The Extra Mile_Mgt_3D

Many business managers claim to have either the wrong talent, or an overall shortage of talent within their organization. They are constantly looking outward and spending precious resources on new opportunities when perhaps the best talent lies dormant, right in front of them.

After working in and for a variety of organizations across several industries; I developed the following system for leading people and getting them to give their best on a consistent basis. Developing a disciplined approach to Dignity, Diversity, and Delegation can drastically improve both the quantity and quality of talent at your disposal.

DIGNITY – conduct or speech indicative of respect, appreciation, or elevation of character; worthiness.

I am not too proud to admit that some of my early management behaviors were not always indicative of respect or appreciation, and likely did nothing to elevate the character of myself or team members. I know it resulted in one undignified termination of said responsibilities. It seems lessons like this are too often learned through direct experience. I decided then to change my behaviors and behave with Dignity.

One way I do so is to first recognize that each person has their own unique blend of skills and strengths. In order to be an effective leader, it is my responsibility to figure out what these traits are. There are a variety of web-based tools that can be used, but my favorite is the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment (as accessed through the bestselling books, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and Strength Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie).

Once these attributes are determined, I find it easy to have 1-1 conversations focused around how we can accentuate, or incorporate more of the person and their skills into the team. These discussions usually have an immediate impact on the team member, both at work and home.

I remember working through this process with one particular group, where everyone was asked to post their strengths in a private Facebook group. Without prompting, members began discussing new opportunities to share their strengths with each other. One boldly offered to trade several hours of her top skill in exchange for a particular skill in which she was deficient.

As leaders outwardly behave with dignity towards themselves and others, it quickly cascades through the entire organization, blazing the trail for the next two skills.

DIVERSITY – a state or fact of being different or unique; variety; multi-formity.

As managers invest time and energy into discovering the unique skills of the team, one thing will likely become apparent – there is a lot of variety, even in a small group of people with the same job title. Diversity can be expressed in ethnicity/background, experience, thought processes, skills, personalities, training/education, size, age, sex, and interests outside of work.

The beauty of diversity is that it provides more options to solve the problems and challenges that come about. When managed effectively, diversity provides better end results.

Before Steve Jobs founded Apple, he took classes in calligraphy and developed a strong appreciation for the spacing between letters and words. At the time, he thought little of it, but it quickly became a critical aspect to the way his Apple computers displayed, and became a point of difference over other computers at the time. Further, It can be said that the success of Apple’s products over the last decade (iPod, iPhone, iPad) owe their thanks to diverse work teams trained to incorporate wide-reaching ideas into devices that are incredibly easy to operate.

DELEGATION – the art of assigning duties, responsibilities, and/or decision making to others.

With a solid foundation of the first two skills, delegation gets incredibly easier when we know exactly who on our team is better suited to handle certain tasks; and how to ask them to do it in a way that builds respect and credibility for everyone. The key is to completely delegate a given range of responsibilities along with all necessary resources – including scheduled check-points and an optional bail-out.

Check-points are regular meetings (formal but not lengthy) about progress being made towards mutually-established milestones. This is where all parties communicate changes in priorities, schedules, resources, etc. Having them too infrequently, tends to make managers nervous, while meetings too often is an indication of a lack of trust. Good delegation most often occurs when managers relinquish full control and assume a role of guidance only when needed. With proper use of check-points, the need for bail-outs can be all but eliminated.

My favorite aspect of Managing Talent in 3D is that it costs very little, and yields large returns very quickly. See for yourself how your organization can grow when you incorporate Dignity, Diversity, and Delegation.

Please share your success stories!

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This article was originally published in the July issue of The Extra Mile as compiled by People Discovery Group in London, UK.
I thank Christina Lattimer for inviting me to contribute.