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Episode 12: If you struggle with delegation this episode is for you!

Ned Parks the owner of Aegis 360® Consulting shares his leadership experiences with Dr. Sarah Andreas.

In this podcast you will learn:

The importance of pausing and talking to another person before making an important decision.

Leaders struggle with delegation and it is a skill you need to get really good at.

H.A.B.U. (What is the highest and best use of my time?)

Are You the Bottleneck in Your Organization?

Find Ned:


Sarah: Hey there welcome to the leadership snapshot podcast I'm your host Dr. Sarah Andreas. My guests are everyday leaders, and in each episode we discuss leadership experiences lessons and we look behind the scenes to inspire your leadership growth, so that you can make an impact. Stick around we have a lot of people to talk to. Hey everyone welcome back today my guest is Ned Parks and Ned is the owner of Aegis 360 consulting. I have taken several classes with Ned, so I know exactly what you are in for today, and it is a treat so welcome Ned.

Ned: Hey thanks for having me I appreciate it.

Sarah: No problem so tell everybody a little bit more about what you do and how you do it.

Ned: Aegis 360 consulting, we really connect leadership, culture, and strategy together. We do a project for a client, we look at, "What's the culture? What culture do you want? Where are you, what would you like to be? How does that fit in with your leadership training, with your leadership values, your statements the things that you're actually doing, your day-to-day practices? Then, how does that support this business strategy, so you saw into this market or that market. They're all intertwined, and what a lot of people do, Sarah, is look at one of these independent of the other two. That usually still has some positive impacts, but we like to make sure that things are connected all the way through. Been in business 19 years and love it.

Sarah: Awesome. Did you start out in this business, or how did you start?

Ned: Oh my Gosh. A crooked road, but it wasn't filled with the criminal justice system. A different crooked. I actually started off my professional working career as an adult as a policeman, and then I went into the army as a helicopter pilot. That's really where I got in invested into training, because after my first duty assignment, they sent me back to the aviation school and made me a flight instructor and a classroom instructor. I fell in love with the front of the room, and working with groups and facilitation, and teaching. Course flight instruction is one-on-one coaching, because you're one-on-one with your students. Came out of the military and went to work and owned several of my own aviation businesses for manufacturing company and then in 2000 I opened this consulting practice and never looked back.

Sarah: That's awesome. The question that I ask all my guests is, what was your hardest or biggest leadership lesson that you personally had to learn?

Ned: Well, I'll tell you exactly what it was. I had my aviation business. We provided aircraft services to large corporations and private owners. They would fly into an airport, we were a private terminal. We'd sell them fuel. I had a guy working for me that was really pivotal and really integral to the success of the organization. He fell into that A-list category employee. He came to me one day and he said, "Hey." He said, "The guy across the inside of airfield, our competitor, has offered me $1 an hour more. Sarah, I panicked and I said, "I'll not only match it but I'll beat it." This was a conversation that all took place, Sarah, in maybe 45 seconds. I fired him 30 days later.

Sarah: What?

Ned: Yes. What I learned quickly was, the minute you do that, the second you do that on a one-on-one basis, the tail now wags the dog. I had given up all leadership of the organization to $1 an hour, is what I had done. I had miscalculated a couple of things. The first thing is that, it wasn't, a dollar an hour wasn't important based upon what I paid him. At the time, gee, this was 25 almost 30 years ago. It probably was well over 20% of his salary, so it wasn't like it was an insignificant number. It made up a pretty good chunk to him.

What happened to him is, he then figured, "Well okay I'm that important, and if I'm that important I can do whatever I want." I don't think it was his intent by any stretch imagination, but his performance completely crashed. It's interesting, because he and I are friends today. We've actually had an opportunity to talk about it, and he said, he's never said that he lost respect for me, which I thought was interesting, because I probably would have lost respect for me and I've been in his shoes. He's never said that, but he just said he just felt he was important, but he could just do whatever he wanted, and he did. His performance got so bad that I had other employees coming up saying, "He's got to go." He was no longer the leader that he was. He lost his leadership, and he had been a significant leader in the organization.

The leadership lesson is, when you feel panic, don't make any decision, unless your hair is on fire. I'm not talking about the panic of the building is literally on fire or you're about to crash. I'm not talking about those things. I'm talking about management decisions. There probably isn't anything out there that we can't give it 12 hours, at a minimum, and talk to one person to make a decision. As a result now I've run a lot of groups and there's a an exercise that I run with people. I ask them to timeline their life from the time they're 16 until current. I have people all over the room and they're on the floor drawing out these long timelines. I have them do it with pencils and crayons and markers. It's very artistic in nature, and some are on the wall would put your paper and I've got music going.

They timeline it, and then each marker on the timeline is mistakes that they've made. Now, I will tell you clients generally say, "It's like having a personal trainer." You hire them so to make your body better and then you hate them during the process. I've had clients literally drop the f-bomb on me and tell me how much they hate me for this exercise. It's like, "I've got to write down all my screw ups." "Yes. Every last one of them." Find these out. That's really not the lesson. The lesson then is, they go back and they put a mark or circle, all the ones, the decisions that they made in a vacuum. "How many did you make without conferring with anyone, and or only those who agree with you?" I will tell you I've probably done this 30 times with hundreds of people by now, and I will tell you that it's around 90% of your screw-ups or things that you determine was a mistake in your life.

I don't tell them what the mistake is. They are the ones who write it down. Some are big some are small. "The college I decided to go to, or the person I decided to marry or the house I decided to buy." Whatever. They find that about 90% were done in a vacuum. That's the decision I made. I made this decision in a vacuum. I didn't stop and go, "Gee, I need to talk to somebody, a coach, a mentor, a friend, a spouse, the guy at the bar down the street. I don't care. I got this tossed in my face today, what do I do with it? I really want to keep this guy. I want to make sure he continues to work here. I don't want to lose him with a competition. There's a consequence for either decision but I didn't do that. I made the decision in a vacuum and it bit me right in the butt. The biggest leadership lesson is, have good counsel. It doesn't have to be paid counsel, it doesn't have to be expert council. For some things it does.

Sarah: Yes, absolutely.

Ned: I want paid legal counsel, I want paid accounting council. I want paid counsel for other IT and other technical areas. There needs to be that person, and whether they're paid or not, I really don't care. There needs to be that person you just pick up the phone and say, "All right I got this tossed in my lap today and I'm really not sure what to do." I would tell people, and I tell the story to everybody that'll listen. Make sure it's somebody who will challenge you and look at you and go, "Are you out of your mind?" Now, here is the thing. You may go forward with your original decision. I might have gone forward and given him the raise. I might have made that decision. Maybe my counsel would have agreed with me, and we both would have been wrong. But at least I had the benefit of thinking it through with someone else.

Sarah: There's a an African proverb that I quote all the time and it's, "If you want to go fast go alone but if you want to go far go together." That's exactly what you're telling people is, "Hey you need other people's advice." That leads me into my next question, which may be the same answer, but what advice would you give to someone who is an emerging leader an aspiring leader? They want to someday be the CEO but they're just starting out and they're not sure what they should even be working on.

Ned: I will tell you that, across the board, without fail, and I don't care what your personality style is, although there's one that struggles with it more than others, but it doesn't matter. The one single item I have found that leaders struggle with

the most is delegation. Are none. Absolutely bar none. There's not one other that I'd put above it. Now, there's others that are a comfortable second, but not a close second. They're comfortable. They're there.

I would say that the old-fashioned time management thing is way out there. It's certainly in the top three, but it is not about delegation. It is the one thing that people struggle with the most. I will tell you, you need to get really good at it really fast. There is a great article in the archives at the Harvard Business Review that is probably one of the best I've ever read out there. I believe the title of the articles is You May Be The Bottleneck Of The Organization. Of course, when they do articles, they're 40 pages long. They're an in-depth read, and they always have a real-life case study that they frame everything around.

The case study they used is a company. It really topped out. They were very successful. People liked working there for the most part. All those sorts of things were in play, but their sales had just completely flat-lined. The strategy was right. They knew there was a lot more market out there, but they weren't getting it. As they really began to look at their operations, they found that the two owners had to approve every single solitary proposal, no matter how much it was worth, along with some other things. What they went back and said was, "This organization will not grow because you have knocked it down, and made it so tight to move, that you can't grow. You can't accept any more money due to your own self-imposed limitations of capacity."

Once they started to push decision making downhill, and rapidly, their growth over the next two years was like a hockey stick. It just exploded. What they also found out that was causing them to be unresponsive to their customers. Here's the thing, Sarah, these two guys and many clients I've had do it. Unfortunately, this is a danger of it. They do many of it, much of it for the right reason, but the wrong outcome. They go, "I want to make sure the quality is there." That's the right reason. It's hard to argue with. "I want to make sure our values were intact. I want to make sure that we're profitable on every deal." I get it. I understand what they're trying to accomplish but they have to understand that there is a capacity limitation to what their organization can do.

It's interesting. I worked with a hospital of about 5,000 people, and I've worked for them for years and years now. I always refer to the CEO, and everybody knows him in the hospital. I go, "If he made all of your decisions, how much would get done in this organization?" The room fall silent and they all say, "Not much." I go, "That's right. Not much." Not only is he not qualified to make the decisions for the radiology tech and the surgeons and this person and that person, the bandwidth is physically not there. The only downside to that example is it's easy to understand when you're at the top of the 5,000 foot heap of people.

The problem I find is, entrepreneurs and smaller business that are at the top of the 15, 20 or 30 person heap, and many of them have grown out of the organization. They were a great engineering and they got an engineering company. They were a great machinist and they have a machine shop. They were whatever it was they were. The danger to them is they literally, technically, hand-perform the functions, because they built every one. Since they can, they do. In the case of my CEO friend at the hospital, he can't so he doesn't.

It's a huge argument in the world of leadership. "Do you have to know the function in order to lead the function?" I argue, "No." In fact, I will tell you, some of the best leaders of functions are people who cannot do the function and, boy, you want to spark off a debate, just lay that one on the bar tab on a Friday night and you'll have 30 people wanting to strangle you. "You cannot manage me as a mechanic in the car shop if you're not a mechanic yourself." I will raise the massive red BS flag on that. In fact, I think I can do better because I know I can't do your job, and so I don't pretend like I'm going to do your job because I can't. If you tell me, "This is a part from inside a transmission, all I can do is go, "Okay."" I got to believe you. I don't have any choice.

That is the one thing I will tell you. If you want to grow up in the leadership and management world, if you're not hiring competent people and handing them jobs to do, then you will not grow and more detrimental to you, you're only one career that's going to go in the toilet. The problem is, the moment I step into a role where I'm leading others, before that, as an individual contributor, I have stewardship of company money, of my salary times one. I have to make sure I return back to the company my $50,000 plus a little bit more in value that I bring back to them. The minute you come to work for me, I now have mine plus yours. I'm now responsible. Let's say I have somebody who works for me for 25,000. I'm now responsible for $75,000 of payroll that it produces, what the company is giving it, and them some because there has to be a profit of productivity.

I have 10 people working for me, now I'm in charge of, I don't know, $500,000 worth of payroll. I can't do it all. If I could, why in the hell did the company hire me people to work for me? That, to me, is the biggest single item of, "If you want to grow up, learn how to delegate." For some people, it's really difficult. Really difficult.

Sarah: Yes. Ego gets involved. You always think, "Hey, I can do it better."

Ned: I love to run a delegation class. Here's how I run it. I have them brainstorm all the reasons they don't delegate. We put them in flip charts all over the room. It's so much fun, because they have all these really lame, and I tell them. I go, "Okay. These are all." They worked really hard. These are really good reasons why. "Because they can't do this better." They're serious about it. I go, "These are some of the best lame excuses I've ever seen in my life." People are just like, "What the hell are you talking about? They're not lame excuses." I like to point out the obvious.

I love the one where, "They can't do it as well as I do it." I say, "The danger to that reason is it's accurate. This person who's never done that task, they probably can't do it as well as you do it." Then I point this out, "However, when you first got the task, you didn't do it as well as you do it now. Number one, the person that gave it to you probably could do it better than you could do it when they first gave it to you, but the number one priority of the leader is the development of other people. And so if I don't give you that task and let you learn and grow, how are you ever going to be developed? A, you're not, and B, I can't do everything."

I've got to get away from things. The one big takeaway for all of your listeners, if they'll please take a nice Post-It note and write in capital letters, habu, H-A-B-U, and put it on their monitor. I want it in from of them so it reminds them every single day and here's what it is, "What is the highest and best use of my time?" H-A-B-U, the highest and best use of my time. The highest and best use of my time may very well not be ordering of the supplies even though I seem to get stuck doing it. It's a job for someone else.

I'm going to hand it to someone else and say, "You're now in charge of the office supplies. Period. Here's some ramifications." Not some ramifications, but "Here's some guidelines. You're now in charge. I don't even want to think about it any longer." I like to ask people, "Really think it through. What were you hired to do? You're the steward of your paycheck, and I hired you to be the manager of the department and yet on a time study, I find out you're going to spend 40 hours at the coffee machine this year, but you have an administrative assistant that works for half your salary. That is not the highest and best use of your time." People fool themselves into, "Well, I don't want to ask them to do menial tasks." Or, "I don't want to ask anybody to do anything I wouldn't do." These are admirable things. That's what makes them so dangerous, is they are admirable. They're just really misguided. They are really misguided.

Sarah: Ned, thank you so much. I loved talking to you today.

Ned: Man. It was fun. I appreciate it. I'm honored to be on and I appreciate it and good luck with all of your podcasts and all of your work.

Sarah: Thank you.

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