Team member to team leader

How do you transition from a team member to a team leader?

Coaching and mentoring Rachel*, a newly appointed team leader, has been a very interesting assignment. Rachel is a comparatively young woman whose boss appointed her to a leadership position on the basis of her potential. When I first met with Rachel, she was already well advanced in identifying the steps she needed to take to move successfully from being a member of a tight-knit team to the leader of it.

The first challenge Rachel identified for herself was letting go of her friendship group at work, a tough decision. In every workplace, people develop friendships with some of the people they work with, but not all. Rachel realised that if she continued in her strong friendships with some members of the team, this could easily be perceived as favouritism by the others. Rachel decided to take the courageous step of speaking with her friends, to explain the situation, and making sure that when there were social events, everyone was invited. If they met as a smaller group, Rachel decided she couldn’t attend.

The second was identifying the behaviours that were holding back some of her former team mates from delivering effectively in a very high-volume work environment. These behaviours ranged from people who didn’t pull their weight to people who were trying to work 24/7 and not coping. Rachel put performance plans in place for each team member to hold them accountable for what they were meant to do as well as helping those who were over-working to pull back. Rachel made a point of ensuring her own manager was part of developing this strategy because of the risks involved.

The third challenge is one new team leaders encounter constantly. With a need to make her team more efficient, Rachel had to find and implement new ways of doing business: she had to lead organisational change for the first time. Unsurprisingly, this met with considerable resistance from some members of the team, who wanted to enshrine the virtue of ‘the way we’ve always done things round here’. Putting in place the changes she needed to make, when she had herself been part of the old process, was a considerable challenge for Rachel. She didn’t want to look like a hypocrite, so effective communication was essential.

What was the role of a coach and mentor with a client who was already so far progressed in finding strategies to make the transition from team member to team leader? In fact, I asked her this very question. She told me there were two things she wanted my help with. The first was as a sounding board, so she could outline the steps she proposed to take to test if they were the right ones and in the right order.

The second was to work with her on how to achieve her strategies for change. Although she was already a very effective communicator, she wanted my help to refine her messages to the team about what needed to be done and why.

The third was to help her evaluate her approaches, to workshop with her what worked and what didn’t and, where things had not gone according to plan, help her to check the strategies were the right ones. On the basis of this evaluation, she also wanted assistance with deciding whether to press on, modify the approach, or let go of a strategy and try a different approach altogether.

Coaching such an effective young leader has been an inspiring task. As I said to Rachel, my only question is not whether she will become an effective leader but what organisation she will end up leading.

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Sydney-based executive coach, available in Wollongong, Newcastle, Western NSW and other areas by arrangement. Catherine is a co-founder of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

*Rachel is not the name of an actual client. This case study is an amalgam of work undertaken with new and aspiring team leaders.

Why truly successful leaders need emotional intelligence

In this post Trish Kelly looks at the characteristics of emotional intelligence and tells us how you can improve this important area to become a truly successful leader.

Trish Kelly executive coach
Trish Kelly, executive coach

Most people agree that effective leaders have intellectual drive, knowledge, vision, passion, creativity and good communication skills. These days, it is increasingly being recognised that to be truly successful, leaders must also have emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is essentially the way we recognise, understand, express and manage our emotions and the emotions of others. Leaders with emotional intelligence understand how their emotions and actions affect the teams they work with. What’s more, they are able to use their emotional intelligence to connect with, motivate and empower their teams.

The five key characteristics leaders with emotional intelligence exhibit are:

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Management
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

Self-Awareness – This is a critical pillar of emotional intelligence. It is our ability to recognise our emotions and the feelings associated with an emotion, the things that trigger those emotions and how we react to them. Self-awareness is the essential building block for self-management of our emotions. This is because, before we can look at how we can manage, control or adapt our emotions, we need to understand what they are and how we respond to them.

Awareness of our emotions can be developed. We can reflect on what our strengths and areas for development are and how we feel and respond in different situations, and we can seek feedback from others.

Self-Management This is our ability to use awareness of our emotions to stay flexible, to positively direct our behavior and to stay in control.

Leaders who manage themselves effectively are trustworthy and adaptable. They stay calm and rational under pressure and maintain a solutions focus when things go wrong. They rarely make rushed or emotional decisions, stereotype people or compromise their values.

We can improve our ability to self-manage by developing skills to remain calm and solutions focussed in challenging situations, by being very clear about the values that are important to us and by knowing the values we will not comprise. We can also continually reflect on situations to understand why we acted in the way that we did, and then use that experience to learn how to better manage similar situations in the future.

Motivation – This is our ability to harness our emotions to motivate ourselves to commit to appropriate actions, to follow through and to deliver results.

Self-motivated leaders are usually optimistic and have high energy which is contagious in the workplace, and they consistently focus on delivering results even in challenging circumstances.

We can recharge our motivation by reminding ourselves what we love about our job and about leading our team, by reflecting on successes, by making sure our goals are relevant and energising, and by adopting a positive mindset in challenging situations.

Empathy – This is our ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their perspective; in other words, it’s our ability ‘to walk in their shoes’.

Leaders who display empathy are good listeners. They pay attention to body language and are able to read other people’s feelings accurately. They welcome questions and feedback, are both confident and humble, and are able to adapt their communication style to suit the situation.

We can improve our empathy by being aware of our biases and making sure they don’t interfere with our ability to listen, and by keeping an open mind and asking respectful questions to get insights into situations from other people’s perspectives.

Social Skills – This is our ability to build relationships.

Leaders who have good social skills are great communicators, develop open and supportive workplace cultures, foster teamwork and innovation, celebrate successes, embrace change, resolve conflict well and model the values they hold.

We can improve our social skills by reflecting on how well we communicate and connect with our teams, and seeking feedback from others about what works well and what we could improve in our workplace.

It’s never too late to learn! So how would you rate your emotional intelligence and what actions can you take to enhance your emotional intelligence?

Contributor: Our current featured member, Trish Kelly, is an experienced leader, change manager and facilitator with over 30 years’ experience in the public sector, working in very large organisations in both regional and central office roles.

Through her experience as the General Manager Human Resources for 8 years in the NSW Department of Education and Communities, the largest organisation in the southern hemisphere, Trish is well equipped to work with executives, aspiring leaders and others to support and guide them to achieve their goals and to maximise their performance and impact.

What messages are you sending when you refuse to delegate?

Recently I met up with a senior colleague who is a truly exceptional manager: great at leading, great at delegating and outstanding at bringing out the best in their staff.

Speaking with someone with such highly developed skills reminded me of the importance of delegating well. You can see that this is an issue we have written about frequently before, including in our series on effective delegation.

Executive Coach Exchange delegate
Are you prepared to take the time to delegate effectively?

Our discussion came around to the messages you are sending when you don’t delegate. The first is that you simply don’t trust your staff to do their jobs.

My colleague gave the interesting example of a second level manager intervening unnecessarily between their direct report – the first level manager – and the first level manager’s own team. When senior managers do this, they tell both the first level manager and the team that they don’t trust the first level manager to do the job well. What a terrible message to send!

The second message you send by not delegating, is that you don’t think your staff are worth the investment of your time. To delegate effectively means supporting people as they learn to do their jobs, helping them grow as technical staff, managers and leaders. This takes time – delegating isn’t only about lightening your own workload. You need to dedicate the time, and be prepared for the fact that, in the early stages, delegating will actually slow down workflow and increase your workload. The payoff comes later in the form of a skilled, motivated team.

As well as sending messages about your staff, you also send messages about yourself. When you do the work of the people who report to you, you are saying that you can’t manage them and their performance effectively. If you are in a management role, you need to be a manager.

The fourth message you send about yourself is potentially the most destructive to your career. You are saying that you are not comfortable working at your own level but only at the level of your reports.

If you send this message, your own manager has every right to wonder why you have been promoted to management when you are not working at that level.

An executive coach can help you work on strategies for good delegation. In the meantime, you will find some suggestions to explore in our posts on scaffolding and helping your team rise to the challenge.

Controlling your emotions during difficult conversations

Imagine that you are about to have a difficult conversation in the workplace. For the sake of this discussion, let’s imagine it’s someone who reports to you and who has annoyed you by their behaviour or actions. The specifics don’t matter.

Marg Lennon, Executive Coach
Marg Lennon, Executive Coach

Something to guard against is this. When you talk to them about what they have done you may find your emotions get the better of you. You will want to avoid this and focus on achieving the outcome you desire. How can you achieve this?

The first and most obvious point is to apply the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. Certainly you will want to be clear about what has occurred to upset you and why. But beyond that you can try to anticipate the responses that you may receive from the other person.

Secondly, think about the sorts of reactions that you may have unconsciously inside yourself. You may find yourself getting defensive and fearful. This is natural. However, the better you have prepared, the less likely it is that these emotions will overwhelm you.

Now let’s remedy this situation with a good dose of curiosity. Think about what caused their behaviour or action, because you can be sure that they feel self-justified. In fact, you can be confident that they see their own actions and behaviour as proper and correct.

Don’t judge too quickly, don’t blame, rather listen to them.

Of course, this is not in any sense to diminish the need to achieve the outcome you want. After all, this person reports to you and you are supposed to be in charge.

However, this approach should allow you a stronger sense of control so that your emotions don’t impede your ability to achieve your objective.

This way, both parties can walk away feeling OK about the outcome.

Contributor: Our current featured member, Marg Lennon, is an executive coach who provides coaching, mentoring and leadership development consultancy services to clients across a variety of industries, including Health, Financial Services, Insurance, Pharmaceutical, Mining, Telecommunications, Education, Architecture, Medical Devices and Public Relations. Marg’s measured approach and insight coupled with her innate ability to build rapport readily enable her to help others minimise risks, operate more strategically and gain critical perspectives to make significant positive changes.

Leadership series – Kate Baxter AM

Kate is the Regional General Manager, TAFE NSW West region. She is responsible for a region which is larger than France, stretching from Broken Hill to Lithgow and up to Queensland. Her region has 40,000 students, many in small, remote communities. In 2018, she was awarded the AM for significant service to education administration in rural New South Wales, to training programs for Indigenous students, and to the community.

Kate Baxter AM: A leader must be prepared to do the difficult things that no-one else wants to do

Executive Coach Exchange Kate Baxter AM
Kate Baxter AM

When asked about leadership, Kate begins by dispelling a myth. “There are lots of stereotypes about what a good leader has to be like but different kinds of people can make good leaders.” For example, “Many people think only extroverts can be good leaders. I have an introverted personality but this doesn’t impede my ability to lead.”

She lists four aspects of good leadership. The first is relationships. “To lead, you must have someone following you.” Not everyone has to be a leader. Leaders and followers need each other, so you must be able to form and maintain relationships. Trust must exist for productive leadership.

The second is vision combined with the ability to communicate that vision. Kate feels strongly that having a vision without being able to communicate it is not leadership, so communication skills are crucial. Good leadership also includes the ability to communicate a consistent message about the vision in different ways, so you engage people’s passion in what they are doing.

The third is courage. A leader must be prepared to do the difficult things that no-one else wants to do. She gives two examples. The first is having the difficult conversations with the people who work for you. The second is keeping your own integrity intact, doing what you know needs to be done.

The fourth is looking over the horizon. A leader must be able to see further than the people who are following her. The leader must be alert to what’s coming and communicate that back to people.

When we asked Kate about a leader who inspired her, she gave an example from very early in her career. Kate was given a leadership role only 18 months after completing university. She was asked to lead service development and delivery for survivors of sexual assault, both women and children. She was given responsibility for designing and implementing a whole new area of service across Central Western NSW.

Kate was responsible for a small team and was asked to lead policy, delivery and accountability across the region. This forced her to think about leadership for the first time.

The leader Kate spoke about was responsible for the program state-wide. The first characteristic Kate admired was her ability to remain calm under pressure, no matter what was going on. Kate said she has always tried to do this herself, ever since. The second was that the leader was very strategic, which meant she was not overwhelmed by opportunities or challenges. Kate said this led her to try to always think more strategically.

The third thing Kate learned was when the leader conducted training for the regional managers. The leader drew a picture of a tree, with roots, the trunk and leaves. The leader said that far too often we go straight to the leaves but we must start with the roots and the trunk. If the strategy is planted firmly, the leaves will follow. But if we start from the leaves, the strategy won’t last.

For Kate, this meant she went back to her line manager and gained approval to build the strategy for six months before implementing any service provision. She took the time to visit all the towns in the area to get people on board so she could build the strategy into the communities. The result was that the strategy Kate developed is in still in place today – and, she told us, she still has her copy of the tree drawing – 32 years later.

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Sydney-based executive coach, available in Wollongong, Newcastle, Western NSW and other areas by arrangement. Catherine is a Founding Partner of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

Leadership series – Cindy Berwick

Cindy Berwick is the President of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultation Group Inc. For 40 years, the NSW AECG has been the peak advisory body for all levels of education for the Aboriginal Peoples of New South Wales. It has local members spread out across 127 communities and its grassroots structure is key to its success. Cindy is a Ngunnawal woman descending from the Bell family in Yass.

Executive Coach Exchange Cindy Berwick
Cindy Berwick

Cindy Berwick: Listening, consulting and being open to new ideas are at the heart of leadership

Cindy believes that what makes a true leader stand out is their ability to bring people along on the journey. She says a leader needs to be able to create a vision which is forward-looking and focussed on the greater good and not on the self. Cindy added that a leader must also have integrity, strong principles and value humanity.

Creating the vision is only the beginning, however. Cindy says the critical role for the leader is make sure that everybody can see the vision the leader has created and accept it. Only then can each person involved work towards the vision.

The primary role of the NSW AECG Inc. is to promote active participation by Aboriginal people in the consultative and decision-making process of education and training related matters. For this vision to be effective, there needs to be clear messages that people can understand. These messages allow people to accept the vision as their own and then work towards achieving it.

Consultation is at the heart of the NSW AECG. The NSW AECG Inc. has local, regional and state networks that enable effective communication. This allows an Aboriginal community viewpoint to be echoed throughout the organisation.

Working with a grassroots organisation requires significant effort and time being invested in consultation and discussion. For Cindy, this means having open channels of communication, where listening is just as important as talking – perhaps even more so.

When asked to talk about a leader who had influenced her, Cindy had a different approach from some of the other leaders we spoke to. Cindy said there were many people who inspired her, rather than influencing her leadership.

One person she mentioned was William Ferguson, a trade unionist who launched the Aborigines Progressive Association in 1937. He demanded justice, decency and fair play and he is sometimes called the Martin Luther King of Australia.

Mr Ferguson was one of the leaders who planned the 1938 Day of Mourning, to draw attention to the damage done to Aboriginal Australians by colonisation. Cindy spoke about the recognition of his work through a Day of Hope. She believes everyone needs a ‘day of hope’, not just Aboriginal people.

Cindy said, “I don’t know everything. That’s why it’s important to read and listen widely, be open to ideas and be inspired to keep going and achieve better.”

In conclusion, Cindy told us that a leader needs to get everyone on the same bus. Some people are waiting for the bus. Some are late for the bus. Others miss the bus. The leader needs to make sure, eventually, that everyone she leads ends up on that bus.

Leadership series – Jai Waters

Jai Waters is Principal Consultant and Executive Coach for the Chandler Macleod Group. She has extensive senior executive experience working in the NSW Public Sector where she was responsible for state-wide end-to-end customer services, including student and business systems. In her current role Jai focuses on leadership development and career transition coaching.

Jai Waters: Good leadership is founded on a vision for the future

Executive Coach Exchange Jai Waters
Jai Waters

When talking about leadership, Jai was quick to clarify that her focus is on good leadership.

For Jai, good leadership has its foundation in a vision for the future. The leader’s role is to engage and enlist people in defining and delivering that vision. For her, this is how a leader achieves success.

Next, a good leader needs to recognise that everyone is different. For this reason, a leader must demonstrate respect and inclusion. By acknowledging and using everyone’s skills and capabilities, a good leader ensures people are the best they can be. The leader does this by providing opportunities, support and feedback to different people at different times, according to what each person needs at that time. Successful leaders recognise that people are equal but different.

Jai feels that good leaders are responsive to ‘rumbles’, monitoring the dynamics within and beyond their team. The leader should be sensitive and alert to people’s differing needs, so everyone is working and contributing in a way that provides alignment to their work goals and leads to strong synergies.

Jai believes that celebrating wins is very important, whether they be individual, team or collective wins. She says this helps people understand the importance of what they are doing. She combines this with feedback to enhance learning, so everyone understands what went well, what didn’t and how things could be done better the next time.

Jai notes that each job is a stage in someone’s career. The leader’s role is to recognise the stage each person is at and this includes when they are ready to move on to their next position. The leaders’ role is to support people, not only in their current position but in the transition to a new role, whether that is within the current work environment or a different one.

When asked about a leader she admired, she spoke about the head of a large government agency. Jai attended a talk that he gave a short while after he was appointed to the position. She was a senior executive at that time and, and had 300 different tasks and projects she was trying to juggle. The leader said he had only three post-it notes on his desk which were the key priorities he intended to achieve while he was head of the agency.

Jai said that what she most admired about this was the clarity and simplicity of his intent; and his laser focus on what he was going to achieve – all while dealing with the noise and multiplicity of the demands of his role.

This made her aspire to having that clarity, brevity and focus herself, so that three essential goals would be enough.  As a result, she said she learned to identify and focus on what her key contribution would be, whilst also dealing with the everyday demands of her own role.

Finally, she says, to achieve the agreed leadership vision, “Everyone should be ‘in the boat’. It’s the leader’s role to get them in the boat and help everyone to reach that destination.”

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Sydney-based executive coach, available in Wollongong, Newcastle, Western NSW and other areas by arrangement. Catherine is a Founding Partner of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

Leadership series – Rod Towney

Many of our clients want to work with us on leadership. So, we decided to start the year by asking leaders we know about the foundations and challenges of leadership.

We begin the series with an interview with Rod Towney. Rod is a Wiradjuri elder and the most senior Aboriginal staff member in TAFE NSW.

Rod Towney PSM: Leadership has its foundation in respect

Executive Coach Exchange Rod Towney leader
Rod Towney

Rod is a leader in two cultures, the Aboriginal culture and the non-Aboriginal culture. He traces his leadership back to his childhood, growing up on the Mission. He said that he always knew who his elders were and still knows who they are; so his leadership has its foundation in respect.

Rod said he believes that the characteristics of a real leader are that:

  • You must lead people in the right direction
  • You must not take backward steps
  • You must be courageous and assertive when you know you are right
  • People must recognise your honesty and fairness
  • You must be a good, solid role model.

Rod told us when he was a little feller, some of the senior men, the uncles, chose future leaders from amongst the young boys. The uncles took those boys into the bush where they learned about hunting, fishing and the weather. Not everyone is chosen to learn about cultural knowledge in depth: Rod was one those chosen and feels blessed to have been chosen in this way; he notes this means he has been given responsibilities for his people’s well-being. Rod said that an Aboriginal leader is a leader amongst equals.

Rod has had a remarkable career, being elected to the regional Aboriginal Land Council at a relatively young age and from there eventually becoming Chair of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. He has also been a member of ATSIC and Deputy Mayor of the Dubbo City Council. As a Senior TAFE Manager, he works over the vast Western Region of NSW, from Lithgow to Broken Hill and up to the Queensland border. He focuses on students getting the best outcomes from their study.

Possibly the most remarkable thing Rod has done was to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, when he represented the NSW Aboriginal Lands Council in the Human Rights arena. Many people, when asked about a leader they admire, name Nelson Mandela. Rod met Mr Mandela and his advice has influenced Rod in his work with non-Aboriginal people. Mr Mandela explained to Rod that, in Australia, Aboriginal people would need to work with non-Aboriginal people because they were so out-numbered, a different situation from that in Africa. Rod said he took this advice to heart and tries to work effectively with non-Aboriginal people to achieve outcomes for the Aboriginal Peoples he represents.

We asked Rod about a person he admired, as well as Nelson Mandela. He named several people, including a School Principal at Wellington, Mr Cahill, who encouraged and supported the Aboriginal children to go further and do their best. He also said that the Uncles and Aunties were heroes in their family.

Most of all, though, Rod admires his mother and grandfather, who inspired him, instilling discipline and a strong work ethic. He said they told him he was as good as anyone and encouraged and supported him in his decision to go to university. Crucially, they protected him from being taken away, helping the children hide in the bush when people came to take them. For Rod, this meant that he grew up as a Wiradjuri man in his own culture and this has formed the foundation for his life.

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Sydney-based executive coach, available in Wollongong, Newcastle, Western NSW and other areas by arrangement. Catherine is a Founding Partner of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

I need my team to rise to the challenge – educational scaffolding part 2

If you need your team to step up, you need to show them how.

Last week I introduced the topic of educational scaffolding, a method that enables a student to learn how to carry out a task independently by gradually removing the support of a person with greater knowledge and expertise. In the workplace, this concept can be really useful for the manager as coach.

If you use a ‘sink or swim’ approach when assigning work, you are pretty much guaranteeing failure. The most likely outcomes are that your staff member will fail at the delegated task and lose confidence; and you will have to clean up the mess. It’s bad for productivity and bad for morale. It can also leave your own boss wondering about your skills as a manager – and your technical skills, since you are now doing work at the level of your reports instead of at your own level.

Fortunately, most managers assist their staff to develop skills by assigning work and providing feedback over a period of time. This is a good start but what’s missing is the structured notion of scaffolding.

Highly effective managers provide levels of support tailored to the individual skills and knowledge of each staff member. Depending on the task and the individual, the degree of support ranges from high to low and takes more or less time. Here is how it works.

  1. Start by clearly explaining what needs to be done and how.
  2. Assess how much support your staff member will need. This will help you adjust the next steps.
  3. Provide examples of good practice and models to copy.
  4. Provide opportunities for your staff to work with you and other more knowledgeable people as they develop their skills.
  5. Next, give them opportunities to attempt a task or elements of a task without initial support, followed by feedback and support. A lower risk task should be attempted first.
  6. Finally, let them do the whole task from start to finish on their own and then help them bring it up to standard.

One example of how to apply this method is with high level meetings. Here a staff member might first accompany a manager to senior meetings and listen only; later they might attend less critical meetings with peers; and finally begin to represent the organisation at increasingly high stakes meetings.

I have used this method to introduce aspiring leaders to the Managing Director and then the Board. In this case, they were subject matter experts with no experience in presenting to senior meetings. By supporting them through the process, I gave them the chance to show the Managing Director and the Board just how much they knew.

When you take this path, you get the credit for their expertise. You get the credit for bringing the best out of your staff and training them as future leaders.

I also had this experience as a junior member of staff. My boss, a wonderful mentor and teacher, asked me to draft a letter, then shared the final version with me. I was embarrassed to see only one of my sentences remained in the final version. But then he patiently explained every change he had made. Next, he gave me another letter to draft. Again, he shared the final version and explained the rationale behind his changes. As I progressed, we co-wrote a lot of documents and I learned to understand the sophisticated approaches he was using. Finally. the day came when one of my documents came back unchanged. I was delighted and so was my boss.

Managers I have coached have found this approach really helpful, particularly the idea that the amount of support given must be tailored to the skills and knowledge of the individual staff member and to the task. They have found that, over time, they have been able to delegate far more effectively, having ensured their team knew what they were doing.

Although applying educational scaffolding to workplace learning is time consuming, my experience has shown that it builds not only skills but independence and self-confidence in the team. Its success will mean that managers are able to confidently delegate work over time, knowing that their staff member will have the skills, knowledge and learning to complete the tasks themselves.

Contributor: Dr Catherine Burrows is a Founding Partner of Executive Coach Exchange and the CEO and owner of Innoverum independent consulting.

Delegating effectively – part 3

In previous posts we looked at how to set up successful delegation and how to follow up to ensure your delegation is successful.

This week we look in more detail at one of the more complex issues that can arise from delegating relationship and negotiation responsibilities.

There is potential for delegates to become so comfortable working with ‘the other side’ that they are at risk of “capture”, forgetting which organisation they represent.

An organisation we’ve worked with provided a clear example of this issue. Account executives were expressly instructed by their management that it was their responsibility to be an advocate for their client. This is not uncommon – account executives will push hard to achieve the best deal for their client, and that can be consistent with building strong relationships with a client and achieving sales goals.

However, the important caveat, that they should advocate for their client when facing inwards to their employer, but still represent their own employer when facing outwards to the client, was glossed over. The account executives found it understandably difficult to change hats. Ultimately, this approach created significant compliance difficulties, and client disputes, when the account executives tried to work around internal protocols and overpromised to their accounts.

An Australian Government department we dealt with was well-known for regularly rotating its delegates.

Executive Coach Exchange colleagues rawpixel pixabayThis was an interesting arrangement. On one hand, it effectively avoided what the department called “provider capture”, where their staff became advocates for external organisations instead of representing their own. On the other hand, external bodies constantly had to provide information which they had already provided, because they were always dealing with someone new. This was not efficient and other organisations often felt the new representative lacked expertise and knowledge.

Our view is that there might be a limit to the effectiveness of this kind of rotation. Nevertheless, we believe you should regularly review your delegation arrangements, at least once a year. By this, we mean looking at the responsibilities each of your staff members has been given and asking:

  • Are the delegation arrangements still delivering the outcomes you need?
  • Has your staff member been successful in delivering these outcomes?
  • Are they still engaged and interested in the area?
  • Are your staff still effectively representing the interests of your organisation?
  • Are you confident they have not been captured by their stakeholders or their opponents in negotiations?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No”, then it’s time for a refresh. While your staff should have sufficient time to learn how to undertake their new responsibilities, no delegation arrangement should be a job for life.

In conclusion, here is an excellent tip from Mind Tools. “When you first start to delegate to someone, you may notice that he or she takes longer than you do to complete tasks. This is because you are an expert in the field and the person you have delegated to is still learning. Be patient: if you have chosen the right person to delegate to, and you are delegating correctly, you will find that he or she quickly becomes competent and reliable.”