talk he would charge friends and acquaintances $100 to help them figure it out.)

That conversation led to Gary, over several years, interviewing more than 1,000 people about the reason they do what they do. He identified nine possible WHYs: Contribute, Trust, Make Sense, Better Way, Right Way, Challenge, Mastery, Clarify, Simplify.

Ultimately, he realized that Simon’s WHY was only the first step. When you add HOW and WHAT – in that specific order – it clarifies the complete picture: your WHY.os – your Operating System. WHY is your driving force, HOW is the way you bring your WHY to life, WHAT is the things others count on from you. 

Wanting to reduce his time commitment for these one-hour conversations, Gary taught himself coding and created an online assessment. (He’s a really smart guy.) Fast-forward to today and he has personally delivered more than 8,000 WHY.os Discovery debriefings. A few years ago, he formed the WHY Institute with a vision to bring WHY.os Discovery to the world. Their mission is ‘to impact one billion people by helping them discover, connect and make decisions.’

A couple months ago, I took the WHY.os Discovery and it tied a lot of things together, including the reason I became a coach 20 years ago and the way I go about life. Within a week Kathy – after reading her own results – and I made the decision WHY.os Discovery would be a valuable tool for our clients. Now I’m certified and look forward to helping them discover how they approach things.

Science Note (As I understand it): Passion and purpose originate in the limbic part of our brain, which involves emotions, feelings and motivations; however, that area doesn’t control language. (Think about when you do something because you relied on your gut. It’s hard to explain your reasoning.) The neocortex is where rational and analytical thought occur. It’s also where language originates. (Think about the last time you purchased something on a whim. Once ‘buyer’s remorse’ set in, it’s likely you did some mental gymnastics to convince yourself it was the right thing.) Your WHY rests in the limbic area. Your HOW and WHAT exist in the neocortex. 


Help Me

Regardless of the leader’s position, a recurring theme of my coaching work is delegation. Often, it appears as, “I need to be more strategic.” Or, “It’s just easier to do it myself .” Or, “I feel like I’m getting in the way of my team developing new skills.”

When exploring deeper, one of the challenges that regularly bubbles up is: “I’m not sure how much I trust some of them.” While the first level of effective delegation is addressing the ‘trust issue,’ there are important steps you need to follow to be a strong delegator.

With full credit to Stephen R. Covey and anyone else over the years from whom I learned these, here are the ones I find important:

Shared Understanding – How many times have you delegated (read: ‘assigned’) something and when it came back your initial thought was: ‘That’s not what I wanted’? It’s essential, upfront, to align with your team member on your expectations, with clear communication on the outcome you want delivered

What I Know that You Should Know – If this request is something you could be doing yourself – and especially if you’ve handled it previously – there are likely several things you know that you’ll want to share. Taking time to tell your team member your ‘oh, by the way’ lessons will make them more efficient

Timeline – Like any SMART goal, it’s important to be clear on when you need the task/job completed. Having someone spend their weekend working on your project to deliver to you first thing Monday morning, then hearing you say, “Gosh, this could have waited until Friday,” is a classic demotivator

Accountability – Your employee needs to commit to accepting your request… and tell you how they’ll make sure it’s completed. This could include them giving you regular updates, if it’s a long-term project, or your reaching out midway through the expected timeline to check-in and see what guidance they might need

Consequences – Often this word brings up thoughts of ‘I’m in trouble’ or ‘I’ll get fired’. While those could happen in severe situations, the typical need is to let your employee know the impact it would have on the organization should things go awry

Finally, to quote Covey: “It’s delegation, not abdication.” Your responsibility as the leader is to set your team members up for success and be there to support them; not to walk away and show up at the end thinking it will be exactly as you expected.

Oh, and one last thing: be sure to say please and thank you. 


Faster Moves

I partner on projects with a couple of coaches who admit they over-complicate things: thinking through too many potential scenarios, creating PowerPoint slides with lots of words, or writing extensive details into a statement of work. My philosophy? Make the decision and get going, use headlines and graphics instead of words, keep everything to less than a page.

While there is value in taking time to make sure all the t’s and i’s are correct, there is also the risk of paralysis analysis. Whenever decision-making comes up with clients, I share the story from Colin Powell’s biography. His belief was when a commander has 40-70 percent probability of being correct, it’s time to move. Otherwise, the enemy will outflank them.

Of course, the 40-70 rule may not be appropriate for every field – such as health care – yet I think every leader has a range that’s right for them. The key is to start paying attention to your decision-making mindset and notice when you knew you knew. You’ll home in on where you feel most confident… and decrease the risk of moving too slowly.