Assign responsibility and identify time factors. Thoughtfully select the right person for the job. Next, identify key milestones and deadlines. Also set expectations for when you will want progress reports.
Provide training and guidance. Identify all training or guidance that is needed to succeed. Remember to also allow the employee freedom for independent thinking and problem solving.
Monitor progress and provide feedback. Pay attention to progress and maintain control of the situation without micromanaging. Managers are still responsible for the success or failure of this person and for achieving the desired results. Stay in touch, giving plenty of positive reinforcement and coaching when needed.
As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Jensen, a transformational HR executive and owner of Moxie HR Strategies, a consulting firm that provides smart solutions to growing businesses.
She has a proven record as an influential change agent and collaborative business partner in industries ranging from manufacturing to high tech, healthcare to energy, professional services to government agencies. When she is not challenging individuals to become stronger, more emotionally intelligent leaders, Julie is a passionate advocate for equity and inclusion, and the advancement of women and minorities in business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
When I transitioned my career into Human Resources, I was introduced to Organizational Development (OD). The framework of OD was innate to me: strategically thinking about current and future business needs and how people systems and programs needed to be designed to support the success of both the company and their employees. I was hooked immediately, and because I am a businesswoman first, who just happens to focus on the people side, I intentionally selected a variety of industries to work in over my career. I wanted exposure to different sized companies and the markets they serve, different leadership styles, and various human capital strategies to support business objectives. Fast forward 20 years later and I now own my own HR consulting practice where I apply what I have learned to help other growing businesses.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When someone is new to their chosen profession, there can be far too many assumptions made about all the things that need to be learned before one is viewed as capable and competent. That was no different for me when I entered Human Resources.
Yes, I had much to learn about labor laws and the technical constructs of Human Resources, but I was not exactly new to the workforce either. I had been in another profession for 15 years, so I had ‘real world’ experience working with teams and leaders, and I understood business. Yet my boss felt the need to remind me of all the things I still didn’t know. It was frustrating as heck to routinely be ‘put in my place’ and to have my previous experience dismissed.
After a year, I told my boss I was planning on sitting for my professional human resources certification in a few months. Instead of being met with words of encouragement, I was, instead, cautioned that the exam is difficult and to not feel bad if I end up failing it on my first attempt. Who says that?! Apparently, most of my co-workers had failed the exam one or more times and because they had much more experience in HR, the message was that I may not yet know enough to pass. This did not deter me. In fact, it lit a fire in me to prove their assumptions about my capabilities all wrong. I joined an intensive 8-week study group and dedicated hours at night and on the weekend to learning all I could. Not only did I pass the exam on my first attempt, but I chose to take the advance certification instead of the “entry level” one.
My boss and coworkers had lowered the bar on what they thought I was capable of. Therefore, if I failed the exam, nobody would be surprised, and I would not have to be embarrassed. Imagine their surprise when I told them I acquired a higher certification than they had. The lesson: Do not allow others to set limits or define what you are capable of!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe there are two things that makes Moxie HR Strategies stand out from other consulting firms: self-reliance and respectful honesty.
When I was a HR leader and worked with consulting firms, I often felt their priority was to keep money coming into their practices once they fulfilled their initial contract. Don’t get me wrong, they were incredibly helpful in completing key initiatives. At the same time, I also felt they were constantly sniffing around for additional opportunities that were not priorities to us. That continual need to ‘sell’ becomes tiresome at some point and, at least for me, erodes what should be a service-oriented relationship.
As a result, when I founded Moxie HR Strategies, it was important that our consulting philosophy be rooted in providing effective solutions to complex issues, delivered with complete transparency, and with an authentic desire for the success of our clients. Our success and reputation would be built from the contributions we made to our clients. That also means we do not shy away from providing difficult news that other firms might avoid simply to keep the peace. Whether there is a toxic leader that is eroding culture and employee engagement, or gaps in organizational communication that’s creating confusion and frustration, or even organizational behaviors that are creating illegal inequities, we will respectfully call it out and offer solutions for change. Then help organizational leaders work through change management strategies using existing company talent.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Well, since I work in Human Resources and we have been tasked with guiding companies and helping employees navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic and subsequent economic recession, HR professionals are shouldering the strategic and emotional burden far more than in the past, and the pressure isn’t letting up. As a result, HR professionals are burning out and yet they continue to show up ready to support leaders and employees however they can. So, my recommendation is to heed the advice we often give to others: pace yourself, take care of yourself, and take time off to rest and recharge. If HR professionals are not doing these things, there is no way to sustain the current pace and demands or be effective in helping their company.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Most definitely! A few years ago, I confided to a friend that I was interviewing at a large consulting firm. Being an executive coach by profession, she asked thoughtful questions about why I was interested in consulting, what I liked about the firm I was considering, what concerns I had, and so forth.
After listening to my responses, she paused and countered, “You have been in HR long enough to have a respected reputation in the business community and have built a large network from that. Why would you take what you have created to build a book of business for a consulting firm who will pay you a fraction of the fees they charge clients? Have you considered going into business for yourself?” In fact, I had considered it several times over the years, but had one reason or another why I did not pursue it. My friend suggested I buy a specific author’s book about how to start a consulting business, and said that after reading it, if I still didn’t think I could start my own company, but still wanted to be a consultant, then go work for a Firm.
I hung up the phone, ordered the book and then devoured half of it when it arrived the next day. After discussing it with my husband, I started my own consulting practice a few weeks later. It was the best push anyone could have ever given me, and I have loved every minute of commanding my destiny ever since!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?
The biggest reason leaders or business owners need to learn to delegate is that it can significantly free up time to work on their own skill development or focus on the strategic direction of business. When done well, delegating also contributes to building effective teams with strong communication skills. That is because the mere act of delegating demonstrates trust in others’ abilities, encourages personal and professional growth, and fosters an organizational culture around continuous learning. Plus, it positions a team or business to complete more work by dividing and conquering where it makes sense. Who doesn’t love that?
Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
The top reasons delegation does not happen is because of a lack of trust and an unwillingness to let go of the responsibility. Some leaders may be perfectionists who feel it is easier to do everything themselves or believe that their work is better than others. I have heard this referred to as a “self-enhancement bias”, which is a concern that passing on work detracts from their own importance. Others may lack confidence and don’t want to be upstaged by others ‘below’ them. Either way, the result is that leaders spend a lot of time on individual contributor-like activities that should be delegated.
In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?
If a leader is feeling overwhelmed and the team does not seem to have enough to do, this is a warning sign that delegating more tasks will be a win for everyone. If a leader has been having regular career development conversations, as they should be doing, he/she can keep a visual reminder of each team member’s goals to easily identify opportunities to delegate.This, in turn, provides a degree of confidence that the delegated task matches an employee’s strengths and career interests.
Another proactive strategic approach is to hire talent with delegation in mind. Meaning, look for people who possess the business or technical experience you need, and who also exhibits a desire and willingness to assume higher level work than what they are currently being interviewed for.
Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
The secret, I believe, to delegation success is to be strategic and thoughtful at the beginning. This way, once delegation has occurred, the leader can get out of the way and watch the magic happen.
- Define the desired outcome and authority level. Learn to assign responsibility for achieving results rather than unloading tasks. Ask: What is the result I want to accomplish? What kind of decisions can be made autonomously? Who may need to know that this person has the authority to act to assure cooperation with the employee?
- Assign responsibility and identify time factors. Thoughtfully select the right person for the job. Next, identify key milestones and deadlines. Also set expectations for when you will want progress reports.
- Provide training and guidance. Identify all training or guidance that is needed to succeed. Remember to also allow the employee freedom for independent thinking and problem solving.
- Monitor progress and provide feedback. Pay attention to progress and maintain control of the situation without micromanaging. Managers are still responsible for the success or failure of this person and for achieving the desired results. Stay in touch, giving plenty of positive reinforcement and coaching when needed.
- Evaluate performance and identify lessons learned. Afterwards, give the employee helpful feedback. What did they do well? Where can they improve? How can the results be improved? Also, what can the manager do better in the future to help them succeed?
One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
Well, I think it all depends on what doing it ‘right’ means, but generally I think this is a statement of distrust more than anything.
If what you really mean is that you want something done “your way” and with no deviation from your perspective, then you may as well do it exactly as you want. But know that this is likely not the best use of your time. Nor does it develop other people’s skills or build your talent pipeline by telling someone what the ‘right way’ is and expecting them to follow your instructions to the letter.
Instead, be clear what you expect the outcome of a task to be, if there are specific criteria to follow, and when you need the task to be done. Also let people know you are available to assist them if they need it. This is especially important if you are delegating to someone new to the company or has otherwise had limited exposure or experience with the task. Then get out of the way and let people figure it out on their own.
I coach leaders on this all the time and it’s amazing how uncomfortable it can be to let go and trust that quality work will get done without the need to hover and control the process. In fact, I illustrate this point regularly by telling leaders that if I ask them to drive safely from Seattle to Boston in no more than 10 days, and they have X-number of dollars to cover gas, hotels, and meals, should I really care if they choose a southern route when I think the northern route is faster? If they get to Boston on time and within budget that is all I need to care about. They have met my expectations.
On the other hand, if they are two days late, racked up 3 speeding tickets, and used up the budget within a few days because they stayed at high-end hotels, that’s a performance issue, not a delegation problem, which should be addressed accordingly. Less-than-desirable results do happen from time to time, but not to the degree that people often fear. The key is in setting crystal clear expectations for what success looks like and then confirming that the person you have delegated to fully understands before they are set loose to execute.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to see a world that is more just and equitable. Less of an “us vs. them” world comprised of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. I do not understand the mentality of rich or powerful people who abuse their privilege and power or hoard resources and success for themselves. I get that we live in a capitalist society and this is often a byproduct of it. However, the notion of authentically appreciating and giving back to the employees who have contributed to a company or person’s success seems to be lost on many CEOs these days. I do not believe this kind of selfishness has served our society well. In American we continue to see an ever-widening earnings gap and the shrinking of the middle class, which is the backbone of our country. This alarms me greatly, especially because of the long-term implications this has on women and people of color. Companies need to be doing more to ensure they are socially and economically elevating the people and communities they serve.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Readers can find me and my blogs at http://www.moxiehrstrategies.com or they may follow me via my personal or company LinkedIn pages.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!