Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Leading organisational –wide projects involving external consultants

As an external consultant myself I am privy to how leaders can play stronger more influential roles in managing projects involving external consultants.
Issues at stake include the brief and the scope; what’s at stake; budget; meetings/communication; and project leaders.

The Brief and the scope
Leaders may ask consultants to address certain issues in their company not knowing that those issues affect many other issues in the system. They may expect a certain result without considering the impacts on other components in the system that may have unintended consequences. When initiating the project the leader should discuss and explore the systemic effects highlighted by the consultant to understand and create the appropriate scope for the project. If those additional components are out of scope for various reason then to be explicit about that boundary and preferably the reason for that.

What’s at stake?
These projects generally carry significant possible impacts on the development of the organisation. The energy, involvement and commitment of the leader is crucial in ensuring that the impact is highly positive and successful. The leader is investing a lot of money in the project and should be aware of extracting the maximum ROI.  Should the scope be incorrect the leader may be left picking up a lot of pieces.

The budget links to the foregoing two items. If the scope is wrong then there may be negative effects on the consultant’s motivation. It is seldom transparent what the budget is. In some instances the leader explains the cap and the consultant knows the limitation and the boundary is clear but in most instances it is not clear and the consultant is left wondering whether phase II will happen at all. Obviously organisations are dependent on their financial resources and I respect and appreciate that leaders sometimes aren’t sure themselves but at least communicate about it.

Meetings and Communication
At times there are long lapses in communication to the consultant. I suspect it’s often that the leader has many other fish to fry and your project is one of many. The void in communication may mean that the consultant has to make some intelligent assumptions about the next steps which present a risk to the leader and their organisation. It can also mean that the consultant starts to lead which is inappropriate for their role.
The project needs regular meetings to:
  • Feedback progress
  • Understand what has happened in the organisation since the last intervention and update documentation
  • Check that the next intervention is on the button given the developments
  • Hear where the leader is at and to engage on and manage expectations

If the leader keeps the consultant at arm’s length means there will be risks to the project.

Project Leaders
 Sometimes the leader delegates project sponsorship to a lower level leader.This can present a challenge to the consultant when the deputy:
  • Does not have enough information
  • Does not carry enough influence
  • Represents a bottleneck and a constraint for things to be auctioned
  • Also struggles to see the leader
  • Is only a conduit and doesn’t control the initiatives

This can mean that: 
  • The project can stall
  • Others don’t see the project as important as they did when the leader was leading
  • Information gets lost in translation
  • It can become quite chaotic and control can be lost
  • The consultant can become disillusioned.

Leaders will assert much more influence and control and be more successful if they:
  • Are present and visible
  • Communicate regularly and as clearly (including being direct) as possible
  • Are willing to discuss and agree scope and the effects on the rest of the system and then share the boundaries of the project and the reasons related to that.
  • Communicate what they know about the budget and the prospects going forward
  • Keep the consultant informed of developments in-between interventions
  • Asks and listens to feedback from the consultant
  • Communicate to staff what is happening on the project

I acknowledge that this is a two-way street and I also take responsibility for my role in this process.

Gavin Coetzee is a successful Leadership and Change Consultant from CapeTown, South Africa. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Delegation and Empowerment

I was recently coaching a client who is struggling with delegation and considered to be a bottleneck.  Another client had a very low withdrawal score on her Hornevian Triad on the Enneagram http://www.fitzel.ca/enneagram/socstyle.html that suggested that she is omni-present and deep in the space of her people (can they breathe?)

To what extent do you let go and trust your people to do the job and to get on with it without you micro-managing?

Signs of Micromanagement: What follows are some signs that you might be a micromanager – or have one on your hands. In general, micromanagers:
  •        Resist delegating.
  •        Immerse themselves in overseeing the projects of others.
  •        Start by correcting tiny details instead of looking at the big picture.
  •        Take back delegated work before it is finished if they find a mistake in it.
  •        Discourage others from making decisions without consulting them. 
  •        See more at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMM_90.htm#sthash.J8FopEKh.dpuf

I think that the essence could be in trusting yourself (too much) and then not trusting others.

How can you create a culture where mistakes are permitted and we learn from them? Leading up to a huge tournament teams may be prepared to lose to learn and to see themselves improving in certain areas as they know the big picture is the big tournament. They will test certain combinations to see what works. So experimentation is part of the deal. Perfectionism can be a real wet blanket where delegation and empowerment is required.

1. Fear of Failure
What if they fail?  The reality is that everyone makes mistakes in the workplace and if managed appropriately mistakes can be excellent learning opportunities to both improve performance and improve operations.  To delegate effectively, managers must recognize their own fears and allow some room for their team to make mistakes.  With adequate development and trust, team members will more often meet the challenge than fail.
2. Envy of Your Staff Member’s Ability
So, you’re a little bit green with envy at that talented staff member of yours whose ability in a certain area outshines your own.  In your private thoughts, you know you are reluctant to delegate to her because she is so good at what she does.  So what should you do?
Talk to yourself and get over it!  Even laugh at your envy if you must!  Once you have intelligently dealt with your own negative emotions, let your talented staff member do what she does best.  Give her full credit as appropriate.   The truth is she makes you look good!  Let her excel and you’ll be known as a manager and leader who can utilize the talents of your staff effectively.
3. I Can Do it Better Myself!
This is probably true!  After all, your technical ability is part of the reason for your success in your organization.  The correct question to ask yourself, however, is:  Should I be doing the work myself or is it better for me to delegate this work to someone else?
As a manager, your role is one of process to achieve organizational outcomes through organizing, controlling, planning, communicating, etc.  You can fulfill this role better when you are not bogged down with work that others should be doing. Invest the time in developing your people to perform these tasks.  Lower your standard to an acceptable level of performance.  They do not need to complete the task exactly like you do it to meet organizational goals.  After all, there are many methods for accomplishing most tasks.
4. I Like To Do This Myself!
Understood!  There are some aspects of any job that are more enjoyable than others.  The question here is the same as in item #3, however: Should you be doing the work yourself or should you delegate it to someone else?
There is a principle of delegation that says managers should delegate tasks that can be done by others.  Some managers take this advice too far and delegate everything to their staff members.  This is not what is meant.  Delegated tasks should be appropriate to the responsibilities and organizational level of the team member.  Further, there are some managerial tasks that are inappropriate for a manager to delegate to others to perform.  This human barrier to delegation addresses those tasks we like to do but really should not do because they could be done by others.  Let someone else enjoy this part of your job!   
5. I Better Not Give Him Too Much Authority For This Task Or I Will Lose Control
Part of delegating effectively is picking the right person for the task.  This requires assessing   both their willingness and capacity to perform the task.  Assuming they have the right attitude and skill level to perform the task, give them the authority they need to complete the task for you.  As appropriate, establish check-in points so you can monitor their progress.  Don’t over-monitor them however (particularly your superstars) or you will frustrate them.  You have invested in their development and created a positive work environment for them to do their best–now you just need to trust them to give you the desired results.

My view on the delegation dilemma is: Do you want to manage; do you want to get things done through others; are you willing to trust and allow others the freedom to grow and are you willing to go through the pain to change? Or are you actually a specialist who is darn good at what you do because you are competent, efficient and professional and maybe you can be a resource to others who can come and get advice and best practice from you as the expert. Managers and people leaders are not experts in content – they are good with people and process. Decide NOW and feel liberated and valuable in your role NOW or face continuous frustration with relying on others with whom you can’t seem able to share the responsibility.

Gavin Coetzee is a successful Leadership and Change Consultant from CapeTown, South Africa.