UK output per hour is 15% less than the G7 average, and employee disengagement is estimated to be costing the country £26bn per year (Engage for Success). Since the 2008 recession all G7 economies have slowed, but the only way the UK has been able to establish economic growth is by increasing the hours of the working week.
Our workloads feel high and we are busy and stressed, both at work and at home, and we still think multitasking is the answer even though it has been proven to not only be untrue, (researchers from the University of Michigan found productivity dropped as much as 40% when subjects tried to do two or more things at once), but that it also prepares the ground for mistakes and burnout.
Delegating and skill-sharing are both effective ways of combating overload, but most of us don’t exploit either method. Do we secretly we believe we are the only competent people on the planet? What’s going on?
Ability to focus
This is a hot topic in the realms of the workplace, especially concerning millenials and technology.
One thing Simon Sinek did get right in his talk with Inside Quest is that there is a broader context to the millenial generation; societal, parental and technological changes before and during their childhood gave them a completely different upbringing. Learning to work differently, collaboratively, is imperative to moving forward.
Running concurrently with the communication challenges of multi-generational workforces is the rapid world of technology development and acquisition. To truly ingest, learn or work through a problem or task we must give it our full attention (see the short video below from Chris Bailey, described by TED as ‘the most productive man you’d ever hope to meet’), and e-interruptions make this near impossible; the constant onslaught of the ping of our inboxes is a ticking time-bomb for productivity. (Microsoft, IBM and Google are among a list of members of the Information Overload Research Group. The IORG formed in 2008 to bring together research, solutions, and people to help reduce the impact of Information overload on society).
Delegated tasks are not extra tasks
Delegation, whether you’re on the instructing or receiving end, is part of the workplace cycle. Delegated tasks are not extra tasks, they are a key part of anyone’s job, and teams exist to share the load.
Not getting the right outcome?
The Situational Leadership model tells us we should delegate only to people who have the skill and the will needed to do that particular task. If people aren’t executing delegated tasks as you’d hoped, you probably didn’t match task to individual and/or communicate your expectations properly.
Being indispensable will make you unhappy
The workdays won’t slow down, and a work-life balance will stay unattainable. An indispensable mindset means you are always ‘on’, always reachable, and unable to switch off the technology and be present elsewhere. It is NOT healthy, it is NOT sustainable, and it’s a catalyst to burnout. Be valuable, not indispensable.
Think long term
Yes, it probably is easier for you to just get on with it rather than show someone else how, but you have to spend time to make time. It’s worth it to lessen your own workload but more importantly, to develop your employees.
By delegating you are demonstrating your trust and faith in their abilitiy, a vital tool for developing people and relationships (Teams that trust each other outperform teams that don’t; HCI Study – Building Trust 2013: Workforce Trends Defining High Performance). Productivity is highly linked to engagement, and trust drives both.
Tips and pointers
- Delegate to ability – behavioural as well as skill
Use the Insights Discovery® colour model. Think clearly about what you need from someone to get the job done effectively, and map it against the strengths of the colour blends among your team.
- Create group taskforces to build relationships
More than ever teams need to be agile, trusting, and able to communicate effectively. There is information overload, and silo working will no longer suffice. Handing over more power to your people, uncovering your own vulnerability now and again and encouraging skill sharing will unite your teams.
- Things will, sometimes, inevitably, go wrong
Be very clear about the what, why and when of a task. Delegating within a culture of trust means, inextricably, empowering people to act on your behalf as well as backing your team up when things falter. Risks and mistakes and integral to growth, innovation, and productivity.
- Keep up to speed and provide feedback
Be very clear about your expectations surrounding progress updates and feedback opportunities when delegating. Miscommunication can be fatal; feedback keeps individuals on track and engaged and lets you know whether you’re delegating effectively.
To reduce our stress levels, improve our overall wellness, increase engagement and get more done, leaders and employees need to communicate clearly about blockers and struggles and share the load. By opening up and unearthing our troubles we show courage in our vulnerability, improve working relationships, build trust, and often realise that the answers lie among the people in the room.