Monthly Archives: March 2013

Commitment

It’s not hard to have fun at a good wedding. By “good” I mean food, dancing, friends and family. A little champagne doesn’t hurt. But, of course, the really good part is the hopeful and happy commitment of two people to each other. They share some vows about being faithful, squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube and being very, very patient.

Commitments aren’t limited to wedding vows, though. We make commitments all the time. And while we’re on the subject of “good,” a good commitment is a promise made to another with no expectation of return. As long as our promise is dependent on the actions of others it is not a commitment but a deal, a contract I devise and keep hidden in my mind. I’ll pick up my socks if you don’t bug me about watching football this afternoon. I’ll turn in this paperwork late because everyone else in the office is late.  And then there’s conditional commitment, which depends on the answer to that famous question, “What’s in it for me?”

“I’ll try,” is not a commitment. Neither is “I’ll do the best I can.” Those are often code for refusal. It may not be a final refusal, but at the moment there is no commitment. Interest, perhaps, but interest becomes action only when it’s convenient. The problem is that the marriage, the task force, or the big project can’t move forward with “maybe.” There is no momentum with “maybe.”

So here are some questions to ask yourself next time you inventory your commitments:

  • What is the cost to others if I keep, or fail to keep, my commitments?
  • What is the ”no,” or refusal that I’m postponing?
  • What is the commitment that I’ve changed my mind about?
  •  What kind of evaluation of my commitment is meaningful to me?

Commitment takes some staying power, if you continue the course of seeing your promise through. I suspect if you ask someone who has been married for fifty years if it’s worth it, the answer will be yes.

The Promise, Proceeds, and Pictures

In our Brownie meeting, we discussed what we’re going to do with the proceeds from our cookies. After reflecting on the Girl Scout Promise, we came up with several ideas for donating  cookies and some of our money, including giving to St. Jude’s Hospital and a local homeless shelter.

We drew a mural to give us more ideas. The activity seemed to help girls combine the concepts of the Girl Scout Program with helping people in the community through cookies.

Everyone liked the idea of giving to St. Jude’s, thinking that the children there would like cookies and also would benefit from a donation.

We had so much fun, we didn’t notice that our time had run out.

Share with us: What are you going to do with donated cookies? Will you give part of the proceeds from your cookie sales to a community organization?

Delegate! – Part II

I imagine you’ve been waiting all week for “Delegate! Part II.” It’s hard to argue with the principle of delegation, but effectively practicing it is a bit of an art. We learn by doing it—even though getting started is sometimes difficult.

It takes longer at first.
You might feel out of control.
You might feel threatened by someone else’s good work.
They may not do it as well as you do in the beginning.
You might be seen by others as “not doing anything.”
You might need to let go of a task you enjoy.
People might view you as passing on jobs that you dislike.
Perhaps the task will not be completed and you feel (are) responsible.

Maybe, like me, you are apt to say, “I like things to be done my way, but by somebody else!” Well, unless you are assembling widgets by a standardized, detailed factory process, the person who does the task you delegate probably won’t do it exactly like you. But that’s really the beauty of working together as a project team or department. Everyone brings something to the table to drive the movement forward.

Even so, you are entrusting another person with a task for which you remain ultimately responsible. That might mean leaving what you do well (the task) and moving into the realm of managing other people. Now, some of the art of delegating means that you must ensure that the other person has sufficient autonomy to undertake the task in their own way, and yet be able to influence the person and the process.

Here is the process:

  • Decide which tasks should be delegated, and clearly define the deliverable, the deadlines and the process of working together.
  • Choose the best person for the task and make sure they understand the parameters. You can’t hold someone responsible for vague or undefined tasks.
  • Develop a process for monitoring or coaching the person to whom you have delegated.
  • Review the experience and decide what changes should be made, on both sides, next time around.

And finally, remember to recognize the effort that was put into a task, and reward it in an appropriate way.

 

Delegate!

Delegation takes time–to organize, prioritize and monitor the tasks that you give over to other people, but it’s a good investment. The truth is, the cost of avoiding it is much higher! If you are doing the work that other people can do, need to do, or even want to do, then, it’s time to schedule an appointment for an organizational consultation with yourself. Here are some questions to get you started:

Is my desk overflowing with uncompleted tasks?

Am I doing something that I don’t do very well, but don’t need to learn?

Do I set aside enough time for work on long-term projects?

Is my staff developing skills and knowledge that enable them to perform at an excellent level?

Now start making some lists.

What tasks am I doing that aren’t really necessary?

What am I doing that could be done by someone else?

What tasks am I doing that can only be done by me?

 

You and I both know there are many good reasons to delegate, but here are three to inspire you, in case you need it:

Delegation increases your available work time. Operational responsibilities, routine tasks and daily emergencies can crowd out the more important items on your to-do list. To create more time for yourself, you might need to hand off work that can be completed by other people in the office. And the more you delegate, the more experienced your staff becomes at working under your direction, and that eventually makes the transition of tasks a simple process.

Delegation can reduce stress. The pressure to perform under changing work conditions and looming deadlines takes a toll over time, particularly on your personal well-being. Clearing your desk and calendar eases the pressure, and that allows creativity and energy to flow back into your work, and ultimately, into your department or work team.

Delegation motivates others. A sense of achievement is central to any employee’s job satisfaction. Working in a structured environment, in which everyone is aware of their responsibilities and has the necessary skills and resources to carry out those tasks, is a process that builds confidence and competence.

The most effective delegators are self-disciplined enough to focus on the work that is truly theirs to do, and are able to equip, develop, and monitor others in the work that is distributed among the team members or within the department. We’ll talk more about that next week.