Swamped but can’t delegate?
Have you had this problem? You are up to your ears with time-consuming, complicated tasks and you have people in your team who have nothing to do – often because you are holding them up?
You can’t delegate the tasks to them because it would take longer to explain than it would for you to do them yourself. You are in grave danger of being washed away by the tsunami of work that never stops coming in.
You feel frustrated and helpless and can’t help feeling that it’s not fair you are working so hard when others are sat around drinking coffee, chatting and laughing.
Swamped and overloaded
This was the situation of my client earlier this week. A major job had just been delayed, which meant he now had a gaping hole the size of Manhattan in his cash flow. So he needed to get some work in fast.
I got there at 3.30.
My client was in panic mode and randomly searching Internet sites for news on his many and bewildering array of contacts. It was like a kitten batting hopelessly at a swarm of flies.
“They can’t help me.” He told me, referring to his team. “I’ve tried and they just don’t get it.” He moaned through gritted teeth, with a desperate look on his face.
“Just start searching and tell me what it is you are trying to achieve as you do it.” I said.
At first his responses to my questions were muddled. Then, gradually, through questioning, we identified exactly the kind of client he was looking for and what their situation would be. We honed it down. We identified a specific event they would be likely to be going to.
He found the website – with a list of the attendees. “Wow, this is it!” He almost shrieked.
“With this list, can you give your team instructions on what to do?”
“Yeah, all they have to do is find out…” He gave me a succinct list of what he needed.
“Then I can generate an email and send exactly the right stuff to them. We should be able to have that done by lunch time tomorrow.”
Then he looked up, blinking and checked the clock. “How did that happen?” He said. “It’s only quarter to four. What did you do?”
How to stop panicking
What I did was help him work out exactly what he needed to achieve and the process he uses to achieve it when he does it himself.
Expect I tidied it up and got rid of all the fluff and panic. We were then able to put a clear process in place that he could explain to his team.
Very creative people
My client is definitely one of the most creative people I know. Ideas just appear in his head like bubbles. But the down side of this is that he doesn’t really know how he does what he does, so he finds it very difficult to pass on.
As a result he ends up working very hard, feeling really frustrated and annoyed with the rest of the team because they are not doing anything.
But it’s not necessary. His methods can now be passed on to his team, leaving him to get on with other things and making the whole company far more productive.
Get the objectives clear first
The important message here is that you always need to get the objectives right first. It’s even more important when your back is against the wall and you are frustrated and overloaded.
This is the time when your brain finds it most difficult to set an objective but it’s the time when you need to do it the most.
It’s something anyone could have done
Why should you win an award for doing something anyone could do? Well, the reason is that no one else did it.
There are many apparently simple things that are really obvious when you see them. Like the drop down menus on your screen. Or simple post-it notes. Or even spreadsheets.
Yes, there was a person who came up with all of those things that we now see as so obvious that it seems like they have always been there.
Here’s another one.
Award for the best use of technology
Using technology to make your life easier and your work more effective. That’s what our client Total Disc Repair (TDR) won their award for.
Now I know you may be thinking this should go to the person who invented the iPad or iPod, but it went instead to our client TDR. The reason was that they had done something that ‘anyone could have done’ but, of course, no one had.
They had used technology to enable people to get their own immediate feedback on their own performance.
This may sound like a waste of time, but let me explain.
Back Seat Driver
Imagine that you had to drive your car with a blindfold on and the only information you had, as you hurtled down the motorway, was from your passenger (your manager) in the back seat.
How well would you be able to drive? How fast would you go? How easy would it be compared to driving without a blindfold, getting that information immediately and first hand?
That’s the difference that Mel Stephenson, MD of TDR, has made in his company.
Whilst others wait for their managers to let them know how they are doing, no one at TDR needs to do that. They already know. All of the company’s data has been opened up and the relevant information made available live to the individuals who need it. So they can drive much faster than their competitors and consequently have doubled their profits every year for the past six years.
Anyone could have done it
That’s the sad thing. In a competition with entries from a wide range of multi-nationals as well as national companies TDR won the award because they had done this simple and, now they’ve done it, obvious thing.
The right objectives
I got to know Mel when he asked me to come down and make sure they had got their objectives right. He was keenly aware that his system would only work really well if he got the foundations right. Find out what I did here. He’s found it such an effective technique that he has started a new company dedicated to helping others implement the same system.
You can do it
To discover Mel’s secrets, get a copy of my interview with Mel where he explains what he did, go here. It’s on special offer just for this week – £15 – a £10 saving.
What to do with your objectives
It’s all very well having beautifully written, SMART objectives and goals, but what do you do with them? This is exactly what one of my clients asked me recently. I was surprised, but then I realised that there’s a lot of stuff written about how to write objectives, but not nearly as much on what you do with them.
So here it is.
What to do with your objectives
Your objectives are like your shopping list. When you go off to do your shopping, you check down the list to make sure you have got all the items on the list.
If you can’t get the Reblochon cheese for your exotic French dish of tartiflette (a delicious winter warming meal) or the particular red wine you are after in the supermarket you are in, or that great pre-cooked Indian dish you want for this evening, you go to another, perhaps more specialised, shop.
If you can’t get it there, you may even postpone getting the cheese, get a different wine or decide on a takeaway. Depending on the circumstances, you may decide that you’ll have to make do with a different cheese (not a good idea in the case of tartiflette) or not cook that meal you were planning at all.
Updating your objectives
If you decide that you can’t make the tartiflette, you probably still have to eat, so you then have the option of making something else or perhaps getting a take-away.
So what you have done is you have still achieved your overall objective – to eat, but you have modified a lower level objective, to provide a surprise treat dish of tartiflette for your family.
Review your progress against your objectives
Just like the shopping list, your objectives are there as reminders to make sure you are on track to achieve what needs to be achieved.
And, just like a list, it’s OK to tick them off as you go. In fact, I highly recommend it.
Just like your shopping list, there are some items that are vital and need to be completed today, and some that are not as urgent. And just like the list, if you leave getting the toothpaste for too long, it will become urgent. Better to have a new tube ready waiting.
So you need a plan to make sure you go about achieving your objectives in a way that is efficient and means that your colleagues are able to achieve their objective and are not being held up by you.
Review your objectives frequently
Your objectives should be something that you review and update as often as once a week. They should not be on a tattered old sheet of paper at the back of a drawer (like my first objectives were in my first job).
Just go down the list and identify what still needs to be done in order to achieve each objective. Make sure those actions are in your plan and you will have the resources you need. This could be a simple as putting a note in your diary to check out what training is available on Microsoft Word.
As you achieve your objectives you will find that new ones naturally arrive to take their place, just like your shopping list. So add them on.
That’s it, there’s nothing magic about it.
Is competition a good thing?
Imagine this scenario. Your boss tells you that you are getting a pay rise of 5%. You are probably delighted. How do you feel when you hear Joan Smith got 10%? Why should this make any difference to you? You still have your extra pounds or dollars. No one has taken them away, but you feel it’s a slight; it’s not fair. You do just as good a job as she does.
The key with competition is that it’s not right or wrong, you just have to make sure that you are using it in a situation where you will get a benefit.
Some people are motivated by competition. Their whole purpose in life is to beat others. This can be useful, but there are times when it’s a bit unhealthy. The problem is that your brain is wired in a way that makes it easy for you to become competitive.
The waste of competition
The trouble with competition is that you can end up losing a lot and wasting effort and resources that could have given you better results if applied elsewhere.
Why make it competitive?
Managers and companies do this because they believe that it will give them better results and motivate people more. Perhaps it does, some of the time. And it’s great for the winner. But what about the loser?
Losing can be very de-motivating
I remember one friend telling me of a company that fired the bottom 10% of employees every year.
It sounds like a really effective process, like culling the weakest members of the herd. But you have to ask, why were those people recruited? And who trained them? Who was managing them and coaching them?
Ultimately it’s the results of the whole team (or company) that matter. On whatever measure you use there will always be people who come first and people who come last. It’s like saying you don’t want anyone who is ‘below average’ in your team.
Anyone with basic maths will know that you have to have some people who are below average.
Focus on the results and what needs to be achieved
Special offer on Motivation Products
For this week only our motivation products are on special offer. You can get my booklet, “How to Motivate Yourself and Others” for just £4.50 – a saving of £2.25 and a 33% discount. You can get the CD of our webinar on motivating yourself for just £15, a saving of £10. I’ve even reduced our bargain pack of two booklets, “How to Write Objectives That Work” and “How to Motivate Yourself and Others” from £11.50 to just £8.50.
Check out our new website here – let me know what you think.
Harry Potter and the Disappearing Goal
One of our clients makes in-house films for companies. You would imagine that, before embarking on making a film it would be a good idea to know why you were making it.
It turns out that this is not always the case. See his blog here. Sometimes, people decide to make a film just because two of the key people are going to be in the same place at the same time.
Other times they just decide to make a film about something for no apparent reason. You may well have sat through one of those films. They can be really boring.
The trouble is you waste an awful lot of time and money if you work in this way. And you can end up with something that is not worth having. It’s hard to imagine David Yates, Director of the Harry Potter films using the same approach.
In the last book, Harry gets distracted from his quest for Horcruxes by the enticing idea of the Deathly Hallows, the objects that will apparently enable him to cheat death. This glistening prospect is almost impossible to ignore, like a giant chocolate cake when you know you should be on a diet.
He seriously considers abandoning his search for the remaining treasures in which parts of Voldermort’s evil soul are secreted.
But fortunately for us Muggles and the Wizarding world, he gets back on track and remembers his goal.
Get the objectives clear first
The message here is that, if you are planning to start any expensive initiative, make a film, or really commit to anything at work, it’s vital to have a clear objective before you start working on it.
Why do people start projects without clear objectives?
There are many reasons for this, but here are two of the most popular:
• You are trying to solve a problem
• You are struck by a great idea
What your brain does when you are trying to solve a problem
Let’s face it; Harry is always trying to solve a problem. Usually he’s just trying not to be killed.
In this situation your brain is often stuck in solving problem mode. This means you are not focussing on setting a goal or objective, but are much more focussed on moving away from pain. Here’s an example.
You have dislocated your shoulder and so you go to your doctor. Your doctor can see that you have the potential to be a top athlete, but you are not interested in this because you have such a bad pain in your shoulder. Even after the pain is gone, you may still not be interested in winning the Olympics, but you might be interested in making sure you never dislocate your shoulder again.
Unfortunately this means that, instead of setting a clear objective or goal, you merely stick to solving a problem and so don’t end up achieving the greatness that is within your grasp.
When you have a great idea
This is a completely different problem. In this case you can be distracted by the dazzling opportunities that have appeared to you. And it may be that they will be just what you need, or not.
It’s so easy to be distracted
Don’t blame yourself when this happens. There are lots of bright shiny objects out there all eagerly waiting to grab your attention, exactly like the Deathly Hallows.
It is the job of marketing people to distract you with them. And it may be that some of them will help you to achieve your objectives.
You just need to check before you put in too much effort and reach inside your purse.
Go back to your top-level objective and work out if this new idea is going to help you achieve it before doing anything else.
One last point
If you read last week’s blog you will know it was about why women don’t get the credit for their work. Did you know that JK Rowling was asked to use her initials rather than her name, Jo, because the publishers thought that boys wouldn’t read the book if they knew it was written by a woman?