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MENTOR - CAREER CLINIC

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Question...
Question

I'm taking a couple of weeks off and leaving everything in the hands of my capable deputy. The trouble is that she's a bit too capable and makes decisions about things which should wait until I'm back. I like the fact she's a self starter but I don't want her to start restructuring the office in my absence. How can I curb her enthusiasm while ensuring she still feels valued?

Answer

Have you ever heard the phrase: 'The meaning of your communication is the response you get?' Essentially it implies that when there is some misunderstanding, the first place to look at is ourselves.

The chances are that you have been too vague - and maybe too cheerfully encouraging. If your deputy is going gung-ho, it will be because she believes she has your assent.

There are three possible levels where delegation is concerned. Level one is: act first, then tell me later - the right kind of delegating when there is a high level of trust between you. Level two is: come with a recommendation, then we'll discuss it. This is the appropriate level where a team member still has lots of learning to do. Level three is: not on any account.

What has been happening is that your deputy has been enthusiastically applying level one indiscriminately.

Arrange a meeting with her at least a week before you go away. Explain the three levels to her. Discuss what criteria there should be around each level, using real examples, and offer her straightforward feedback on how and where she has got it both right and wrong in the past. Apologise for your own part in the confusion. Have a frank discussion of what it is possible to anticipate in the way of likely decisions during your holiday and apply the framework and criteria to all of them. Tell her your holiday will be an excellent development experience for her and that you will both review it on your return. Agree some kind of back-up with a senior colleague just in case.

For the future: this sounds like someone ready for promotion. What might you do to further her career - secondments, projects, increased responsibilities?

Jenny Rogers

Management coach and director, Management Futures

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