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Tag Archives: coaching employees

Overcoming reverse delegation

My latest contribution as a member of’s panel of business experts launched into cyberspace this morning. Frequent readers of the blog will recall that since May, I have been writing regular columns for the online version of Profit Magazine. And in case you didn’t know, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, so I’m pretty chuffed to be in such esteemed company. Today’s column is titled:

How to Stop Doing Your Employees’ Work For Them


It spells out how to avoid falling victim to the classic leadership trap known as “reverse delegation”, the natural tendency to offer assistance by taking back a task you’ve assigned to someone else.

Reverse delegation occurs far more often than leaders realize (or that they are willing to admit). But if you are committed to not allowing your personal workload to escalate AND to building skills and confidence in your people, then it is critical that you know how to respectfully and effectively push back when it occurs.

Take a read-through please (How to Stop Doing Your Employees’ Work For Them) and then come on back to the blog and share your thoughts. Have you fallen victim to this classic leadership trap? If not, what has been your approach to avoid reverse delegation? Please share so that we can all learn from one another.

If you are not a positive role model, you cannot be a leader

Today’s post is about an event that happened back in mid-April. I’ve waited this long to blog about it because I found this incident very disturbing, and it’s taken me a while to be able to write about it without feeling sick. Those of you who know me personally are aware that I love animals which is why this particular story is very distasteful. As repulsive as I find it though, my point in posting is not about the event itself, but rather about the leadership message that lies deep within. First though, let me tell you the story (which you may have already heard about through other sources).

Kristen Lindsey, a veterinarian in Austin County, Texas posted a photo of herself on Facebook proudly holding up a cat she had shot and killed with a bow and arrow along with the words,

My first bow kill lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s head. Vet of the year award…gladly accepted!

Not surprisingly, the photo went viral. A defiant Lindsey then posted on Facebook:

No I did not lose my job. Lol. Psshh. Like someone would get rid of me. I’m awesome!

Turns out she was wrong. Continue reading

“Learning by doing” outshines “teaching”

As a leader, you know that employee training is important. And for most people, training translates to “teaching” – a structured or unstructured process to convey information from an expert who knows to those who don’t. But as someone who has worked for years to help people develop and hone their leadership skills, I can tell you that the best training is not “teaching”, it’s “learning”; in fact, it’s “learning by watching” and “learning by doing”. I know this sounds like I’m splitting hairs, so let me explain. Actually, instead of trying to tell you, why don’t I show you? … Rather, why don’t I let this very illustrative video do it for me …

Watching, and learning by doing, means that people learn how to think. They understand the logic; they comprehend not only the how and the what of their actions, but also the why. And when employees grasp the why, they are better able to deal with things that are outside the norm; if you understand the reasoning, you then GET the implications of taking atypical actions. Continue reading

Insist that your employees be problem solvers, not problem identifiers

ProblemSolvingSome employees are serial “problem identifiers” – they’re very good at telling you what’s wrong. Whether they’re talking about a process, a person, another department, or even their own jobs, they’re adept at pinpointing and vocalizing what is amiss. But then the unspoken assumption is that it’s your job (because you’re the boss) to fix it. And unfortunately, many managers and supervisors blindly stumble into this trap (see Why do managers have a tendency to do rather than coach? and Do you tell or do you ask?). Don’t. Make it a point to insist that your employees bring you solutions, not problems.

Require that your people become “problem solvers” instead of “problem identifiers”. Continue reading

Why instant feedback is so useful

Recently, a family member suffered a partial lung collapse (it’s okay, she’s recovering 🙂 ) and part of her rehabilitation therapy is to practice breathing slowly and deeply through her nose. But old habits are hard to break, and she often forgets and reverts to rapid, shallow mouth breathing, which of course is not what anyone wants. So her medical support team implemented an instantaneous feedback system.

They hooked her up to a pulse oximeter and sat her in a chair so that she was facing the display screen. A pulse oximeter is a small non-invasive painless medical device, which when placed on a finger measures how well one’s blood is absorbing oxygen. Ideally, you want readings of 95 to 99 percent. When my family member does what she is supposed to do – breathe deeply and slowly through her nose – her pulse oximeter readings immediately climb to over 95 percent. But when she forgets (or dozes off) and reverts to shallow breathing, the readings drop and an audible beeping sound gives her an instant reminder to correct her breathing. Continue reading

Training employees – GPS or paper map?

GirlMapGPSDo you remember when Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were not as ubiquitous as they are today?  I do.  I remember having no choice but to use paper maps; studying one before I went somewhere important, turning it sideways and upside down while standing at a street corner in order to orient myself in the right direction, and looking for other landmarks around me to pinpoint my location (once I realized that I was hopelessly lost).

Yes, I admit it, I love GPS devices!  After all, what could be easier?  A pleasant voice telling me to turn left, drive for 6 miles, turn right, make a U-turn and then arrive at my destination.  And if I happen to miss a turn, the just-as-pleasant reprimand — “recalculating”.  Continue reading

Why (negative) feedback is so important (another leadership lesson from “Kitchen Nightmares”)

Last week I blogged about the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares in which host Chef Gordon Ramsay walked away from Samy and Amy Bouzaglo’s failing restaurant, ultimately unable to help them turn things around. Today, I want to reflect on that episode again, but this time with another lesson for leaders. First, watch these two clips from the show.

Continue reading

You are a role model!

Given that today is Valentine’s Day, I thought that this video titled “If you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own” is VERY appropriate.  Just to set expectations though, it has absolutely nothing to do with romance!  It’s less than five minutes long, so I hope you’ll take the time to watch it – it struck a chord with me for several reasons – one of them not so obvious.

This video has a lot of great messages in it, but I have one that most people don’t immediately see.  What this video really illustrated to me is the importance of role models.  I repeatedly tell leaders – “You are role models.  Whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not, your people are watching you, and your behaviour and actions will determine how they behave and act.”  And it really doesn’t matter if it’s at home or at work!

What else does this video say to you? Please share.

Do you tell or do you ask?

In my last blog post, I asked why so many of us have the tendency to “solve” our employees’ issues rather than coaching our employees to resolve the problems themselves. It prompted this related question: when your employee comes to you with a problem, do you tell or do you ask? Let me explain further.

Let’s say one of your employees is having trouble reconciling a client’s account. Do you tell him how to fix it, or do you ask him what he has already tried? Continue reading

Why do managers have a tendency to do rather than coach?

When an employee comes to you with a problem, what is your most likely reaction? Are you a doer – someone who jumps in and solve the problem – or are you a facilitator – someone who helps the employee get to the bottom of it on his/her own? Most managers and supervisors I talk to readily admit that they even though they know the better answer is the latter (i.e. being a coach and facilitator), they still tend to step in and take over quite quickly. So why is that? Why the tendency to take over and run the show? I think that it’s always one or more of three possible reasons: Continue reading