Category Project Leadership & Management

The #1 Secret & 4 tips You Need To Know To Delegate

You know you need to delegate. But do you know HOW to delegate? If you’re not getting the desired results, chances are this lies with you.

Most agree that delegation is critical to management success. If that’s true, why are we usually left unhappy with the results we get after we delegate?

“WHY! WHY! Oh why, do I not get what I asked for?” Sound familiar?

But before you go blaming those you delegate to, remember this:

Failed delegation is rarely the fault of the person to whom you delegated. Usually, it is the fault of the person delegating.

“Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half.

As for the common root of failed delegation? Well, 99% of the time, the leader’s instructions do not provide clarity for the person doing the work.

But you can change things and begin to get the expected results. And I’m about to tell you how.

How to Delegate: The #1 Secret

Okay, here it is, the number one secret about how to delegate:


Without clarity, you’re leaving delegation up to guesswork. You’re expecting your team to read your mind. And when has that ever worked out? As lovely as it would be for our team members to know what we want before we even know what we want, this isn’t realistic. Or fair. With some effort in creating clarity surrounding expectations, delegation, in general, will become much more effective.

You will benefit from getting the results you want, and your team will benefit from knowing what their next move should be.

Here are four things to be clear on about how to delegate

You must be 100% clear on:

Clarity of objective: What exactly is it that needs to be done? Is an assignment as straightforward as it can be?

          • If a report is required, what exactly is to be completed? An email? A 1-page summary? A 10-page brief? Or, a 40-page report?
          • When is it to be completed?
          • What are the resources that are going to be available?

Clarity of responsibility: Whose assignment is it? Who does what to whom?

Clarity of time: The request was for a “quick competitive analysis.” Well, how quick is it? A day? A week? Two weeks?

Clarity of communication: Who reports to whom? When are status reports and updates due? When do you, as the assigned, want to know about risks and problems?

Clarity is a tricky subject. It’s a challenge for many leaders. But it’s worth the work of creating it. For more on how to do that, try this post next: Be The CRO – 2 Ways to Communicate with Clarity.

So, what is the solution?

As for how to achieve this clarity? Personal charters!

There’s no guarantee you’ll end up precisely with what you want. But you can improve the odds by creating a charter between you and the person to whom you are delegating a task.

These ‘charters’ can be verbal, in an email or in a formal written document. The point is to clarify expectations, milestones, terms & timings, schedule accountability and establish reporting expectations.

Okay, now we’ve given you the secret for delegating and four things you need to be absolutely clear on. Now, it’s time to go out and make it happen. Communicate expectations, clearly define those expectations, and don’t assume the person you’re delegating to can read your mind.

Need some help with that? Let’s talk. Click here to start a conversation and get the results you want.

Did you learn a lot from this post? Try one of these articles next:

3 Reasons Your Team Misses Their Deadlines & What to Do About It

The author, Douglas Adams once said … “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

According to a 2018 PMI (Project Management Institute) report, roughly 48% of projects don’t finish on schedule.  

Imagine, nearly half of all project deadlines are missed, resulting in increased costs, unhappy customers and ruins reputations and careers.  

What to do?

Here are three reasons deadlines are missed and what you can do to keep things or track:

1. Optimistic Planning Creates Unachievable Timelines

It is very human to be overly optimistic about how long it will take to complete a task.

This is called “planning fallacy.” (A theory developed in 1977 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky)

Imagine your last project took 16 months to complete. It’s natural to assume you can do it in less time, because now you have more knowledge and experience.

But that optimism can quickly lead to missed deadlines.

Other causes of optimistic timelines are:

      • Assuming the project will go as planned, with no issues.
      • Not understanding how long it’s taken to complete similar projects.
      • Failure to realize constraints on resource.

How to Create Realistic Timelines

The key to a more realistic schedule is to rely on analysis and data.

If you’ve completed similar projects in the past, use that data as the basis for realistic estimates. The more data you have, the more confident you can be in your estimates.

If you don’t have enough past project data to guide you, then you can use the following methods:

Method 1: Use a multi-point estimation technique

Take multiple estimates and combine them to arrive at a more realistic timeline. For example, average:

      1. The most optimistic amount of time you think it will take.
      2. The most pessimistic amount of time you think it will take.
      3. The amount of time you believe it’s most likely to take.

Method 2: Engage your team to create ‘bottom-up’ estimates

A bottom-up approach to estimating requires that you build your timeline by having team members estimating each individual task and then combining them to arrive at an overall project estimate.

This ensures tasks they may understand but you may not be aware of are not over-looked.

And, you increase employee buy-in and confidence in the schedule.

Method 3: Build in Contingencies

By building contingencies into your schedule, you can help account for known and unknown risks, which will result in a more achievable timeline. It’s typically a flat 5–10% of the project cost and/or timeline added to the schedule baseline in case something unforeseen occurs.

2. Unclear Expectations Result in Missed Deadlines

If your team is unclear on when a deadline is, how can they meet it?

Communication problems can lead to you thinking your team understood their deadline when they didn’t.

Imagine the following conversation:

You: “Can you get this back to me by Thursday, at the latest?

Team member: “Well, I don’t know. There are may be defects, if I have to correct errors, then I doubt I’ll be able to complete this before Monday.

You: “Look, unless they’re critical, just leave the bugs and focus on this. I really need it no later than Friday.

Team member: “Alright, I’ll try my best.

Based on this conversation, the boss expects the task to be completed Thursday unless there are critical defects.

The team member believes they have till Friday, unless there are critical bugs, then Monday is the drop-dead deadline.

How to Communicate Expectations Clearly

Here are three ways you can ensure your team understands their deadlines.

Method 1: Use your project management systems

If you assign work informally or inconsistently, it can be easily misunderstood, forgotten, or considered unimportant.

When you hand out assignments verbally, people can easily forget about what was discussed or misconstrue your words. For instance, if you say, “I’d like to see this by the end of the week,” a team member may see that as a request and not a hard deadline.

When their name is assigned to a task in project the end date in the system allows for no question as to when their deadline is.

Method 2: Implement feedback loops

A feedback loop, or communication loop, is a simple process for ensuring what you’ve communicated has been heard and understood.

You ask them to repeat back to you what their deadlines are. In our hypothetical conversation, imagine if the team member was asked what the agreed-upon deadline was and replied: “Friday, unless there are critical defects, then Monday.”

You would have the opportunity to clarify expectations before missed deadlines.

Method 3: Conduct check-ins

The last thing you want is to discover after the deadline was missed that there was a misunderstanding as to when it was.

By incorporating periodic check-ins into your schedule, you’re achieving three things:

    1. Creating opportunities to remind employees of a deadline.
    2. Re-communicating the importance of that deadline.
    3. Creating opportunities for team members to give you feedback to so you better understand what is going on and identify potential problems and warning signs, without having to micromanage your team.

3. Poor Time Management

If you asked people how many hours a day they spend doing productive, project-related work, what answer would they give? Assuming an 8-hour work day, they may guess 7–8 hours.

But, research shows that this is a huge overestimate.

There are coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, smoke breaks and visiting.

In an average 8-hour work day, most people only accomplish 5 hours of productive work. Much of which is multi-tasking and constant interruptions.

In reality, your team is achieving less than 50% of their time doing uninterrupted productive work each week.

If you are assuming a 35–40-hour work week, but only achieving 12.5–25 hours of work, there is no wonder there are missed deadlines!

How to Improve Employee Time Management

Here are three ways you can help your team better manage their time and become more productive:

Method 1: Reduce time wasters

Have your employees record what and how they spent their time.

By tracking their own time for a few days, your team can discover time wasters and discover bottlenecks in the process, such as the time they’re forced to sit idle while waiting for reviews or approvals.

Or time spent in unproductive or unnecessary meetings. Consider giving your employees permission to attend only the meetings they are directly impacted by and allow them to excuse themselves from the unnecessary ones.  

Method 2: Eliminate distractions and interruptions

While being connected and accessible can boost collaboration and communication among the team, it can also detract from productivity.

Every time we’re interrupted, it destroys our focus, time that could otherwise be used to meet project deadlines.   

Here are three ways you can help your team eliminate distractions and interruptions:

    1. Encourage blocking time for specific tasks.
    2. Recommend employees only check email and messages at designated times.
    3. Provide a quiet, isolated space such as an empty office for employees working on anything complex or high-priority.  

Method 3: Avoid overloading your team

You may find that your team is still over-allocated, after all you can’t completely remove emails, meetings, and other interruptions.

Even if you can help your employees achieve 30 hours of productive work a week, you’re still overloading them by assuming a 35-40-hour work week in your schedule.

When people cannot get everything done in the time allotted to them deadlines will slip.

If your team members have too much on their plates, you will need to either increase the size of the team or push out the timelines.

If some of their workload is for another project or manager, ensure everyone is aligned on what is prioritized, and work together to agree to an attainable schedule.


Missed deadlines are all too common across all industries and businesses.

If your team is one of the nearly half of project teams with missed deadlines, it’s due to one of three problems: overly optimistic estimates, unclear deadline expectations, or poor time management.

Fortunately, all three of these are avoidable.

By following the advice above, you can ensure that your team doesn’t miss another deadline from here on out.

Manage Competing Priorities!

Do you have a million things to do that each seem as important as the next?  

These are called competing priorities, and they can get in the way of your success if they aren’t managed appropriately.

In a survey of my blog readers, competing priorities were identified as a leading cause of distraction.

There are cartloads of theories that explain how to develop, communicate, and make decisions based on priorities. 


I have a very simple piece of advice for you.

If what you’re working on isn’t moving you towards your goals and objectives, why are you working on it at all?

Read more about goals and getting things done

Here’s another way of looking at it. Ask yourself this question every time something new comes up: “How does this project or opportunity get me closer to my goals?”

We’re often not making choices that bring us closer to achieving our goals. 

That’s why I’ve put together these three helpful tricks that can help you manage competing priorities and determine what you should focus your attention on.

1. Check in with your boss.

If you aren’t sure what your priorities are, you had better hustle down the hall and talk to your boss or your board. 

One of their first responsibilities is to help you understand what’s most important.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your boss for help managing competing priorities. Chances are, they’ve been in the same boat and will have some great insight. 

Click here to read more about talking to your boss

2. Check in with others.

If your tasks involve other people, talk to them. 

Find out when they need your help or if they can lend a hand. In some cases, they may not need your deliverable right away. Other times, they might not be as busy as you are and they could help you out.

Utilize your coworkers and other people involved, and you never know how it could help you manage all of the tasks on your plate.

3. Manage expectations.

Once you’ve determined what you should tackle first, put it in writing and share it with everyone involved. 

This sets expectations for when you’ll get your work done. When expectations are sufficiently managed and communicated, you’ll be able to get a handle on the most critical  tasks you need to complete.

When it comes to managing competing priorities, we know that reaching out to our bosses and coworkers is a significant first step. Next, it’s up to you to manage expectations by putting these priorities in writing. 

Before you know it, you’ll be a pro at managing competing priorities and handling whatever life throws at you. 

If you’re interested in going deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

Six Tips to Partner With Your Boss
3 Priorities To Plan For Your Business’ Survival
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on May 31, 2018, and has been updated.

5 Leadership Actions That Will Drive A 7% Increase in Profit – And Who Doesn’t Want More Profit

Poor managerial behaviours negatively impact engagement, alignment, productivity, and retention.

Research has identified some important gaps between what people expect and what they experience when having work conversations with their immediate manager.

Poor managers cost your company money when:

  1. They don’t set clear goals with their people.
  2. They don’t align goals to the team, departmental, and organizational objectives.
  3. They don’t check in on progress.
  4. They don’t provide feedback.
  5. They don’t adjust their style based on the needs of the employee.
  6. They don’t listen.
  7. They don’t change (without training and support).


  1. They don’t set clear goals with their people.

About 70 percent of people want to have goal-setting conversations often or all the time, but only 36 percent do. When managers aren’t skilled in setting goals that are specific, trackable, relevant, attainable, and motivating, the result is multiple priorities, unclear action steps, and poor line of sight on how work contributes to larger objectives.

“All good performance begins with a laser-like focus on goals,” so Identify 3 to 5 key goals for each employee and make sure they are written down. Goals that are written down are 18 percent more likely to be achieved. Writing down the goal also makes it easier to review.

  1. They don’t align goals to the team, departmental, and organizational objectives.

Only 14 percent of organizations report that their employees have a good understanding of their company’s strategy and direction.

When people don’t know where their company is going, they can end up working on projects that are out of step with organizational objectives.

Make sure all team members are working on the highest-priority tasks. Ask managers to check in and review priorities with their people. Make sure the work is meaningful, on target, and contributing to overall organizational goals.

  1. They don’t check in on progress.

More than 73 percent of people want to have goal-review conversations often or all the time, but only 47 percent do. And 26 percent say they rarely or never discuss current goals and tasks.

What gets measured, gets managed.

Research conducted at Dominican University in California found that people who write down their goals, share them with someone else, and have regular weekly check-ins are 30 percent more likely to achieve those goals than people who do not.

  1. They don’t provide feedback.

Research shows that 67 percent of people want to have performance-feedback conversations often or all the time, but only 29 percent do. And 36 percent say they rarely or never receive performance feedback.

Without feedback, people don’t have a way to make course corrections or to know how they are doing until it’s late in the process. No one feels good when work has to be redone because of a lack of feedback along the way.

A few key attributes of good feedback are:

– Focus on observable behaviours, not personality traits. Feedback should be clear and directive and should focus on concrete actions.

– Keep a positive end goal in mind. Paint a positive picture of the desired outcome that gives people a vision to work toward.

– Offer to be an accountability partner. Change is hard. Offer to provide appropriate direction and support as needed.

  1. They don’t adjust their style based on the needs of the employee.

Nearly 54 percent of managers use the same style of leadership for all people in all situations regardless of whether a direct report is new to a task or already an expert. Half the time, this results in a manager either over supervising or under supervising.

The best managers tailor their management style to the needs of their employees. For example, if an employee is new to a task, a successful manager will use a highly directive style with clearly set goals and deadlines. If an employee is struggling with a task, the manager will use equal measures of direction and support. If the employee is an expert at a task, a manager will use a delegating style on the current assignment and focus instead on coming up with new challenges and future growth projects.

  1. They don’t listen.

When I ask clients and audience members the question “What is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others?” 41 percent of the respondents identified inappropriate communication or poor listening.

Here’s a three-step model designed to help managers slow down and focus on what people are sharing.

– Explore—ask open-ended questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How do you think that will go?” or “What does that mean?”

– Acknowledge—respond with comments such as, “You must be feeling …” or “So, if I hear you correctly, what you’re saying is ….”

– Respond—now that you have a good understanding of the direct report’s point of view, you can carefully move forward with a possible response.

  1. They don’t change (without training and support).

A majority of new managers—60 percent—underperform or fail in their first assignments. Worse yet, as Harvard researcher Linda Hill has found, managerial habits developed by new managers often continue to hobble them for the rest of their careers.

With two million people stepping into their first managerial position each year, it’s critical to get people the training they need.

Unfortunately, research shows that most managers don’t receive formal training until they are ten years into their career!

I would suggest you rethink the traditional approach to who gets trained in the organization.

My suggestions?

  1. Don’t hold your best people back—in fact, don’t hold anyone back. Why not train everybody who desires it?
  2. Show everyone you value them and are willing to invest in their development.
  3. Adopt inclusive policies that identify and provide people with the training they need to build leadership bench strength, bring out the best in people, and create a strong work culture.

Better leadership practices have been positively associated with increased levels of engagement, alignment, productivity, and performance.

Research has identified that better leadership practices—if fully employed—could be worth as much as a 7 percent increase in profits!

For leadership development professionals, these seven areas provide an opportunity to take a more targeted approach to improve manager performance in each area.

Here are five ways to get started.

  1. Take a look at the overall design of your performance management process.

Conduct a quick internal assessment. Are managers following best practices in setting goals that are specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable? What percentage of employees have current goals written down?

Individuals and organizations achieve more when goals are identified, written down, and reviewed on a consistent basis.

Read more about performance mangement

  1. Double-check on goal alignment at the team and department level.

Make sure that all team members are working on highest-priority tasks. Ask managers to check in and review priorities with their people.

Make sure the work is meaningful, on target, and contributing to overall organizational goals. Efficiency improves when everyone is clear on goals and moving in the same direction.

Read more about goal alignment

  1. Take a second look at the amount of time your managers are spending with their people.

Everyone benefits from regular coaching and performance review.

Monitoring progress and providing feedback are two key ways for a manager to stay involved and partner with an employee to achieve goals. I suggest leaders meet with their direct reports at least twice a month to discuss progress toward goals and to address employee needs for direction and support.

Read more about time management

  1. Identify what individuals need to succeed in their high-priority tasks.

Managers need to adjust their leadership style to meet the needs of each person, depending on that person’s experience and confidence with the tasks they are assigned.

With proper levels of direction and support, people can move through stages of development and reach peak performance faster.

Surprisingly, without training only 1 percent of managers are skilled at identifying and being able to deliver all four styles when needed, whether directing, coaching, supporting, or delegating.

  1. Review your performance review process.

In many organizations, goals are set at the beginning of the year and not seen again until the review process at the end of the year.

I recommend that managers conduct a series of mini-reviews throughout the year—every 90 days is the recommended standard. This allows leaders to make midcourse corrections. It also eliminates surprises for direct reports and keeps the partnership between manager and direct report strong and vibrant.

 Read more about goals

Final Thoughts

A renewed focus on leadership development can have significant results on the performance of an organization. Research shows that when managers meet the needs of their people, organizations benefit through higher levels of discretionary effort, work performance, and intention to remain and collaborate more effectively.

How are the managers in your organization impacting your bottom line?

Give your leadership development process a review.

Great managers aren’t born—they’re trained.

Get started today by emailing me at or call me at + 1 403 701 3752

10 Project Management Lessons From Combat That You Can Apply To Your Project Team

When I speak to various groups, I use my military and emergency management experience to teach leadership and project management lessons.

Recently I was asked if there was a difference between leading projects in a military and a civilian setting.

Yes, there are times in the military when project management is intense, and timings are compressed, but at its core, the principals are the same.

When I entered the military, I had no idea that that the training I received and the rules developed for infantry tactics were invaluable in leading project teams.

 Here is my top ten:

1. Plan. To survive combat, the infantry leader must think beyond the immediate situation and assess possible outcomes. The project manager should define how objectives will be met regarding scope, requirements, schedule, resources, risks, cost, quality and performance.

2. Study your Intel. In combat, knowing the situation on the ground is key to effectively adjusting your position. In project management, team composition, costs, weather and projects requirements will, most likely, change before completion, so stay ahead of it.

3. Check your kit. The tradition of the sergeant doing a weapons check is mirrored by the project manager’s check on available resources. Are the resource management & procurement management plans consistent with the project plan?

4. Check your communications. An infantry leader has a range of communication tool to stay in touch with those directing the operation and those executing the orders. Your communication tools should be diverse and tailored to the needs of all levels of internal and external stakeholders.

5. Know your team. Like the infantry leader, the project manager must be aware of team members’ capabilities as missions and projects fail due to the departure of a key contributor. Have the adequate backup and to shape your team, so its overall performance is greater than any one individual.

6. Never leave a team member behind. Combat team members must know that the team leader will take care of them. The project manager often demands extreme dedication from team members. In return, team members should be rewarded for successful project completion.

7. Know the territory. The infantry leader must be able to use the lay of the land advantageously. Likewise, a project manager must know the circumstances surrounding the project and must be able to internalize and articulate the goals of the project.

8. Be decisive. When an opportunity for failure looms, infantry leader is the person to evaluate the threat, enact a recovery strategy, and monitor the situation until the danger passes. Above all, the infantry leader and project manager must provide a clear vision of success.

9. Lead. The combat infantry leader often must make difficult decisions. Project managers are not involved in life-or-death decisions, but the stakes can be high.

10. The mission isn’t over until the paperwork is done. Once the mission is complete, the first order of business is to debrief & document the results. As project management: document the project, detail the results, move from implementation to sustained operations, and document lessons learned.

3 Project Management Lies: And none are I’m from the government and I’m here to help

We have all had one of those days – lots on our plate – and your Boss show up at your door without a coffee for you and says “Sorry to interrupt how about those Blue Jays? Oh Yeah, one more thing. We need to add something to that Bloggins’ project.”

Let’s break that down:

“Sorry to interrupt.” – Translation: They aren’t even remotely sorry

“One more thing.” – Translation: A big add-on but DON’T go overtime and meeting all your other priorities.

“We need to add…” – Translation: “You need to do.”

The next time someone tries to put more work on your shoulders—when you’re already at max capacity—here’s how to respond to a:

Supervisor or Manager:

I can take this on, but I’d like to review something with you before I proceed.

Right now, my current priorities are: [list them in order].

Would you like this new assignment to be my top priority?

If so, that’s no problem, but it means that all my other projects will get completed slightly later.

I can create a timeline of when everything will be completed if that’s helpful to you.



I can help you with this. However, right now I am working on a different project that’s a top priority for my department.

I’m working on a deadline, and I need to stay focused and keep progressing.

I’ll be able to switch gears and attend to your request [at/on] [time / date].

Thank you for understanding!


Thanks for [writing / stopping by]. I can help you with this.

But first, let’s talk about the other items that I’m currently working on for you.

Right now, I’m working on: [list them in order].

If we add this new piece to the list, I’ll need to bill you for an additional [$$$].

It also means that the timeline we initially agreed upon will need to shift. [describe the new dates, timing, etc.]

Are you OK with the additional cost and new timeline?

If so, [tell me / write back to say]: “Greenlight! Go!”

Remember, whoever is making this “ridiculous and unreasonable” request is probably just as swamped and stressed out as you are or it could be a genuine crisis. In either case, these scripts might not be appropriate, so have some empathy and try to be compassionate.

No matter how colleagues choose to communicate with you (rudely, coldly, crazily), you can still be professional and polite when you respond.

Be patient. Stay cool. Speak firmly.