Working Smarter, Not Harder!

A few years back I wrote a blog called Me Time, and at the end of last year I was asked by LinkedIn to contribute my thoughts on Talent Trends for 2019. For me, this would continue to be behavioural (soft) skills for leaders, managers and business owners. For example, collaboration (true partnership-working and trust), adaptability, effective listening, resilience, and inclusive behaviour in the broadest sense (such as how to sensitively manage the menopause).

Interestingly, when LinkedIn published it’s review it listed the top 5 soft skills as:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Time Management

In recent times there has been a lot of talk around artificial Intelligence and digitalisation, but even with A.I. there will always need to be a human interface. With that in mind, and the fact that my business is built on the human factor, I've decided to write a series of blogs throughout 2019 related to these soft skills and others that I feel are vital for business owners, leaders, managers (you and me!).

I'm going to start with time management and the art of delegation. According to Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group, "It is the simple ability of leaders to delegate and let go that is the most under-rated leadership skill".


When delivering effective time management and delegation workshops, it's a perfect opportunity for me to review my own practice and behaviours. As with anything, without constant reinforcement it's all too easy to slip back into old ways. Putting too much into our diary, allowing no time between meetings, tearing from one client to the next... sometimes we can even forget to eat or just take a moment to breathe!

The world of work is very different today. It's more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous than ever, and therefore it's important as individuals to consider:

  • where we direct our attention;
  • how we are "response-able";
  • how we can be mindful;
  • how we can be assertive;
  • how we can be prepared; and
  • how to remain light on our feet (agile)

To perform at your best, you need to be effective (doing the right things) and efficient (doing things right). As Jessica Jackley also says; "Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do!".


When considering time management, attention management, and effective delegation, a lot of what is recommended is common sense but not always common practice. Why? One reason is that our behaviour is often guided by the amount of pleasure we gain from doing something. How many times have you put something off or put it to the bottom of the pile simply because you don't like doing it? We continue to do what is in our comfort zone and what we consider to be easy, however it doesn't always add real value to our businesses. What are your "big rocks?", as Stephen Covey says? Sound, smarter-working techniques such as planning, prioritising and delegating take effort and application which are not always associated with pleasure.

To be effective, you need to be spending your time undertaking the tasks that are driven by purpose - see quadrant 2 of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - where you must work both tactically and strategically at the same time; where you can be "response-able", focus on attention management, manage your "big rocks" and add value.

One way to be more effective is to delegate - to assign authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities. If the person you assign authority to is able to play to their natural strengths (more in another blog soon!) that's even better, as they will be energised and enjoying doing what you have assigned to them. It's important to remember that you, as the person who has delegated the work, still remains accountable for the outcome; it's not abdication! Effective delegation involves achieving the correct balance between effective control and letting people get on with roles/tasks in their own way. The opposite of effective delegation is micromanagement, where a manager/leader provides too much direction, input, and/or reviews of delegated work, which can cause frustration and confusion to all parties involved.


One model I like to use to delegate effectively is the IDEALS model:

1. Introduce the requirement. Explain the reason the role/activity/responsibility is being delegated, and the reason why you've chosen that person. What is it's importance and relevance, and where does it fit in the overall scheme of things?

2. Demonstrate clearly what needs to be done. Communicate clearly what must be achieved, and any deadlines for completion, constraints etc.

3. Ensure understanding. Clarify the person's understanding by getting feedback - this is a key step and a step that also reinforces commitment!

4. Allocate authority. Discuss and agree what is required to complete the role/activity.

5. Let go. Another key aspect; once you have decided to delegate, let the individual get on with it! Accept there may be many different ways of achieving something, and also that one of the best ways of really learning is through making mistakes. This particular step is what holds so many people back from effectively delegating.

6. Support and monitor. Give help to the person, and coach them when requested.

Realise that, as a leader, the pressure is often not to delegate with the result that you become a bottleneck!; 
Aspire to resist this; and 
Do the reverse - delegate!

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