Sarah Beach: “Know your team”

Know your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and hand off the task to the right person or team that can complete it and grow in the process. Delegation is important, but that doesn’t mean you should hand off tasks to just anyone. Delegate to the right people. When employees are using their strengths and giftedness, […]

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Know your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and hand off the task to the right person or team that can complete it and grow in the process. Delegation is important, but that doesn’t mean you should hand off tasks to just anyone. Delegate to the right people. When employees are using their strengths and giftedness, they will naturally be more passionate and motivated toward completing the task or project. The end product will inevitably reflect that passion and motivation and is much more likely to be a quality product you can be completely satisfied with.

As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Beach, founder and owner of Sarah Beach Consulting LLC, where she serves as a Leadership Consultant. Sarah Beach Consulting was created from a passion for leadership and a vision to develop a new generation of leaders who are self-aware and focused on the needs of the individuals they serve. Sarah offers programs to help organizations identify and close leadership gaps, as well as provide training to develop new and existing leaders. Sarah is passionate about helping people become the most effective and sought-after leaders possible.

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?

First, I have always loved leading people. Whether it was running for president of a school club, being captain of a sports team, mentoring students, or leading a large research department, I felt most at home when I was leading. More importantly, I studied leadership and continually strived to improve myself as a leader along that journey, always attempting to be the best leader possible for my team. For the last decade, I have worked in areas where there was frequent leadership changeover and restructuring. There was one year in my past career where I went through five different supervisors over the course of that year. To say I have worked with, and for, a lot of leaders in my career would be an understatement. Through working in these types of environments, I have witnessed numerous leadership styles, and I have seen firsthand how the success of an organization can hinge on the quality of leadership. As a result, I’m incredibly passionate about helping people lead well and be the type of leaders people are seeking. Sarah Beach Consulting was born out of this passion and desire.

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?

Well, shortly after I started Sarah Beach Consulting, I suffered a back injury that had me hospitalized and unable to walk, which was quickly followed by two unrelated surgeries a few weeks later. This was a very difficult time that tested me like few others in my life. I’d be lying if I said that negative self-talk and the thought of giving up never crept in, but I chose to focus on the positives and used the unexpected “free time” while recovering to build a business based on principles and ideals that I had long been passionate about. Resiliency is a core value that I hold deeply, one that has been developed and shaped by many challenging times in my life. Navigating COVID-19 was especially challenging. Running a business, in addition to leading a Research Department, homeschooling, being a mom to a 2- and 5-year-old, and navigating all the other challenges of a pandemic, really tested my resiliency, both professionally and personally. As I am sure many people can relate, there were times when I questioned if I could juggle it all or if something had to give. After all, we were all running at a completely unsustainable pace in 2020. Ultimately, my drive to continue first comes from my faith in a God that is bigger than anything I am facing, and my love for my family, who I strive to be the best for and provide for each day. I also use the encouragement and support from my community of friends and family that I surround myself with. All these drivers help form a mindset that any situation has positives and is an opportunity for growth and a new perspective. It is also important to give yourself permission to prioritize yourself, family, friends, community, and work in whatever order a situation calls for. During the pandemic, I certainly had to put some things on the “back burner” while others stood front and center, and more importantly, I had to give myself the permission to make those decisions and not feel guilty or defeated. Lastly, laughter helps… a lot! Laugh when you can, at whatever you can, and find simple joys that can sustain you through the tough days. While teleworking with young kids at home, I ended up compiling countless stories of the craziness and sometimes sheer madness that took place while on telecons, Zooms calls, or any other work meetings. During these moments, they were stressful and exasperating, but after the moments passed, they made for some hilarious recounts to lighten the mood.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

This is a silly one, but it makes me laugh when I think about it. I was headed to pitch a large proposal to a client on a very cold and snowy day. I had put on my best business attire and then thrown on my running sneakers, as I had some errands to run beforehand and didn’t want to ruin my nice shoes in the snow. As I arrived at the client’s building, I sat in my car to double-check that I had everything. Then I got out of the car and started walking up to the building. About halfway there, I looked down and saw my running sneakers! I quickly dashed back to my car and threw on my other shoes and hoped that the client wasn’t watching me. I still don’t know if they saw, but apparently I recovered from my faux pas, as we ended up working together. I have now learned to not only check to make sure I have all my papers before going in to pitch a proposal but to also check my shoes!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

One of the most important parts of my process as I come into work with a client is my intention to observe the operations and relationships of an organization before I even start to provide guidance or training. I observe before I act. Maybe that’s the scientist in me, but I think it’s a critical part of my consulting process. I not only observe a company from the top down but also from the bottom up. I make a point to meet and talk to all levels of employees. I even play with the company’s pets if they have them! I’ve also noticed this helps people to open up more and allows me to really see the true organization. I was working with a client once in the early stages of my observations, and one of the employees seemed a bit skeptical of my presence. He asked why I was there, and I explained that I was just observing the leadership, meeting people, and learning how the organization functions. I told him that it would be silly for me to come in and think that I could help if I didn’t know anything about the organization or the people that worked there. He nodded and said that he agreed. I could see that my response resonated with him, and he then opened up and provided some valuable insights into the company. By the way, spending the time to learn the people you are working with is one of the foundations of good leadership that I teach no matter who I work with. People want leaders who know and care about them and lead them in a way that resonates with them personally. You can’t do that unless you know them.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Fight for balance and protect it. Don’t ignore any one part of your health and life: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social. Just as leaders seek to encourage and lead holistically healthy organizations and people, we must seek equally as hard for that balance within ourselves. Balance will look different for everyone, and I don’t even think all aspects have to be equally balanced, and that balance may shift in different seasons of your life. I do, however, think some attention must be intentionally given to each aspect of our lives to avoid “burn out.” As part of this balance, use those vacation days! Take time to rest and unplug. If you feel that you truly can’t take time off from work, then you may be a single point of failure in your organization, which I suggest you reconcile immediately. Along these same lines, pay attention to your pace. We all experience busier seasons of life or work where we pick up the pace, knowing it’s only for a season, which gives us the push to get through. But that pace we use to tackle those times is likely not a sustainable pace, nor meant to be, so don’t accept it as such. Make sure you are largely working at a healthy and sustainable pace, so you have more to give during those busier times. If not, then it’s time to slow down, reevaluate, and potentially re-fuel. Finally, not every opportunity, even if it’s good, is the right opportunity. Keep healthy boundaries and don’t be afraid to say “no” to the good to make room for the great. Allow yourself to say “no”.

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?

I am thankful for so many people along my journey. It is difficult to just pick one, but my dad has had one of the most incredible and essential impacts on my life. He taught me the value of hard work, the importance of humility and kindness, the fruits of self-discipline, and countless other life lessons that I carry with me every day. He always said that his goal each day of his life was to make at least one person’s day better. He grew up in a rural area of Pennsylvania and was the first person in his family to go to college. He worked incredibly hard and went on to graduate from medical school and complete a fellowship to become an anesthesiologist. I have never met one person that has had a bad thing to say about him. Unfortunately, in 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma and then passed away in May of 2019 after an incredibly hard-fought battle. I would not be the person I am today without my dad’s influence on my life through the lessons he taught, the support he gave, and the examples he showed. Even throughout his fight with cancer to his last breath, he was an example of grace, determination, and love. I will carry those things with me for the rest of my life.

I also have to give credit to my husband, Chris, who is one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He loves to see me pursuing my dreams and encourages me daily. Also, marriage teaches you a lot about how to work (and not work) well as a team, and I’ve actually used these valuable lessons while leading teams in the workspace!

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?

Delegating effectively has countless benefits, even beyond an obvious one like taking burdens off the leader, but let’s start there anyway. First, there will always be tasks that only the leader can complete or is the best person to complete. Effective delegation gives the leader time and energy to tackle those specialized tasks without them being diluted by those other non-specialized tasks that are perfect opportunities for others to complete. Beyond that benefit, effectively delegating helps to develop your employees, and ultimately, new leaders. It gives someone else the opportunity to learn new skills and become proficient. Additionally, it gives insight into the career aspirations of your employees. You may have someone that would love to learn the skills of your role in hopes of someday fulfilling that role or a similar one, and through delegation, they can begin to develop some of those necessary skillsets. By delegating you are also demonstrating and reiterating that you trust your employees. Trust is essential to a functioning team, so this benefit is invaluable. In trusting your team and delegating, they will feel valued in the process and will appreciate having input into things that affect them. Effective delegation also opens the door for new ideas and creative thinking, as other people completing a task may develop new ways to reach the desired outcome.

Ultimately, delegating effectively creates time for you, presents opportunities for others, promotes a culture of trust and value, and leaves room for new ideas and creative thinking. Who wouldn’t want that in their organization?

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

I think there are many reasons and traps we can fall into that prevent us from delegating. First is the thought that it’s most likely faster to just complete a task ourselves rather than take the time to explain what is required and possibly have to train someone in new techniques or skills to complete the task. It can be challenging to see the benefits and the future return on time investment (ROTI), especially when working in a fast-paced work environment, as many people do. When leaders delegate, there is often a natural dip in some aspect of the task completion, whether it be timeliness, comprehensiveness, and/or quality. As a new person is taking on and learning that task, there is inevitably some form of a learning curve. These “dips” can be uncomfortable for many leaders, and result in them shying away from delegation. In addition, it can be challenging to relinquish control or responsibility of tasks. There is a certain level of risk that comes with delegation. When something is no longer completely in your control, you lose sight of every detail (unless you’re a micromanager…which I highly discourage!). People may even approach a task differently than you or produce slightly different products while still meeting the intent, and that change can also be uncomfortable for some leaders. There needs to be a high enough level of trust in your team when delegating, and if that is absent, then delegation can be difficult, damaging, or even impossible. Ultimately, many of these challenges in delegating could possibly be traced back to an issue of trust, so don’t ignore this essential component of a functioning team.

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?

We can’t be shortsighted in terms of our initial time investments when delegating. It is worth the effort and time upfront to reap the future benefits. We need to shift our mindsets about delegation from a means of getting something done to a means of developing people and new leaders. This development is really another benefit to our initial time invested. We are not only empowering our employees and showing them that they are valued, but we are fostering new skill development and an increase in their responsibilities. You are ultimately developing a stronger more engaged workforce, and getting the work done! We have to get comfortable with the inevitable “dip” that occurs when a task is initially delegated. Admittedly, this is really tough, but if we think of delegation in terms of development of our people, then this “dip” just makes sense and is easier to accept. We also need to shift our mindsets from thinking a task must be done one way to asking what other ways it could be done. As a leader, foster an environment in which people have the freedom to create new processes and give them permission to take risks, and own the responsibility for their products. Then support them in the ways they need, whether it be through trust, resources, encouragement, or direction.

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.

Know and appreciate the Return on Time Investment (ROTI) of delegation and maintain a longsighted mindset with development as the goal. I watched Rory Vaden give a talk at the Global Leadership Summit in 2020 where he outlined the 30X Rule from his book Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. The thought is that however long it takes you to perform a task, you should expect to take thirty times as long to train an employee to complete that same task. This time isn’t necessarily all upfront but spread out as you help that person master the task. This is incredibly daunting, and honestly completely out of the question, if you maintain shortsighted thinking when it comes to delegation and focus solely on completing tasks as they arise. However, if you expand your thinking, it’s easy to see the incredible value. Vaden uses the example of a daily task that takes you 5 minutes to complete. If you consider a 250-day work year, then you would be investing 1,250 minutes per year on that task. Now, if you delegate, then you can expect to invest 150 hours training an employee to take over that same task. That’s an annual savings of 1,100 minutes per year, which ultimately is a 733% ROTI. For me, seeing those numbers is a great reminder that any tendency to avoid delegating to get it done faster in the short-term is ultimately shortsighted and not well serving of my team.

Know your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and hand off the task to the right person or team that can complete it and grow in the process. Delegation is important, but that doesn’t mean you should hand off tasks to just anyone. Delegate to the right people. When employees are using their strengths and giftedness, they will naturally be more passionate and motivated toward completing the task or project. The end product will inevitably reflect that passion and motivation and is much more likely to be a quality product you can be completely satisfied with.

Know when, and how often, to check in. Don’t micromanage, but do check in. When delegating a new task or project, you are most likely going to need some oversight and touchpoints with the person or team. These check-ins can help to provide clarity, catch any early misunderstandings or issues, and avoid disappointing results. You can create project milestones or a regularly recurring meeting to serve as an opportunity to assess progress and address any issues. Knowing how often to check in goes back to knowing your team and their strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you have someone that you tend to delegate to because they are incredibly creative and innovative, but you know they are also easily distracted, then you may want to check in on them more frequently. Once as a young leader, I delegated the task of monthly budget expenditure to a newer hire. I showed him how to order and made sure he had the resources to complete the task. I also outlined the deadlines for all the expenditures. I checked in with him a couple times in the beginning, and he assured me he had it under control. After that, I moved on to other responsibilities and checked in with him at the end of the month, and that’s when I realized he had missed almost every deadline. In getting to know him better, I realized that he tended to just freeze when he got too overwhelmed. He struggled to ask for help in these times because he had trouble sorting through even what to ask for. At the end of the day, there was certainly a personal responsibility that rested with him, but much of the responsibility in that situation was on me. He was a capable and valuable employee, and if I had gotten to know him better first, I would have known to check-in on him more frequently. As time went on, I ultimately learned that his strengths were not in administrative tasks, but rather innovation and creativity. He would have been much better utilized on different and equally necessary tasks.

Know exactly what you need and distinguish that from what you want, and then be open to not getting what you want. Expecting people to do things exactly how you do them is just setting yourself up for disappointment. If you want to be satisfied with the results, then tailor your expectations up front and realize that your clone is not completing the task. Outline everything that you know the end product will absolutely need. Be crystal clear on your expectations and specific about the critical elements of the task or project. These are the non-negotiables. However, be vague in your instructions involving the areas where creativity can be used and encourage people to take liberties in these areas. Give them permission and space to think of new ideas or approaches without your ideas fogging their creativity. This approach goes a long way to empower people and make them feel valued. I worked at one organization where we would delegate the task of creating spreadsheets that consolidated important information, we could then reference at the leadership level during meetings. These spreadsheets were incredibly valuable, but they were only ever used for our internal review, meaning there was not some important formatting we had to use. Inevitably, whenever the spreadsheets would arrive to the leadership team, there was one leader who would change all sorts of insignificant details to his liking such as the color of columns or font choice. You may be thinking to yourself, “ok, so what if he did that?”. Well, the impact it had on the people that spent days creating that spreadsheet and compiling that information is the “so what.” Have you ever loaded a dishwasher and had someone come directly behind you only to reload it their way? Think about how that makes you feel. You end up asking yourself what was the point of spending your time loading it in the first place? And, if you’re like me, you feel devalued too. Does it really matter how the dishwasher is loaded if the dishes get clean? Does it really matter what color a column is in the spreadsheet if all the essential data is communicated effectively? If it does matter, then those are the things you need to be crystal clear about upfront, and you won’t have to change them in the end product. If it doesn’t truly matter, then give the creative license to the people you are delegating to, and don’t redo their work.

Finally, know who will be most affected by certain tasks or projects. Whenever you can, delegate tasks to people that will be directly affected by the outcome. This will help with buy-in, as well as quality, ownership, and responsibility of the product. This is also a great way to develop new leaders while maintaining the progress of your organization. One time, at an organization where I led a large team, we had to change a significant process. We knew that the current process had to change and what the new system needed to accomplish, but we didn’t know how we were going to get there. The leadership team decided to delegate this task, and I asked for volunteers for a working group to develop the new process. I had a great response, as this new process would directly impact them, and they felt valued that they were asked to be a part of creating something they would have to use. Once the working group was formed, we set ground rules and a vision for what needed to be accomplished. Beyond that, we provided very little guidance. The working group met for a few months and went above and beyond! They not only created a new process, but they trained the rest of the organization on that new process. I got to see people step into new opportunities and serve unexpected roles. It was a great development opportunity for those individuals, and we got our new process developed!

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?

I would challenge this quote by asking, “what exactly is right?”. Because if “right” is only the way the leader does something, then they are missing the point of leadership entirely. Overall, I think this saying is largely false and quite damaging. We need to shift away from this mindset. The idea that the “right” way to do something is the way that YOU do something restricts creativity, development, and empowerment of people and teams. The saying should be rewritten as “if you need something done only your way, then do it yourself.” There may be things that you can’t delegate and that is fine; do them yourself. If there is truly something that can only be done one way, and in the way that only you do it, then that’s not something you should be delegating anyway. You delegate the other things so that you have the time and energy to focus and take care of those specialized tasks.

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. 🙂

It would be to develop a new generation of leaders who are self-aware and focused on the needs of the individuals they serve. Can you imagine the workplace if every leader, while still being effective, focused on the people rather than a bottom line? If employees were constantly empowered to be their best selves while given grace for being human and having lives outside of work? If the bar was held high for employee performance, and each person was given the resources necessary to reach it? If leaders were self-aware and maintained integrity? I think job satisfaction and employee retention would soar. I think we would see innovation shatter ceilings. I think we would see a change in our world.

How can our readers further follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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