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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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In a previous series, I laid out a five-step productivity process for leaders, which I then turned into a productivity blueprint” (see my bio for how to access.) This post goes deeper on the second of the five steps, sharing for maximal productivity. The fifth and final piece of the second productivity step—“share it”—is to monitor each project and review performance with your coworkers.

As each project is unfolding, stay on top of things and correct or redirect when necessary. This motivates colleagues (who don’t feel abandoned) and helps you catch problems early on. Recognize key milestones, such as completed steps and sub-components, along the way. Obviously, inexperienced colleagues will need more direction, tighter controls and more oversight than seasoned ones. We’ll discuss this more fully below.

Monitoring progress also involves adjusting expectations as needed, based on the information you gather as things unfold. If the project doesn’t progress at the anticipated pace, you’ll need to evaluate the situation and see what changes need to be made. You may be able to catch up and get back on track with little effort. However, you may also need to push out the delivery date or make other changes to the project expectations to account for the gap.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re developing a new training program. The person tasked to create slides for the training can’t complete her work until the person in charge of developing the outline and the training content is done with his task. To use a different example, when developing software, testers can’t get to work until the developers finish creating the product. Conversely, if the testing phase goes faster than expected, with fewer bugs or glitches than normal, you may be able to deliver the software product sooner than expected. For those who prefer formulas, you may want to consider leadership expert John C. Maxwell’s 10-80-10 rule. He divides delegated projects into three segments: the first 10%, the middle 80% and the last 10%. Maxwell involves himself in the first and last 10% while the middle work is carried out by his team, as detailed below.

Maxwell compares his involvement, which he calls “the bookends of success,” to the process of piloting a plane. The crucial parts of the flight—the most dangerous and complicated—are takeoff and landing. These are the components that most need a leader’s input and attention. The rest of the “flight” is doable by his team. During the first 10% of the delegation process, Maxwell provides his team with the following so that they can complete their primary tasks (the middle 80%):

  • The big picture. As a leader, you often see more than others do. Maxwell uses this time to share his big-picture vision and discuss outcomes.
  • Objectives. Following the initial vision, Maxwell works to break down the goal into specific objectives, typically limiting the number to four or five. These help those involved understand the “how” of the process, as in, “How are we going to achieve the overarching goal?” The simpler the objectives, and the more visual they are made, the easier it’ll be for your team to be able to look at them later and know whether they’re still on target.
  • Direction. After the objectives have been set, it’s important for each team member to know his or her specific responsibilities. This helps to maximize efforts, increase accountability and avoid conflict.
  • Resources and support. What do they need, in terms of resources and assistance, to make it work?

When the process is complete, review everything that occurred to identify your successes as well as your failures. It is critical that complex processes that involve much communication, delegation and, of course, execution be reviewed openly and often to keep things humming.

The challenge, of course, is that it’s so much easier to move on to the next pressing item rather than to spend time and attention reviewing past performance. After all, you just got done with all that work and want to move onto something that’s new, different and exciting! Caution: Do everything possible to resist that temptation! There is so much that can be learned from each completed project—what went right, what didn’t and why—that it simply is bad practice to forge ahead without first gleaning those nuggets.

Assuming there’s cause to celebrate—and there most certainly will be—applaud those who were responsible. This can be anything from a simple “thank you” or “well done” to arranging for awards, gifts or bonuses. Pointing out successes, as specifically as possible (“because you did X, the result was Y, and the benefit was Z”), you engender good will and are likelier to get the same, if not better, results the next time.

Don’t forget to do a KWINK (“knowing what I now know”) analysis. Looking back at what happened, ask yourself and your teammates, knowing what you now know about the project and its various components and processes, what would you have done differently? How could you have been more efficient? Which resources or personnel would have made things go faster? Was this project even “worth it” to begin with (would you take it on again?) and what could have made it more valuable, in terms of revenue or other metrics?

Above, we discussed the need for tighter supervision of and direction for newly hired, inexperienced employees as they engage in new projects. At its core, this speaks to the need for situational leadership. The term “situational leadership” was coined by leadership experts Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey to describe how different situations demand different types of engagement between leaders and their people. In essence, they offer four scenarios along a continuum of employee experience and expertise.

1. Directing: This approach is for subordinates who are least experienced in completing the desired task and may suffer from low self-confidence. Leaders in these situations need to do a lot of directing to ensure that the team member is clear on what needs to happen and in what way. The leader must also help the subordinate work through any deficits in self-confidence or other barriers to success.

2. Coaching: Coaching is appropriate for subordinates that are a bit more advanced but still need a lot of direction. Through coaching, a leader can bring him/her more into the conversation about how to do things, and help push things along when the subordinate’s initial enthusiasm for the project invariably starts to wane. At this stage, the leader still decides.

3. Supporting: Over time, the subordinate becomes more comfortable and takes on added responsibility and leadership. The leader’s role is to continue to support the subordinate through conversation but allows the subordinate increased decision-making authority.

4. Delegating: In this final stage, the subordinate “owns” the project and is largely left alone to achieve the necessary outcome.

Notice that in this model, delegating (as in “giving over” a project) only occurs after the team member has first been directed and/or supported, often deeply, for a period of time.

This concludes the second step of my productivity blueprint, “Planning for Maximal Productivity.”

In four previous articles, I wrote about huddling daily, scheduling regular one-on-one meetings, using software to increase collaboration and delegating as steps to share information to increase team productivity.

Step 3 focuses on doing the work and will be similarly detailed in coming articles.


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach who helps busy leaders be more productive so that they can scale profits with less stress and get home at a decent hour. For a free, no-obligation consultation, please call 212-470-.6139 or email [email protected] Buy his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss,” on Amazon. Download his free productivity blueprint at ImpactfulCoaching.com/Productivity-Blueprint.

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