Monday, September 30, 2013


As a coach I have a lot of dialogue with clients who are struggling to fit in all the things they “have to do”. Usually the subject of delegation comes up. When I ask “what’s stopping you delegating?” a fairly predictable batch of reasons to not delegate comes up:
  • “It’s quicker to do it myself“
  • “I can trust myself to do it properly”
  • “It’s important I stay on top of this”
  • “I don’t have anyone with the right skills to delegate to”
  • “Everyone else is too busy – I can’t ask them to do any more”
Some of these may be familiar to you – I know I count some of them as old friends myself.
Each of the reasons may be true at one level. We understand the perceived short-term cost in energy and time to hire someone or teach someone else to do the task, or to manage them until they can do it to the standards we want.
Typically we do not consider costs of not delegating. What could you do, achieve or enjoy with the time if you did delegate some tasks:
  • Things that are more important or productive in your life?
  • Things you like doing better?
  • Time with people you love?
  • Time to focus on things where you have special talents?
  • Time to think how to grow your business or career?
  • Time to expand your focus and not simply tick boxes?
Our time is a finite resource. As we choose how to spend it we are, in practice, voting for certain things to be in our lives. Each vote can only be made once.
If we continue to do what we have always done and not delegate things over time, we are voting to hold ourselves, and possibly others, in a relatively static place. Ultimately we are voting for “less” in our lives.  If we do decide to start delegating more, despite the initial costs, we are voting for growth and development of ourselves and others. In other words we are voting for “more” in life. 
How to start
I’d like to invite you to think how you could delegate just one thing in the next week or month. Pick something that is relatively boring and un-demanding of your talents and ask yourself why you continue to do this and not find an alternative solution? Is there someone else who is better placed to do this task – either because they have more talent at it or because they have more time than you or because it would help them grow and learn. Then get a clear picture of what you intend to do with the time that’s freed up? How much more could you have?  Persevere and you’ll find that over time your time is increasingly spent on more satisfying things – and things still get done.

It's all in the mind

The degree of enjoyment you draw from your work has a direct bearing on your perception of whether you have a satisfactory work-life balance or not. The less you enjoy your work, the more likely you are to consider it an interruption to your life and its priorities. Of course a degree of flexibility and sense of control of your time is important for work-life balance, but beyond these, basics enjoyment and fulfilment counts for far more.

For those whose work is their passion, some artists and athletes for example, the issues of work-life balance rarely arise - it’s just something that has to be managed. But most people aren’t fortunate enough to be in that position, and being passionate about their work, although it’s a fashionable idea in modern management parlance, may be a false ideal to strive for. Nonetheless we can all benefit from working to increase our level of enjoyment and satisfaction in what we do.

There are three primary sources of enjoyment – self, others and purpose.

In the first case there’s the enjoyment you can derive from the work itself. Rather than just doing your job, why not set goals for yourself above and beyond those expected by the organisation? And then take satisfaction in achieving them or at least getting close.

Sources of enjoyment involving others are plentiful. Enjoy having a laugh and a joke with your colleagues, take an interest in their hobbies, their family and their personal life and make it a priority to get to know them better. Beyond that there’s the fulfilment that can come from actively helping others, in a coaching or mentoring role, or simply in being supportive.

Contributing to a purpose is the third source. By this I mean the contribution your job makes to making the world a better place to live in. It doesn’t matter what you do, someone somewhere will inevitably benefit from your endeavours. Consider the famous story of the cleaner interviewed at NASA in the sixties. When asked what they were doing they replied “Helping to put a man on the moon!”  

You need to take ownership of the emotional engagement you have with your work – whether you are satisfied and fulfilled, or whether you are bored and dissatisfied, it’s down to you  and it all starts in the mind.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Generation F

The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of “Generation F” - the Facebook Generation. At a minimum, they’ll expect work to reflect the social context of the Web - open, collaborative and informal.

Although it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now it won’t always be the case - and in the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud. If we hope  to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, we will need to understand these Web-derived expectations, and then reinvent our management practices accordingly.

With that in mind, I came across a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life generated by management thinker, Gary Hamel. In his words, these are the yardsticks tomorrow’s employees will use to determine whether your company is “with it” or “past it.”
  1. All ideas compete on an equal footing. On the Web, every idea can gain a following - or not, and no one has the power to stop a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.
  2. Contribution counts far more than credentials. When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your CV, but what you can contribute.
  3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed. In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others - and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.
  4. Leaders serve rather than preside. On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behaviour are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.
  5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned. The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.
  6. Groups are self-defining and self-organising. On the Web, you get to choose your colleagues. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. Just as no one can assign you a boring task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.
  7. Resources get attracted, not allocated. In large organisations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized budget wrangle. On the Web, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun), and away from those that aren’t. In this sense, the Web is a market economy where millions of individuals get to decide, moment by moment, how to allocate their precious currency of time and attention.
  8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it. The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch - and garner the credit that might have been yours. Online, there are a lot of incentives to share, and few incentives to hoard.
  9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed. On the Internet, truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. The Web is a near-perfect medium for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd - whether in formally organized opinion markets or in casual discussion groups. And once aggregated, the voice of the masses can be used as a battering ram to challenge the entrenched interests of institutions in the offline world.
  10. Users can veto most policy decisions. As many Internet moguls have learned to their sorrow, online users are opinionated and vociferous - and will quickly challenge any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the community’s interests. The only way to keep users loyal is to give them a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the community, but the users really own it.
  11. Intrinsic rewards matter most. The web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles contributed to Wikipedia, all the open source software created, all the advice freely given - add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Money’s great, but so is recognition and the satisfaction of accomplishment.
  12. Hackers are heroes. Large organisations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers - however constructive they may be. In contrast, online communities frequently embrace those with strong anti-authoritarian views. On the Web, muckraking malcontents are frequently celebrated as champions of the Internet’s democratic values - particularly if they’ve managed to hack a piece of code that has been interfering with what others regard as their inalienable digital rights.
These features of Web-based life are written into the DNA of Generation F - and mostly missing from the managerial DNA of the average FTSE company. There are a lot of kids looking for jobs right now, but given the expansive freedom of their online lives, few of them will ever feel at home in cubicleland.  If your company wants to engage the best talent in the future, it needs to start thinking about how it will engage the Facebook Generation.