Leading and Delegating

Wednesday 15 October 2014

A team that relies on its leader rather than learning to run itself is a team that's likely to fail. 

Building self reliance in your teams means they can work independently. In order to do that sometimes you need to build will and sometimes build skill.

The leader's choice: Facilitate or Direct

We have a choice when leading. Support the team and their abilities to get the job done, or to direct, using our experience to guide the team.

Sometimes there is the need is for direction and focus, declaring the goal and how we'll get there. At others, the capabilities to get the job done are there in the team, all that's needed is support or a little structure.

“Facilitate where they can, lead where they can’t.” is guide that keeps me on the straight and narrow. It helps me to make a key assessment and a decision: do I get out of the way or do I show them what needs to be done.

Of course it's not always that clear cut. It takes time to get to know where a group has great capabilities and give them the space to act. Even harder is to look deeper into the relationship and work out how to grow that independence.

The Skill-Will Matrix

The simple grid of the Skill Will Matrix was created to help managers have more successful interactions with their teams and adapt to the growth of their people. It attempts to solve situations where ownership or delivery of a goal isn't happening. It looks at the 'why' and then suggests an approach.

Max Landsberg's Skill-Will matrix
The author, Max Landsberg said of it:
“When I’ve delegated work... I’ve been disappointed with it, I’ve wanted to know what to do differently – and this grid is to help you make different choices to how to engage with someone on a task or learning situation basis.”

For each quadrant, the tool suggests an approach to getting a result from an interaction depending on the ability and attitude of the person or group. I've found its worked best if I focus on a specific achievable goal or task, rather than a general aim.

For a person with low skill and will

Direct oversight could be needed, but a clear briefing around the goal, providing additional structure of how to do it and positive feedback as they progress may be enough. One-on-one pairing might be a good way to manage progress, giving demonstration and structure, though you'd need to watch for disengagement.

For a keen person with low skill

There is value in giving them a chance to observe, but they will want to get involved. Giving them ownership but managing the risk can be a good approach – structuring the learning but letting them do. Managing frustration might be key here they will want to learn - can you use that energy to get them independently learning and manage the risk?

If they have high skill but low will

Its time to put a bit of wind in their sails. Though its important to tell them why they are right for this, It’s not enough to just support. You will need to help them take ownership of their own will. This calls on some different coaching skills - focus on letting them see that they do have the ability, that small blockers shouldn’t hold them back, checking the over-criticalness that you find in some highly skilled people. Reward them with quality work, so they can see that they are valued.

Once you are ready to delegate

You should still work together – act as a sounding board to keep developing confidence and skills. Help them begin to start managing their own adventure zone by setting challenging goals together.

Navigating to delegation

Navigating the Skill-Will matrix
Most leaders desire to grow their team to have more successful delegate. Landsberg suggests the best way of manoeuvring through the matrix is to start with building will and then focusing on building up of the needed skills in the now engaged person.

Building will is a coaching challenge.

You'll need to understand the person's motivations, safety and engagement. Some talking, but a lot more listening.

Growing skill means focusing on your interactions

Shifting your approach to each task can allow independence to grow. Changing the way you interact within that task can massively aid skill acquisition. We'll look at the difference between showing and asking next.

This was the third part of a series on Leading and Guiding Groups. The first covered safety and enjoyment, the second: how pressure effects how we perform.

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