Be Open to Feedback. Those who delegate are not above feedback. Even though you’re the one assigning the work, you’re not elevated to some mystical level above your team. Listen to the feedback from your team. Be responsive when concerns are presented. Fix your mistakes. In my own leadership, I learn a lot from those I lead. Often, the people working on the front line have a great deal of insight to offer.
As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Pelletier, Vice President, Talent & Transformation IBM.
Victoria Pelletier is a senior executive with over two decades of corporate and board experience in strategy, operations, growth initiatives, M&A and business and talent culture and development.
Victoria is also a published author, an in-demand public speaker and regularly appears on national television and radio. She is a visionary leader with a passion for innovation, creativity and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In fact, Victoria has won both the 2020 Mentor of the Year award from Women in Communications & Technology AND the 2019 HSBC Diversity & Inclusion in Innovation Award.
An inspiring professional with impeccable credentials, Victoria is a trusted voice among peers and emerging executives.
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?
My backstory is the kind you tell a therapist or police officer, not necessarily an audience. Essentiality, I was born into in a broken family environment. My drug addicted biological mother had mental health challenges and quite abusive. The fact that I’m giving this interview is proof that I survived. Sometimes we learn what “not to do” from our family of origin. That would be me. The pain and loss of my past feeds my drive and resilience.
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?
If you’ve really put yourself out there in the world, then you’re going to have your share of setbacks, obstacles, and disasters. When I was just starting to achieve some success in my career, my health and my relationships suffered for it. I was working all the time, missing milestones with my family, and taking on the kinds of habits that really wreck the body and soul. I chose to stop marching down the path toward a slow death. What I mean by this is simple: balance, choice and discipline is everything. I decided to drive toward happiness, health, and a high quality of life. All the above can be accomplished while thriving in the workplace.
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?
I’ve told this story a lot recently. Many moons ago, I worked for the apparel company we associate with the greatest athletes in the world. You know the one. One morning, I rolled into the office decked out in another brand’s apparel. I grabbed comfort out of the closet. My colleagues were incensed that I dressed “off brand.” I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time, but now I understand why the team was frustrated with me. If a brand’s employees aren’t “all in” on the merch/services, how can we expect consumers to be “all in”?
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We put the “I” in Innovation. My company has a rich history of cultivating innovation in homes, communities, and the global community. We’ve innovated through products, services and corporate and community initiatives. Consider Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I), for example. In my leadership role in DE&I, I’ve discovered that I am in an organization that embraces it fully and provides the bandwidth for every member of our team to embrace and model best practices in DE&I also.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I alluded to this earlier in the interview. If you want to thrive, you must seek and sustain balance. If your body is tired and weak, your work will be too. If you neglect your relationships, your output in the workspace will suffer. If you are more interested in personal gain rather than advancing the vision of the organization — if, as they say, you have no skin in the game — you might as well pack up your (virtual) office now. Balance, choice and compromise is what it’s all about. Don’t evaluate it independently, ask a trusted mentor to provide feedback and challenge you directly.
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?
Professionally, I’ve spent more time watching leaders who I aspired to be NOTHING like, so instead, they inspired me to grow, to take risks, and to encourage and develop others. I am grateful for all of them. Yes, sounds sad, but it’s true. Some of the people who help us the most are the ones who’ve taught us the least. “I’ll never handle a similar situation like that person” has become rote for me.
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?
Ah, this one’s easy. Leaders need to function at the strategic level, not the tactical level, if they want the organization to thrive amid changing seasons and currents. Maybe you started on the sales floor and love the energy of sales. That’s great. But if you’ve progress to become a sales manager, you’re now tasked with coaching and developing a sales team instead of leading all the sales opportunities yourself. Can you work at the tactical level from time to time? Absolutely. Does leadership put you in a position to stay there? Probably not. Delegating gives the leader the opportunity to focus on vision and strategy.
Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?
Leaders know that they are accountable to all stakeholders. That hyper-awareness of accountability makes many leaders micromanagers. When we want the work product to meet our exacting standards, we run the risk of getting overinvolved in those we’ve tasked with producing the deliverables. The anecdote? Develop and coach your team well and help them to grow. If you don’t trust the people working for you, that’s also a reflection of YOUR leadership and you need to look critically in the mirror.
We also “do it ourselves” because we become efficient. How often is it easier to do it yourself than train someone to do it for you? It may be efficient to do it yourself, but the latter approach is the sustainable one that allows for growth and succession in the organization.
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?
Looking back, I started to address the delegation challenges earlier in our conversation. Pivots come after moments of insight. When you discover that you micromanage, for example, you can start down the path of remediation. Pivots become more timely and more effective when we have trusted colleagues and mentors evaluating our leadership and employee and business results. Always have a few people in your corner who are willing to tell you what you need to hear even if you don’t want to hear it — radical candor is what I call it and lean heavily into across all facets of my life.
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.
Just five? I’m probably good for fifty!
Know the Process and Desired Result
If you are going to effectively delegate, you should not only understand the outcome or deliverable expected, but ideally HOW the work gets done. Leaders build confidence and trust with their team when they exhibit competence. Leading a burger joint? Then you better know where to source the beef, cook it to perfection, and get it to customers in a timely manner with excellent service. Now teach your team to do the same.
Set Clear Expectations
If you are delegating, it’s critical that your team know what you expect of them, and by when it is expected. Be very transparent about what success looks like. Back in my sports apparel days, my team made it very clear that people representing our brand needed to be dressed in our brand. Explicit and transparent expectations shape behaviour.
Evaluate Progress and Performance
Leading a team requires you to regularly evaluate the work your team produces. When setting expectations, be transparent about how the team will be measured and link their compensation directly to the performance expectations and outcomes. When I engage my team on client work, everyone knows in advance that we will sit down when the work is done to put the deliverables under the lens. Praise is delivered as appropriate, and coaching offered as needed.
Get Your Hands Dirty
When a deadline looms and the work isn’t finished, the leader returns to the tactical level and accompanies the team in accomplishing the work. Said another way, those who delegate must be willing to do the detailed work also. I can’t begin to list all the times I needed to roll up my sleeves and help my team get to the finish line. If you get your hands dirty, you also sharpen your skills and show your team you can be trusted.
Be Open to Feedback
Those who delegate are not above feedback. Even though you’re the one assigning the work, you’re not elevated to some mystical level above your team. Listen to the feedback from your team. Be responsive when concerns are presented. Fix your mistakes. In my own leadership, I learn a lot from those I lead. Often, the people working on the front line have a great deal of insight to offer.
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?
False, false, false. If you want it done right, show your team how to do it right. Model the behaviour you seek from those you are leading. Good preparation leads to good results. If you’re telling yourself, “If you want something done right do it yourself,” then you’ve clearly suffered a leadership lapse. Look in the mirror, learn from your leadership shortcomings, and help you people succeed.
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. 🙂
Well, this takes us back to the introduction doesn’t it? My childhood was tragic and challenging. I am sure that other young people are in the same predicament right now. I think those of us who were wounded in the past make the best healers. I would love to tap into the resiliency and drive of wounded souls and leverage their strength to inspire others who are encountering the wounds right now.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Find me on the social platform of your choice!
My personal website: https://victoria-pelletier.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!