R A M it home!

Have you ever asked someone to do something for you, like adopt a new procedure or take on different job duties, and it wasn’t done as you’d hoped or expected? Or wasn’t even done at all?

Survey after survey tells us that up to three quarters of change efforts fail. Old habits are hard to break; those strong, old neural pathways just keep resurfacing and smothering the new ones we’re trying to build.

That’s why asking people to change the way they do something, or just to do something, is often not as simple as it seems. Here’s a little memory jogger – RAM – to remind you how to RAM what you want home without ramming it down people’s throats.

R – Realistic: Make sure what you ask is sensible and practical. Is the person interested in doing it? What’s in it for them? (Ye olde WIFM)

A – Achievable: Does the person have the time and resources (tools, equipment, information, your shared vision) to do it? Do they know how to do it?

M – Measurable: This makes what you’re asking clear, so people know precisely what you’re looking for from them. When they don’t know precisely what you want, the chances you get it are slim. Explain what you want, why you want it and why you’re aksking that person to do it (and not someone else), when you want it and how or how well you want it done (when that isn’t immediately obvious).

The next time you ask someone to do something for you or to do something differently, RAM it home so you get what you expect.

The seven biggest delegation traps and how to avoid them

Summer holidays are looming and many managers’ minds are turning to delegation as a way to ensure that the most important work continues to be carried out. Of course, delegation is, or should be, a year-round activity but it often spikes over the silly season. Although there is a lot of information about what and how to delegate in the text, I thought it might be timely to look at the seven biggest delegation traps and how to avoid them.

  1. Failure to explain the ‘big picture’. Too many managers merely pass on a task and a few success measures, and that’s fine as far as it goes. Put the icing on the cake and the motivation into the delegate by explaining how the task you’re delegating fits in with team purpose and the organisation’s vision. Understanding the strategic perspective lends gravitas to the task and encourages peak performance. (Of course, it goes without saying that you need to explain the task fully and ensure delegates understand precisely what’s required.)
  2. Failure to give delegates a WIFM. How does the delegate benefit by taking on this task? Additional job interest? A chance to extend or expand skills and knowledge? A chance to liaise with others they wouldn’t normally have access to? A chance to test out a task to see if they enjoy it and want to do more similar work? With no quid pro quo, there’s no ‘get up and go’.
  3. Failure to let go. You’ve probably heard of helicopter parents — always fussing and hovering over their kids to make sure they’re ok. You may even know some lawnmower parents; they’re the parents who clear a path for their kids that is so smooth, they’ll never have to deal with the little bumps and ditches people in the real world have to learn to manage. These parents think, no doubt, they’re really helping their kids and while the impulse to do that is understandable, this kind of parenting is hard work.Many managers have a tendency to be helicopter and lawnmower delegators, too. There’s no need. Provided you know the delegate can do the work (even though perhaps not as proficiently as yourself!) or provided you have provided sufficient explanation and training and a dress rehearsal, you can stop hovering. Allow delegates the opportunity to test out their skills, build experience and learn from a few mistakes.Provide support by all means — you would never just cut a delegate loose and hope for the best. Just don’t interfere.
  4. Failure to delegate interesting work, aka ‘dumping’. This one is simple: Don’t offload work that you don’t like and delegates don’t like either. And the other side of that coin: Don’t hang onto work you do like that you could and should delegate.
  5.  Failure to delegate a whole task. Akin to ‘dumping’ and ‘go-fer’ delegation, this is delegating just bits of a task rather than an entire piece of work. It offers no satisfaction in the execution, successful or otherwise (and likely to be unsuccessful, since delegates generally view this bitsy delegation as sheer laziness on your part.
  6. Failure to say thank you for a job well done and, to make matters worse, to take credit for the delegate’s work. (The buck stops with you, though, should the work be done poorly, so make sure to keep gentle tabs on the delegate’s progress as described in the text, and monitor results not method.)
  7. Failure to let those the delegate needs to liaise with know they’ll be dealing with your delegate. That’s just slack and bad for your personal brand.

So there you go. As your thoughts turn to the holidays and how to make sure work continues without you, as you work out the best person to do each task (refer to Number 2 above) and how best to explain the task and monitor each delegate’s success, you can avoid these damaging pitfalls.

Seven ways to make your messages memorable

Whether you need to make a point about health and safety, establish a standard operating procedure, train a team member or introduce change, here’s how to make sure your messages hit home:

  1. Use positive language by stressing what you do want, not what you don’t want. For example, don’t say or write ‘Don’t go up an unsecured ladder on your own’, say or write ‘Always have someone hold the bottom of an unsecured ladder while climbing it’.
  2. Use a photograph or illustration when you can, because, as they say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. For example, when your safety instructions or standard operating procedures say ‘Always have someone hold the bottom of an unsecured ladder while climbing it’, insert a photograph of two popular team members doing exactly that. (Because images stick in our minds, make sure the photo or diagram shows the right way, not the wrong way.)
  3. Write actively, not passively to keep the word count down and make your points more ‘alive’ and memorable. For example, ‘Always have someone hold the bottom of an unsecured ladder before climbing it’ is active and more interesting than ‘Unsecured ladders should always be held by another person while being climbed’. (You’d never say it like that, so why write it like that?)
  4. Keep your messages short and simple, and in the (polite) language of the workplace so they’re easily and quickly read and understood.
  5. Use the ‘you’ word: writing personally makes it clear your message is for the reader or listener. For example, you could write ‘You should always have someone hold the bottom of an unsecured ladder when you climb it’.
  6. Remember the WIFM—What’s In It for Me? Give people a reason to listen or read. For example, ‘For your own safety, always have someone hold the bottom of an unsecured ladder before climbing it’.
  7. Repeat your most important messages often, using different words, different examples and different mediums (e.g. computer screen savers, emails, face-to-face meetings, posters and Twitter).