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Living in a fishbowl, or what is it like to be a manager – a few lessons on effective leadership and management #lesson2

About the author

Agnieszka Jarecka | HR Operations Director
What changed when you became a manager? – this question was raised by new managers during the Empower Managers Program graduation ceremony in Aon last year and inspired me to write a series of 4 short articles on leadership and management based on my personal experience. They will be published here week by week.

Lesson 2 – Trust or control? – or how to make things happen and keep your team’s engagement high

At the beginning of my managerial journey, I naively assumed that when you delegate, things magically happen, and everything you ask for is going to be delivered, as agreed. Unfortunately, it would be just too easy…  I learnt it quite quickly when I started asking my team members about the status of the assigned tasks during our one-on-one meetings and half of the answers was “not yet started” or “to be discussed next week”.

My observation is that people tend to do things they enjoy, things they consider important or things that are expected to be checked. So, trust or control? I would say trust AND light control.

First, get to know your team, understand their skills and desires and try to match them with the tasks to be completed. Try to find individual intrinsic motivators for your team members so they can drive themselves and deliver without an unnecessary push. Show your trust in their potential and offer help if needed. I believe that influencing skills are probably the most important element of an effective managerial toolkit, irrespective of whether you are a people or project manager. Your communication while delegating can make a true difference. And believe me – things that make you tick will not necessarily work for your team, so try to put yourself in their shoes. One more remark – there is no job where 100% of tasks are fulfilling and interesting. However, if you can find a few such tasks or activities within a delegated assignment, they can truly make your or your team members’ day and drive their engagement high.

Second, be clear about your expectations, including deadlines and deliverables. You do not need to control when you set clear and measurable milestones and checkpoints on the way to verify the status and modify the action plan if needed. One of the most effective ways to get things done I have found is setting a recurring meeting every week or two with a list of action items and their owners assigned reviewed jointly… as simple as that. It is a very effective and subtle way of making things happen not only for your team members, but also for all stakeholders involved in any project.  Believe me, there is rarely a third time when someone forgets to deliver.

Third, make sure your team understands the background of your request and help them understand the impact of not delivering it on time and at the expected level of quality. It will help them realise the importance of the assignments and help prioritise their work if needed. On the other hand, if you are not interested in the status updates, in fact, you show they are not important – neither to you nor to the company… so why bother? I do keep a separate list of delegated tasks with clear deadlines and owners not to forget about things that are off my to-do list and discuss them during my one-on-one meetings. Everyone has got a lot on their plates – let’s help each other deliver what we promise.


Go to:
Lesson 1 – Head, hands and the power of leverage
Lesson 3 – Living in a fishbowl and the power of check-in
Lesson 4 – The feedback loop or how to survive in a hall of mirrors

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