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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Still Sweating the Small Stuff? Far Better to Delegate It!

When my old friend Will Kintish stopped being an accountant more than a decade ago to set up his networking training business he told me that he wasn't going to waste his time doing "stuff".

He defined "stuff" as those irritating tasks that swirl around every business taking up time and contributing little if anything to the success of the enterprise.

All very necessary of course but Will considered that there were far more effective people out there to take these tasks on and that would leave him to get on with what he was good at, networking training.

He was right and he has built a good successful business over the years.

"Stuff" afflicts us all and never more so than in problem solving in the business. The difficulty usually is not that there is no evidence but rather there is too much on which to base a decision.

Some time ago on of the members of my Vistage CEO peer group asked to bring an issue to the group for their opinion. He sent me an explanatory email that had I printed it out it would have covered about three A4 pages.

His explanation of the issue at the group meeting went on and on in much the same vein until I had to call a halt to suggest that he reassess the definition to say that he has a member of staff who was a good performer but for no apparent reason had deteriorated over the past couple of months.

He agreed that this was a fair description of the issue although "somewhat simplistic" which was of course true.

When we consider any issue that needs to lead to a decision a simplistic description of the problem really does help to shed light on what needs to be done.

If the issue is reduced to the absolute basics then we can start to look at the relevant evidence.   It seems to me that this evidence can be analysed into tiers, the most significant being the first tier that says "This is the issue and it has occurred because......"

Sometimes this analysis is sufficient to permit discussion leading to a decision although more often than not it will need some supporting evidence.

The Vistage technique in the group discussion is to state the issue supported by how significant it is, what has been done so far, and what help is needed to come to a conclusion.

The key to success in these instances is the ability of the leader to explain the issue in as short a sentence as possible and with maximum clarity so that the participants can then drill down to bring out further evidence, second or even third tier as necessary.

In summary therefore there are two types of "stuff" that can benight a leader's working day; that which must be delegated to others who are far more competent to handle it and those that are a distraction and "stuff" that needs leadership to impact on an issue.

In the first type I don't need to go on about the time wasted wading through emails, text messages and voice mails and it is a good idea to establish a rule that says .cc or .bcc should be used only when the recipient must be told what is going on.

That should eliminate a good batch for starters followed by a discipline that permits looking at these digital slave masters at set times only each day.

Even better if you can delegate the task so that something of importance isn't missed.

A good business maxim is "don't sweat the small stuff".  Even better advice is "don't sweat any stuff at all; just delegate it and get on with what is important".

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