5 Levels of Effective Delegation

Delegation is one of the most important skills for managers to learn and apply. When you delegate tasks to employees, you greatly increase your ability to deliver the results your business depends on to grow and thrive.

Delegation is a skill that is needed no matter what size your business is, as if you are able to delegate effectively it gives you the time to focus on the business strategies.

As Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer put it, “Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.” And who doesn’t want to take off a day or two every once in a while?

Here are the five levels of delegation–master them, and you (and your people) will be far more effective.

Level 1 Delegation: Assess and Report

For most new or inexperienced employees, the place to begin delegation is at Level 1. If the employee excels and is ready to jump to a higher level right away–great. But if not, then the employee will be in the right place to learn new skills and steadily gain confidence. The heart of Level 1 delegation is the collection of information and assessment of an opportunity, issue, or problem. For example, you could ask employees to assess a looming business issue, culminating in the preparation of a report. It’s up to you to decide if reports should be verbal or in writing. When delegating a task at Level 1:

  • Set expectations with your employee.
  • Clearly define the task.
  • Explain your employee’s role as well as your own, and
  • Discuss deadlines and check-in points

Once reports have been submitted, review them and then decide on any additional actions. Explain your thought process to employees–this will be an investment towards moving them to the decision-making levels.

Level 2 Delegation: Recommend

Once employees successfully demonstrate their skill at Level 1 delegation tasks, move them up to the next level–making recommendations. While employees are still responsible for Level 1 work, they will be expected to also develop possible solutions and recommend–and justify–the best one. Review possible solutions, test the quality of the recommendation, and then make the decision on how to implement it. As with Level 1, you should let employees know what you have decided and how you came to those decisions.

Level 3 Delegation: Develop Action Plan

Remember–the levels of delegation are progressive. By the time employees reach Level 3, they should have successfully mastered the skills required in Levels 1 & 2. Level 3 delegation includes the general recommendations made in Level 2, while adding the development of a specific action plan to implement the recommended solution. When delegating at this level:

  • Clearly define the task
  • Explain their expected role as well as your own, and
  • Discuss deadlines and check-in points.

It’s up to you to define your expectations for the form and substance of the report. Once the plan has been submitted, review it, approve it, and oversee the implementation of the plan. As with the other levels, you should let employees know what you have decided and how you came to that decision. Since the plan will likely involve them in executing the plan, you might consider also delegating some of the implementation tasks–at the appropriate level, of course.

Level 4 Delegation: Make the Decision

At Level 4, you hand over responsibility for decision making to your employee. Before moving employees up to Level 4, you need to be completely satisfied with their results at Level 3. If employees progress to this level too quickly or are not fully up to speed, you may find yourself micromanaging their work, which undermines your good work in delegation. When delegating at this level:

  • Make sure employees understand that they are still responsible for Level 3 work, but that you trust them to make the decision.
  • Make sure they know that they know you are available to coach and support them, but you expect them to act independently.
  • Monitor progress regularly by asking for regular check-ins, reviewing the status of the projects, and warning employees when you sense problems, and
  • Be ready to reward great results.

You should also start thinking about how to use the time you have freed up by successfully delegating a task!

Level 5 Delegation: Full Delegation

Full delegation means just that: It’s time to turn the task over to your employees completely. Before you delegate at Level 5, however, employee decision-making must be consistently sound. When you are ready to completely delegate at this level:

  • Make sure employees understand that you trust them to decide, act and follow-through.
  • Tell them to report back to you with exceptions and unique problems, but otherwise, it’s their task and they are fully accountable for its successful completion, and
  • Be ready to reward great results, including a promotion to employees who reach Level 5 with multiple tasks.

Employees will sometimes make mistakes, and that’s okay, but help your employees learn from them. For those individuals who just don’t cut it, decide if they can make contributions at lower levels, or what other actions you can take.

How can Leaders help Employees find Meaning at Work

Organizations spend considerable resources on corporate values and mission statements, but even the most inspiring of these — from Volvo’s commitment to safety to Facebook’s desire to connect people — tend to fade into the background during the daily bustle of the work day.
What workers really need, to feel engaged in and satisfied by their jobs, is an inner sense of purpose. As Deloitte found in a 2016 study, people feel loyal to companies that support their own career and life ambitions — in other words, what’s meaningful to them. And, although that research focused on millennials, in the decade I’ve spent coaching seasoned executives, I’ve found that it’s a common attitude across generations. No matter one’s level, industry or career, we all need to find a personal sense of meaning in what we do.

Leaders and Managers can foster this inner sense of purpose — what matters right now, in each individual’s life and career — with simple conversation. One technique is action identification theory, which states that there are many levels of description for any action. For example, right now I’m writing this article. At a low level, I’m typing words into a keyboard. At a high level, I’m creating better leaders. When leaders walk employees up this ladder, they can help them find meaning in even the most mundane tasks.
Regular check-ins that use five areas of inquiry are another way to help employees explore and call out their inner purpose.

Ask your employees: 

What are you good at doing?

Which work activities require less effort? What do you take on because you believe you’re the best person to do it? What have you gotten noticed for throughout your career? The idea here is to help people identify their strengths and open possibilities from there.

What do you enjoy?

In a typical workweek, what do you look forward to doing? What do you see on your calendar that energizes you? If you could design your job with no restrictions, how would you spend your time? These questions help people find or rediscover what they love about work.

What feels most useful?

Which work outcomes make you most proud? Which of your tasks are most critical to the team or organization? What are the highest priorities for your life and how does your work fit in? This line of inquiry highlights the inherent value of certain work.

What creates a sense of forward momentum?

What are you learning that you’ll use in the future? What do you envision for yourself next? How’s your work today getting you closer to what you want for yourself? The goal here is to show how today’s work helps them advance toward future goals.

How do you relate to others?

Which working partnerships are best for you? What would an office of your favourite people look like? How does your work enhance your family and social connections? These questions encourage people to think about and foster relationships that make work more meaningful.
It’s not easy to guide others toward purpose, but these strategies can help.

Article from Harvard Business Review

Tips on Email Etiquette Rules Every Professional Should Know

email etiquette

Include a clear, direct subject line.

Examples of a good subject line include “Meeting date changed,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.”

“People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line,” Pachter says. “Choose one that lets readers know you are addressing their concerns or business issues.”

Use a professional email address.

If you work for a company, you should use your company email address. But if you use a personal email account — whether you are self-employed or just like using it occasionally for work-related correspondences — you should be careful when choosing that address, Pachter says.

You should always have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who is sending the email. Never use email addresses (perhaps remnants of your grade-school days) that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as “babygirl@…” or “beerlover@…” — no matter how much you love a cold brew.

Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’

No one wants to read emails from 20 people that have nothing to do with them. Ignoring the emails can be difficult, with many people getting notifications of new messages on their smartphones or distracting pop-up messages on their computer screens. Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you really think everyone on the list needs to receive the email, Pachter says.

Use professional salutations.

Don’t use laid-back, colloquial expressions like, “Hey you guys,” “Yo,” or “Hi folks.”

“The relaxed nature of our writings should not affect the salutation in an email,” she says. “Hey is a very informal salutation and generally it should not be used in the workplace. And Yo is not okay either. Use Hi or Hello instead.”

Be cautious with humour.

Humour can easily get lost in translation without the right tone or facial expressions. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave humor out of emails unless you know the recipient well. Also, something that you think is funny might not be funny to someone else.

Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently.

Miscommunication can easily occur because of cultural diferences, especially in the writing form when we can’t see one another’s body language. Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.

A good rule to keep in mind, is that high-context cultures (Japanese, Arab, or Chinese) want to get to know you before doing business with you. Therefore, it may be common for business associates from these countries to be more personal in their writings. On the other hand, people from low-context cultures (German, American, or Scandinavian) prefer to get to the point very quickly.

Proof read every message.

Your mistakes won’t go unnoticed by the recipients of your email. Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.

Add the email address last.

You don’t want to send an email accidentally before you have finished writing and proofing the message. Even when you are replying to a message, it’s a good precaution to delete the recipient’s address and insert it only when you are sure the message is ready to be sent.

Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.

Pay careful attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line. “It’s easy to select the wrong name, which can be embarrassing to you and to the person who receives the email by mistake.

Keep your fonts classic.

Purple Comic Sans has a time and a place (maybe?), but for business correspondence, keep your fonts, colors, and sizes classic. The cardinal rule: Your emails should be easy for other people to read.

Keep your tone neutral.

To avoid misunderstandings, Pachter recommends you read your message out loud before hitting send. “If it sounds harsh to you, it will sound harsh to the reader,” she says.

For best results, avoid using unequivocally negative words (“failure,” “wrong,” or “neglected”), and always say “please” and “thank you.

Nothing is confidential — so write accordingly.

Always remember –  Every electronic message leaves a trail.

“A basic guideline is to assume that others will see what you write,” she says, “so don’t write anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see.” A more liberal interpretation: Don’t write anything that would be ruinous to you or hurtful to others. After all, email is dangerously easy to forward, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Extract from “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette.” By career coach Barbara Pachter.

Performance Management – Tips to make these meetings beneficial


Do you carry out performance review? Are you prepared to have these very beneficial meeting?  Here are some tips on how to get started: 

First thing I would recommend is making sure all job descriptions are fit for purpose and relevant for the job. Depending on the size of your organisation, line or departmental managers will play a vital role in instilling a culture of high performance throughout your organisation. Here are a couple of steps that Right Hand HR  would recommend to get your company ready for performance reviews and goal setting for the rest of the year.

  1. Do you currently have a policy in place in relation to performance management? If not this is something we recommend you look at. The policy should demonstrate the company’s commitment to a high performance environment throughout.
  2. Set goals and targets for the company, then each department/team and then for individual staff members. By including each team member in the goal setting task this will get everyone thinking about what they want to achieve not only in terms of the company but also on a personal level. If people have a personal interest they are more likely to work harder to achieve the goals.
  3. Have continuous meetings. Organisations are moving away from, what some have referred to as the bureaucratic annual performance reviews and are having weekly or monthly catch ups to make sure everyone is still working towards the same goal. This seems like a tall order, however if review the goals regularly as part of your 121’s it will ensure everything is kept on track.
  4. Don’t just focus on under performers, your star players will need to be incentivised and motivated as much as an underperformer.
  5. If you have bonuses that are linked to targets, ensure that the bonus rating system clearly outlines the goals and targets that need to be achieved and also explains what proportion of the bonus will be paid depending on different levels of achievement.
  6. Lastly, having the performance meeting; be well prepared, give the individual ample opportunity to talk about how they feel they are getting on in their role, agree on action plans moving forward, agree on timelines and schedule a date for the next meeting there and then.

Having continuous and regular performance meetings with all employees is essential for the growth and sustainability of a company. By having clear targets and goals set in advance of the year ahead you will keep everyone working towards the same goals.

If you would like any support for further advice on managing performance Right Hand HR can provide a full suite of tools for you.  Many of our clients   have told us that they have been invaluable and as a result have found performance management easy to introduce to the workplace.

For more detail you can contact Mary on 086 822 5448.



Difficult Conversations: Some Guidelines/Tips

Difficult conversation

For many of us the prospect of having those ‘difficult conversations’ in the workplace can leave us wanting to run for the hills.  Avoid putting them off as things will not get better.

Line managers in particular will often report feeling less than confident about how best to tackle breaking some unpopular news or to how to deal with the ‘disruptive’ employee whilst securing a positive outcome.  It is, in fact, quite a skill to tackle difficult conversations, perhaps one of the most coveted of the critical skills in the management toolbox and one which is being introduced into more core management development.

It is true what they say- ‘if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.  Becoming confident involves developing hard skills associated with understanding legal implication and risk management, but perhaps the harder part is developing the ‘soft’ skills associated with the conversation itself. We share some of our top tips in handling difficult conversations with aplomb.  And it starts with great preparation.



Research the issue before the discussion and be able to provide evidence of the message that you will be imparting. For example, if the manager is giving feedback on poor performance, he or she should be ready to tell the employee about the effect that the performance has had.


Decide what the ideal outcome of the conversation would be, for example an improvement in performance, correction of misconduct or simply imparting news in a respectful and productive way. If you know the ideal outcome, you can make preparations to help achieve it.


Think carefully about the differences between your character and style and that of the other party to the discussion.  In order to achieve a better outcome, it is often useful to adapt your style of communication to assist with acceptance of the message.   Does this person prefer some encouragement, do they prefer straightforward facts, do you need to spend more time than you would normally do ensuring the message is fully understood?

Frame of mind

Think about your frame of mind before having a potentially difficult conversation. Always take a few moments to calm down if the conversation needs to be had after a frustrating incident. Never make a discussion personal. Concentrate on the issue, rather than the individual.  If you are not in the right frame of mind to have the meeting, wait until you are.


Prepare any materials that may be needed, including extra copies of documents for the employee.  If there is detailed information to review, ensure the other party to the discussion has had an opportunity to look at and consider the information.

Location and environment

A conflict resolution conversation should always be conducted in private so that neither party feels uncomfortable or outside of their comfort zone. Both parties should feel that they can speak freely. This will also help to ensure you protect organisation’s duty of trust and confidence towards the employee. Think about a room layout which is conducive to non-threatening and constructive talking.  Sitting behind a desk creates an immediate barrier and should be avoided but always take into account comfort zone and personal space requirements.


Set the right tone

Begin the conversation in a professional manner as this will encourage a professional attitude throughout the meeting and help to achieve a successful outcome. Beginning the conversation in a non-threatening manner will also encourage both parties to speak openly.

Set some ground rules. From the outset agree the parameters. Confidentiality, Respect for each other, allowing each other time to speak.


State the issues clearly and put into context.

To avoid misunderstanding, state clearly what the issue is and check understanding.

Demonstrate why the issue is important. For example, if the issue is redundancy, explain the business context, or, if the issue is the employee’s misconduct, give examples of the impact that the employee’s behaviour has had.

Give very specific examples and evidence:

This can be done by referring to dates, situations and documentary evidence. If the issue is the employee’s conduct, managers should avoid referring to general ‘complaints’ but instead give specifics.

Avoid an attitude of blame:

The issue needs to be addressed in a collaborative way try not to approach a conversation with an attitude of “line manager versus the employee”, but with an attitude of “both versus the problem”.

Avoid belittling the issue:

The line manager’s own fear of a difficult conversation could lead him or her to belittle the issue. The line manager should avoid phrases such as “it’s really not a big deal”.

Body language:

Be aware of your own body language so that it does not alienate. Adopt neutral body language by unfolding arms, speaking in a calm tone of voice at a moderate volume. Body language will often be mirrored by the other party.


Being listened to is empowering…

Taking the time to listen will help you gather useful information about the issue. The line manager should prepare questions but must let the employee explain or react in his or her own time.

  • Do ask for the individual’s view (in turn if two individuals).
  • Do use open questions such as “what is your view on that?”
  • Do listen to and acknowledge the employee’s point of view.
  • Do appreciate the value of silence. This allows the individual time to gather his or her thoughts.
  • Do ask if you have not understood what has been said, by saying, for example, “OK, I need to be clear about that, so can we go over it again”.
  • Do summarise the main points of what the employee has said. This is useful as it shows that you have listened, helps to consolidate your thoughts and helps you to decide where the conversation should go next.
  • Do check that the employee has understood what you have said. For example, say “we need to finish up, it might be useful to go over what we’ve discussed…if you want to summarise first”

Having ascertained the ideal outcome of the conversation, an important step in securing a positive outcome is to agree how it can be achieved

  • Agree the way forward together. This encourages joint ownership of the issue, which helps the employee to treat it seriously and take responsibility for resolving it.
  • Brainstorming will help the employee feel involved and is an easy way of comparing the positives and negatives of different solutions.
  • It is preferable to start with small steps. For example, if the employee is having difficulties getting along with a colleague, agreeing a small action first, such as an informal social event, should encourage further positive action.
  • If the issue requires action, the manager and employee should agree a deadline. Scheduling a date by which the action must be completed helps to focus minds. This could be coupled with the date for the next meeting to review the situation.
  • If the employee needs to improve, the employee and manager should agree how development or progress will be measured.
  • The employee may need support from the manager to resolve the issue and the manager needs to take this into account.
  • Once it has been agreed what the employee is going to do, the line manager should ask the employee to summarise this, which ensures that he or she has fully understood what is required and by when.
  • The manager should end the meeting by explaining that he or she wants the individual to succeed.

After the conversation, keep the momentum going. Achieving a successful outcome is an ongoing, building process. Failing to keep on top of the issue may undo all the good work and may leave you having to deal with the issue from the beginning. Monitor how the agreed actions are being implemented by the employee.

Check your own actions and ensure you have complied with your agreement, for example by providing support.

Listening is more Difficult than you Imagine

Are you listening

Listening is far more difficult, more fatiguing and often more frustrating than talking. But no, you can’t become a better listener by listening harder. And furthermore, even the best listeners have to bite their tongues to stop from reacting, interrupting or verbally identifying with the person talking. But there are a few simple ways to make certain your listening is truly effective.

Effective listeners listen for different levels of meaning.  Organizational listening, even within the interpersonal, is often loaded with potential problems or misunderstanding. Add different levels of hierarchy, work teams with several members, cultural and value differences, struggles for power, competition for scarce resources and the increased use of impersonal communication media to the soup and the possibilities are multiplied. Like musical chairs, it’s a near-perfect set up for misunderstanding. So here are four keys to more effective listening: 

 1.  Avoid and ignore distractions. This doesn’t just mean shutting down your smartphone or closing your web browser. It’s especially important to stop the business of formulating your response to what the other person is saying. Simply focus on what’s being said at the differing levels. Focus, focus, focus.

  1. Parrot and paraphrase.Because most don’t do this, it can make you feel silly. But parroting or paraphrasing not only shows the other person that you’re listening, it encourages them to keep talking by showing that you’re actually listening.
  1. Ask thoughtful questions. Open-ended and implication questions help you see the issues more clearly. It also enables the talker to go deeper into what he or she sees as significant.
  1. Explore other’s listening mistakes.It’s a lot more difficult to learn from our own mistakes than from others. Whenever I’m around a “he said, she said” conversation, I pay close attention to how a person draws conclusions from that experience. I stay curious about their interpretations, sometimes even asking about how they drew their conclusion from what they heard. If you’ve sat through a team meeting, for example, and afterword someone tells you what they heard and the meaning they made from it, you begin to see how that person created meaning and how it (sometimes) differs from you. So I don’t just walk away wondering what planet they’re on or why I missed that. Instead, I pay close attention to their inference creating, learning about my own skills and even my mistakes, from them. Statisticians will tell you that our inference creations are far, far more wrong than correct. Most of us rather automatically think that mistakes were made, but not by us. That dog won’t hunt.

You may think this all sounds somewhat obvious, but watch and see how few use these strategies. Most can’t help thinking that they know why people do (say) what they do (say) or what they’re going to do. But whatever hypothesis or intuition you have, however self-evident it may seem, when you test it against the data, it’s wrong—not every time, but very often.

Originally Posted on http://danerwin.typepad.com/my_weblog/.

Performance Management – Skill vs Will



Ideally, performance management should be about driving for best results while engagement strives to cultivate that and keep employees intrinsically motivated.

Even though managers are busy, time needs to be spent to addressing performance issues to facilitate staff in fulfilling their potential. Suggestions to help include:

  • Establish why under performance is happening. Finding the reason allows the manager to tackle the problem (not the symptom)
  • Set clear objectives and give unambiguous feedback regularly on staff performance
  • Give behavioural feedback on what has been observed and how it doesn’t match up to the standard required. Stressing the effect of the behaviour can also be influential
  • Encourage and motivate the individual. Perhaps a change of managerial style might produce better results
  • Listen to the under-performer’s issues and unblock things that prevent them working well. Look for signs indicating bullying or harassment, or perhaps problems at home. Unless the manager really listens, solutions may never be found
  • Offer extra coaching if required. It could be that they need a confidence boost or perhaps have difficulty with stress and cannot multi-task well
  • Adjust workloads/add variety/delegate extra duties to build self esteem. Beware that it’s not seen as a reward for under-performance
  • Adjust the way in which the work is done to improve systems/processes
  • Transfer staff member to another department/job. Again a risk of the action being seen as a reward for under-performance
  • Where the performance gap is large, performance counseling may help

Of course, if you have tried to improve performance and you are not getting the results, you may need to go down the  disciplinary route; however this action should be seen as a last resort.


Recovering from an Emotional Outburst at Work

It happens — we all get emotional at work. You might scream, or cry, or pound the table and stamp your feet. This is not ideal office behaviour, of course, and there are ramifications to these outbursts, but they don’t have to be career-killers either. If you take a close look at what happened, why you acted the way you did, and take steps to remedy the situation, you can turn an outburst into an opportunity.

Some people are more prone to tantrums at work, especially those who lack the emotional skills to process feelings as they’re occurring. These people tend to fall into two categories: those who suppress their emotions and those who ruminate on them.

If you suppress emotions, you “sit on them” and try to pretend they just don’t exist. You might feel frustrated, undermined, or put out by a colleague, and instead of addressing it or even recognizing that’s what you’re feeling, you ignore it. These people often think, “Sure, I’m upset but I’m just going to get on with the project.” And then they plow forward.

This might be your emotional orientation because you’re task-focused, or you don’t believe emotions belong at work. But research shows that the effort of constantly pushing emotions aside or ignoring them, takes up cognitive resources. And in experiments people who suppress emotion are worse at problem solving skills, task completion, and interpersonal relationships. In the long run this style also predicts lower well-being. The irony is that often people put aside emotions because they think it will help them get on with their work when in fact, it hinders their ability to be effective.

The second group of people who are prone to emotional outburst are those who ruminate, or do what I call, “sit in emotions.” If this is you, you are more likely to go over and over a situation in your mind, thinking, “I was undermined, I’ve been wronged, I’ve been mistreated.” You become so consumed with what you’re feeling that you can’t move on to solving the problem. Dwelling on your emotions this way makes it difficult for you to take others’ perspectives and increases the chances you’ll lash out if someone challenges you.

While these two emotional styles — suppressing and ruminating — look completely different, they both deplete cognitive and emotional resources and result in the same poor outcomes in terms of problem solving, interpersonal relationships and wellbeing.

Once you’ve recognized that one of these styles is at the root of your behavior, the trick is to not fall prey to it again. If it’s your tendency to suppress, you’re going to want to ignore your tantrum and move on. If you are prone to ruminating, you’re going to want to overthink your outburst and beat yourself up about it.

Instead, treat your outburst for what it is: data. A key emotional intelligence skill is being able to manage your emotion, but you can’t manage what you can’t recognize and understand. So first, be open to emotions. What was I feeling here? Emotions are signals, beacons that show you that you care about something.

To recognize your emotions, you have to be able to differentiate between feelings — sadness, anger, frustration. In many work environments, people suffer from what psychologists call alexithymia — a dispositional difficulty in accurately labelling and expressing what they’re feeling. These people tend to be vague about their emotions. So a manager will say to herself, for example, “Gee, I yelled because I was really stressed out.” But that gives her no information about what was really going on. After all, there’s a world of difference between being “stressed out” and being disappointed or put upon or feeling betrayed. There’s a strong body of research that shows the ability to be differentiated in labelling feelings will protect you from having outbursts in the future and will improve your relationships.

Once you’ve recognized the emotion — fear, disappointment, anger —your next step is to understand what exactly caused it. Why is it that I reacted in this particular way? What was happening in this situation that I found upsetting? What values of mine may have been transgressed or challenged? For example, maybe you lost it and screamed at a colleague when you found out that your project was cut. If you dig deeper you may find that it wasn’t exactly about the project but rather how the decision was made; that you didn’t feel it was made fairly.

The research on emotions shows that there are general triggers that you should be aware of. When your outburst is anger — yelling, stomping feet — it’s typically because you’re frustrated or feel thwarted. You’ve been stopped from doing something that’s important to you. When you feel sadness or cry, it’s usually because of a loss. Acting out on anxiety is prompted by a sense of threat. It’s helpful to think about these universal triggers, and then ask, what is it specifically that was important to me in this situation?

Once you’ve recognized how you feel, and why you feel it, you can focus on what to do to make things better — to manage the situation. It goes without saying that you should apologize if you yelled or lost your cool, but that’s not enough. Your goal isn’t just to repair the relationship, but to strengthen it.

After you’ve calmed down, and you return to your team the following day or week, instead of saying, “Gee, I’m so sorry about what I did; now let’s move on,” address what really happened for you. You might say something like, “I got really mad and I’m not proud of my behavior. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what it was that I found so upsetting and I’ve realized that my sense of fairness was challenged because of how the defunding decisions were made.”

There’s research that shows that when you appropriately disclose your emotions in this way, people are more likely to treat you with compassion and forgiveness than if you had just offered an apology. From there you start a shared conversation about what’s important to each of you and how you can work better together.

No one wants to earn a reputation as a crier or a screamer at work. Instead of running and hiding or wallowing in self-pity when you’ve lost it, bring a good dose of compassion and curiosity to the situation. To be kind and compassionate towards yourself –- especially in the moments you are least proud of –is not the same as letting yourself off the hook. In fact, studies show that people who are self-compassionate are much more likely to hold themselves to high standards and work to make things right. And treating yourself that way is more likely to inspire others to do the same.

Information provided by Susan David of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching. Connect with her on twitter @SusanDavid_PhD.


How can the use of Empathy Improve Your People Management Skills


While having lunch with my son recently, he said something that made me smile. In describing my frustrations with a situation I was encountering – he said that “a little empathy goes a long way.”  This made me think about how I had handled the situation and I realised that I could have been more empathetic.

In my work, I have come to realize how incredibly important empathy is to a person’s success…. Why did I not heed my own understanding of this!!  Studies show that having empathy leads to better results: people with greater empathy enjoy better relationships and greater wellbeing with others.  Empathy is also considered an important signifier of people with higher Emotional Intelligence (EQ), another well researched component of human performance.

Empathy Defined

One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is undervaluing the importance of empathy and its impact on bottom line results. In fact, a recent study showed that leaders ranked empathy as the least important attribute needed to be effective.

Since empathy is often confused with sympathy, let’s first get a clear definition of what empathy means. It’s commonly defined as a person’s ability to recognize, perceive and directly feel the emotion of another. Or as the adage goes, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” While sympathy entails feeling sorry for someone’s hardship, empathy centres on identifying and understanding not only a person’s struggles but their joys as well.

Why is the ability to empathize so critical? Next to food, water and shelter, being understood is the most important thing a human being needs. And this really boils down to the need to have someone understand our goals, our mind-set, our feelings, our predicaments and our challenges. The source of this type of understanding mainly comes from feelings of empathy.

Empathy Developed

To be more empathetic—which is a skill that can certainly be practiced and developed—we’re told to listen more and to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. But when business demands create high levels of pressure and when people’s different personalities come into play and create conflict, empathy can take a back seat to the here and now.

There are ways you can boost your empathy while still meeting work/life demands and driving toward your goals. You can:

  • Listen for meaning. When you are connecting with someone, stop multi-tasking and truly listen. Remember, the idea that’s on the tip of your tongue is most important to you, not to the person who is speaking. Let the other person talk while you listen for meaning with your eyes, ears and heart. You will come away with a deeper understanding and the person will feel heard.
  • Imagine. Don’t just sympathize — actually visualize what it would be like from the other person’s perspective. This will allow you to go beyond someone’s surface behavior and take an active interest in his/her concerns or excitement.
  • Stop judging. Everyone comes to problem solving with a different perspective and set of skills.  Some people are more emotional, some more logical.  Collective intelligence—which pulls all the differences together—produces better outcomes. If you are in a judging mode, your values and thoughts may crowd out important facts and ideas.
  • Cherish people’s strengths. We all have unique qualities we bring to the table. Be sure to understand people’s strengths so you can help leverage them.
  • Connect with people where they are not where you want them to be. Stop hoping for someone to be something they are not, or at least not today.  Recognize and honor people’s capabilities in the moment.  Change is possible and it can happen, but there needs to be empathy and trust in order to make a substantial shift. 

Benefits of using Empathy

Companies and researchers are increasingly realizing that empathy is a must-have virtue for leaders because it can inspire, motivate, envision, and lead others to greater effectiveness.  When a leader has empathy, it means ‘I understand why you think this way and why you struggle with this. We don’t have to agree, but I do understand.’

As a leader when you effectively practice empathy you can more easily:

  • Push people out of their comfort zones in order to propel growth. If you are a leader or manager, this is a key skill to have. For example, if you are working with someone who struggles to have difficult conversations (which is holding the individual and the business back), you’ll need empathy to spur change. You’ll need to understand where he/she is coming from and also have his/her trust while you work together to change his/her approach and mindset.
  • Help people take risk and feel safe in their mistakes. In organizations where leaders have empathy, employees feel safe in their failures because they do not think they will always be blamed for them. Mistakes are learning experiences and the critical building blocks to future successes.  People who are afraid to take risk don’t grow and blame others for their errors.
  • Make better informed decisions.  If we empathize with our employees, they are more willing to be open and share information that is sensitive and sometimes difficult to reveal.  The openness allows us to know what is really going on in our work environment and therefore help us make better decisions. In general, it creates better communication flow and more information sharing.
  • Improved problem solving skills. Our ability to empathize instead of judge gives us better problem solving skills and more calm as we navigate differences.  Teams that function best have different personalities that bring various perspectives to the table.  In problem solving, we want innovation, risk taking and different points of view to challenge the norms and achieve the best results.
  • Create a more rewarding working environment. It’s easy to understand that if people like where they work and the people they work with, they will put in more effort, which can lead to better results.

Empathy lays the foundation for optimism, motivation, commitment as well as organizational vision and growth.  As you commence 2015, try to practice more empathy and remove judgment.  Watch the results unfold in front of you as you see difficult relationships become easier to navigate.

HR Nugget – Effective Time Management

Time-is-so-costly       There is only 86400 precious seconds in our day and so to use this time effectively, it is important to be clear about what you are doing. In managing your time it is important to firstly identify key areas of your job that are priorities. Remember it is imperative to focus on the things that matter the most and are of most value. When planning tasks for the day and week remember to do so according to priority versus tasks that you enjoy doing. The next step is to break tasks into manageable smaller tasks. These tasks should be spread out over your daily and weekly plan. Ensure you set realistic time frames and review it throughout your working day.

A used and proven system for managing your time can prove vital to your business success and can help you achieve the right things at the right time allowing you to achieve your objectives. To manage your time well it is important to try to stick to your plan and never over plan as interruptions will inevitably change this. Be aware that the small things you do every day are all important tasks that work towards achieving your career and business goals.

Conducting a time audit can be useful in helping you become more efficient in the workplace. This can be done in conjunction with your work plan by calculating how much time you spend on a client or task each week. By doing this you will be able to assess if you are spending the most time on the most important clients, tasks or otherwise. This can be done by defining your tasks at the start of the week and establishing how much time you have spent on the client or task by the end of that week. Time Audit can be an effective tool in eliminating bad habits.

Eliminating bad habits and introducing good habits is crucial when making the decision to manage your time better. One of the biggest time wasters can be procrastination. We all know the feeling of putting things off until later but the fact remains that these jobs must get done sooner or later. People who procrastinate may tend to spend time on other tasks which are trivial or of no consequence to pass time. In doing this they have no time to do the more challenging and important tasks. In time, this becomes a bad habit that is difficult to get out of and will affect the person’s standard of work as well as his/her emotions.

To combat procrastination and make a start, do something you have been putting off for a while.  Visualise the pleasure you would get from completing the job. If it’s a big job/project break it into smaller parts, and try to do a little each day. It the job involves some form of creativity, do the job when you are at your most energetic. If the job is boring, do it when you are least energetic. When you have completed the job don’t forget to reward yourself.

For management successful delegation is another essential tool in managing your time better. When delegating, ensure all the information necessary to complete the task is passed over as competently as possible. It is important to pick the right person for the right job. Pick someone whose skills closest match the task or in some cases it is best to pass it to someone who has the most to learn from taking it on. When delegating ensure you define the employee’s responsibilities and ensure they understand how important the work is. Once delegated it is important to monitor progress and determine if assistance is needed to complete the job. Remember delegation enriches the jobs of employees and provides more challenges, authority and variety. It can also improve morale and employee motivation.

Time management is critical in your daily and weekly work life and once it is under control it can have a huge positive impact on your work life balance. Effective time management will in no doubt increase productivity and help you achieve your business goals sooner rather than later.  A central theory to keep in mind when establishing an effective time management system is the Pareto principle. This principle highlights that some jobs are more productive than others. The secret is to know which ones they are and focus on them. The Pareto system states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes i.e. 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers.