How Do I Get My Hands Off?

A coaching client asked me early in the new year to focus on getting her hands off the business. She’d heard all the cliches of course (haven’t we  all!) , but hadn’t accepted she was too hands-on until getting some pretty strong feedback from a manager who was on the verge of throwing in the towel before Christmas.

Our initial exploration of the problem confirmed it was indeed a problem- in fact, she was probably well and truly hands-in, not just hands-on. We explored why it was a problem, why she ought to become hands-off. Yes, you’ve heard it all before- it demotivates and undermines managers, stifles their innovative potential, and worst of all, prevents you as the leader from working on the direction and goals rather than looking after detail. Pennies dropped- recognition was complete, but what to do about it?

We went for a three-stage solution:

1. Log how time is actually spent. A record was kept, for two non-successive weeks, as a snapshot of how time is spent. Not too much detail, but enough to be revealing!

2. Reflect on how wisely that time was used, and choose what should NOT be done personally in future. In this case, there was almost 50% of the total time logged up for grabs- on the high side, but not completely off the scale in my experience.

3. Implement change. This was a combination of several actions, which included starting work later in the mornings, working away from the office at least a day a week, delegating  more effectively and requiring structured feedback (reporting) from all (3) managers.

So, early days so far, but initial results are good. All managers now say (privately as well as directly to the client) they feel more trusted- and in two cases, far more challenged; the client herself still feels in control, mainly because she’s getting prepared management reports and sees how the business is developing regularly, and she has more time to herself. Strangely, that’s the part we’re working on now- there’s a lingering “guilt” to be dealt with.


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