Keep the Key, Delegate the Key

“So, you are telling me the key-ring has nothing to do with keys?” I asked.

“No more than an open door policy has anything to do with the door,” Ryan replied. “I had to figure out what tasks I need to self-perform and what is necessary to delegate to other team members.”

“And, how do you make that decision?”

“Ultimately, I am accountable for the output, as the manager, but who completes the task depends on the task. I make that decision based on the target completion time. If the target completion time of the task is short, like a day, a week, or a month, the task is a candidate for delegation. If the target completion time of the task is longer, like a year, it may be necessary that I remain heavily involved.”

“So,” I confirmed, “whether you keep the key, or delegate the key depends on the time span of the task.”

The Key Ring

“Why did you think it was so important to give the key ring to someone else?” I asked.

“Because the key ring was a distraction,” Ryan explained. “People would come to me and ask for the key to the tool room, where we keep the calibration equipment. I loved when people asked my permission to gain access to the tool room.”

“Sounds like a powerful position,” I observed.

“And, I discovered that, as long as I had the key ring to all the doors, then people would continue to ask my permission. To the point, where I could not spend time on more important things.”

“What happened?” I wanted to know.

“As long as I had the key ring, I was the bottleneck in every decision. And while that bottleneck grew, I ignored my real priorities.”

“So, you could not keep the keys AND do your job, at the same time?”

“No,” Ryan said. “I had to assign the key ring to a more appropriate person.”

“What did you learn?”

“I learned that the key ring was just a symbol for power that had little to do with effectiveness. And sometimes the key ring had nothing to do with keys. The key ring had more to do with decisions that should have been made at a different level of work, a more appropriate level of work.”

“And?” I pressed.

“And, so I have to constantly look for the key ring, I am holding, that I really need to let go.”

Who Carries the Keys?

“They called me KEYS,” Ryan explained. “I had the keys to every door and portal in the building. I was important. I was the person the company trusted with the keys.”

“And, what did you discover?” I asked.

“I thought the keys were a sign of power, and that power translated into being a manager.”

“And, why did you think that?” I pressed.

“No one could do anything without my permission.” Ryan replied. “I thought I had a great deal of authority.”

“And, now?”

“Now, I realize that carrying all the keys to the building has nothing to do with being a manager.”

“So, what did you change?”

“I found another trustworthy person to carry all the keys.”

How to Explain Levels of Work to Your Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I finished your Time Span 101 program and now I understand levels of work. But, I hesitate to talk to my team about it. How do you explain Time Span to a team whose roles are at S-I level of work. I am afraid they won’t understand or will react negatively to their role at S-I.

Response:
You don’t have to introduce the concept of level of work to your S-I team. They already know it. Ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand they have a supervisor that gives them task assignments?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand that their supervisor likely receives more in compensation?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I believe the work they do is different from the work their supervisor does?
  • Do your team members in roles at S-I understand they have some decisions they can make and that their supervisor has the authority to make other decisions?

Your team members intuitively already understand levels of work. When I talk to teams in roles at S-I or S-II, we talk about goals and objectives, decisions to make and problems to solve. We talk about accountability. We talk about who makes the decision at what level of work. We talk about who solves the problem at what level of work. We talk about contribution and how roles fit together.

Your teams already understand levels of work. These are normal managerial conversations to have with your team. These are required conversations.

Move a Team Out of Its Mediocrity

“Why the long face?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Julia replied. “I have been working here for six months as a manager. And I feel like I have a mob on my hands. It’s almost like I need to dis-empower the team to get them to stop fighting me. I have a group of long time employees, comfortable in their mediocrity. They work together, almost as a team, to try to stop effective change or create resistance to it. They are very powerful for several reasons. First because we can’t fire them all and second because they have become a fixture in the organization and the idea of eliminating them is almost not an option.”

“Are there things that need improving around here?” I probed.

“Without a doubt. But, every time I suggest something, I get stiff-armed. Or they agree with me, and do the opposite behind my back.”

“Perhaps you should stop suggesting things,” I wondered out loud.

“But, we need to make changes in our processes, to become more efficient,” she protested.

“Who is going to execute those changes?” I wanted to know.

“Well, my team has to.”

“Then, who has to come up with the ideas and how to implement them? Here is a hint. The answer has nothing to do with ideas and execution. The answer has to do with your role as a manager.”

Defining Levels of Work in a Bank

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You spoke to the Vistage group I attend. I recently transitioned to a new role as the CEO of a lending institution. We are, in essence, structured as a traditional savings and loan, but we only serve a specific target market.

I do not see a model in your book that directly breaks down the strata levels for “banking” organizations. I’m in the midst of a major re-structure, and your info has always been very helpful to me in these situations.

Response:
I am not an expert on banking, so if anyone has specific insights, pile on. The methodology below works for any industry.

  1. Set your strategy. Review your current strategy documents, including Vision, Mission and Business Model. Those are likely already defined for your organization.
  2. Define the functions necessary for your organization to operate. Your core function (that which drives revenue) will be surrounded by necessary support functions. My assumption is that your core function is closing loans to specific institutions in the target market you serve. Your ability to book performing loans drives your revenue.
    • Book performing loans in target market (core function)
    • Marketing, traditional and digital media marketing, including social media (support function)
    • Sales, in the guise of customer service at your branch locations (support function).
    • Operations, including all physical transaction activity like deposits, checking, loan payments (support function)
    • Back office operations, including electronic transaction activity, online banking, debit cards, credit cards (support function)
    • Facility operations, including building, building maintenance, leases and real estate (support function)
    • Security, including physical security, electronic security, and custodial oversight of cash and bank instruments (support function)
    • Regulatory (support function)
    • Legal (support function)
  3. Define the level of work in each function, which is likely the basis for your question. Looking at your core function, booking performing loans in your target market.
    • Loans will likely require leads from the marketing department, driven to a branch location or to a telephone loan department.
    • The lead probably lands on a desk at S-II level of work, someone to do the initial diagnostic workup and complete the necessary paperwork. Much of this work is systematized and gathered on template forms.
    • The loan package is then likely reviewed by a role at S-III level of work to make an initial determination and recommendation to a loan committee. If the loan is missing fundamental elements of collateral or “ability to pay,” this role will likely investigate to determine what is necessary to make the loan conform.
    • The loan will then move to a loan committee, comprised of S-III and S-IV roles. There will likely be specialists at S-III to vet the required elements of the loan. The S-IV roles will look at criteria to determine if the loan integrates into the bank’s portfolio. There may also be an S-IV role to ensure the loan will meet regulatory audit.
    • The institution will also likely field an S-V role, a business unit president, to make sure the enterprise is supported by all the functions necessary to drive the core function.

    Let’s look quickly at one of the supporting functions, physical operations.

    • Teller functions and customer service functions are now automated to the point where this role is mid S-I.
    • Each teller or customer service person has a supervisor or manager who ensures that services are delivered accurately and that cash and instruments foot (and cross-foot) at the end of each shift. The supervisor schedules the number of tellers and customer service personnel on shift depending on historical and forecast activity.
    • Each branch likely has a branch manager at low S-III to manage the overall physical operation. In a small branch, this role might by high S-II, and in a very large branch, this role might be high S-III or S-IV.

    Define the level of work for all the other support functions.

  4. Define the specific roles required in each level of work. The definition of level of work in the previous step goes hand in hand with this step.
  5. Establish the necessary managerial relationships in each function
  6. Establish the necessary cross-functional relationships between each function
  7. Assign and evaluate personnel filling each role.

These are the big steps. If you have questions, please let me know.

How to be Seen as the Leader

Martin made it. A new promotion. VP. He looked calm, collected.

“So, what’s up?” I asked. “Are you as calm as you look?”

Martin looked back and chuckled. “How did you know?”

“So, what’s up?” I repeated.

“I am now the manager of people who, just yesterday, were my peers. Overnight, things are different. I am not sure how my old team will respond to me.”

“How do you want them to respond?”

“I want to be seen as their leader,” Martin thought out loud. “I mean, I am afraid that I will provide direction and no one will follow. Then what?”

“You mean, you might tell them what to do, but the team might have other ideas?” I proposed.

“Exactly.”

“Think about it. Don’t they already know what to do?” I pressed.

“Well, yes, most of the time. But sometimes, they run into a difficult problem or a tough decision,” Martin stopped.

“And, they need your help?” I finished.

“Yes.”

“They need your help, so you tell them what to do?” I pressed again.

“Yes, but it’s the same circle. What if I tell them what to do and they don’t follow.”

“Martin, your role, as a manager, is to bring value to the decision making and problem solving of your team. The most effective managers are not those who tell people what to do, but those who ask the most effective questions.”

Is it a Full Time Managerial Relationship or Part Time Cross Functional?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from last Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. So far, we’ve looked at three questions.

Today, the last question.

  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

If the work is only part time or the work is in defined projects that start and stop, then the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role is a classic cross-functional (service getting) relationship.

If the work assigned by the Product Manager to the Marketing Services role is full time, then it might be more appropriate for the relationship to be a managerial relationship. The Marketing Manager would then likely be in a cross-functional (advisor) relationship to the Product Manager.

So, the question posed last Tuesday sounded simple, but there are a number of questions to consider when designing the managerial and cross-functional relationships in your company.

Which Manager is Accountable for the Output?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. So far, we’ve looked at two questions.

Today, the next question.

  • Which manager is accountable for the output (quantity, quality, within timeframe, using allocated resources) of the Marketing Services role?

Make no mistake, in the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role, the Product Manager will, appropriately, be making task assignments to the Marketing Services role. But the question is, which manager is accountable for the output?
When the Product Manager appropriately makes task assignments to the Marketing Services role, we have to examine the four pieces of the task assignment – QQTR

  • What is the quantity of the output?
  • What is the quality standard of the output?
  • What is the time span (deadline, evaluation period) of the output?
  • What are the allocated resources related to the output?

The specific answers to these questions will help us determine whether the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing Services role will be a managerial relationship or a cross-functional relationship.

Here is the critical question? If there is underperformance on the part of the Marketing Services role, does the Product Manager correct and coach, or does the Product Manager ask the Marketing Manager for a different Marketing Services person?

If the Product Manager is expected to coach, then the relationship is more like a managerial relationship. If the Product Manager asks the Marketing Manager to send someone different, then the relationship is more like a cross-functional (service getting) relationship.

Monday, we will look at the last question.

  • Is the work assigned to the Marketing Services role by the Product Manager full time or part time, and is the duration of that work forever, or in defined projects that start and stop?

Can the Manager Bring Value?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Thumbnail from Tuesday’s post Which Manager is Accountable?

There are three roles in play.

  • Product Manager
  • Marketing Manager

and

  • Marketing Services

The question is, which, of the two managers listed, should be the manager of the Marketing Services role? There are four questions that must be answered before making this decision. Yesterday, we looked at the first question.

Today, the next question.

  • Which manager is in the best position to bring value to the decisions made and problems solved by the Marketing Services role?

The Marketing Services role can likely handle routine problems and decisions, it’s the tough decisions that have to be made and the tough problems that have to be solved, where the right manager makes a difference. To make that decision, we have to anticipate those decisions and problems and determine which manager will bring the most value. The answer to that question is not the only factor in our selection, but it will help us understand whether the relationship between the Product Manager and the Marketing services role will be

Tomorrow, we will look at the third question in this decision. Which manager is accountable for the output (quantity, quality, within timeframe, using allocated resources) of the Marketing Services role?