How to Grow a Third Arm

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How much more productive would you be with a third arm? I have a formula for one! Fear not, it doesn’t involve psychedelic mushrooms and vodka (a disappointment for some). It involves tactful trust and developmental delegation.

This could be you! Well, sorta.

This could be you! Well, sorta.

Investing in others is a scary thing, especially when you are trusting them to handle something precious to you. But think about making your life and job EASIER and all of the benefits that come with MORE TIME. Before you can develop anyone you need to develop yourself. Start thinking positively about the benefits of teaching someone to do the more basic tasks within your scope of responsibility.

Simply put, attempt to categorize all tasks into two columns: “No Mistakes Allowed” & “Mistakes Tolerated.” The first column must stay within your direct control as we cannot afford a problem there. The second column is where we start considering which tasks could be shared as a learning experience with an emerging talent. Maybe it’s 1 task, possibly 3? Choose a total that offers a meaningful return on your investment in terms of time. Identify the skill needed for the task and then seek out your third arm.

  • Manage Payroll – Detail Oriented, Accounting Skills, Time Management
  • Organize Meetings  – Communicator, Collaborative Personality, Tech Savvy
  • Attend Meetings for You – Professional, Listener, Understands Inter-Office Politics
  • Project Management – All of the above!

Scan your roster of dedicated teammates and find the match between skill and ability. The most important step in this process is to directly ask your targeted teammate if they are eager to “learn more about the environment” or “learn more about the next level of management?” It’s critical to capture the right attitude, and this starts with an up front commitment between both of you to teach and learn with the proper spirit. Even when you find the right attitude you still might not know if you’ve matched the right person to the right task, but this is part of the cost to growing extra extremities. You WILL MAKE MISTAKES, as will the teammate you choose. But that’s OK! You gave them tasks that can be corrected if mismanaged. When mistakes are made, you will flip the “Teacher” switch and live up to your end of the bargain (developing your talented third arm).

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Let’s review the benefits of pushing through this initial investment of time to delegate and develop. You are rewarding an eager teammate with the chance to enhance their contribution to an environment they care about. The reward of mentorship is gratifying, appreciated, and has no hard cost. These efforts are often public and the entire team sees your efforts to reward talent with attention, a leader’s greatest currency. Finally, look at all the time you stand to gain (or invest elsewhere)? Let’s assume that managing payroll takes 3 hours a month, organizing meetings takes 2 hours a month, attending meetings in your place takes 8 hours a month, and managing projects takes 10 hours a month. You stand to get 3 to 23 hours a month to reposition within your job scope.

What would you do with 23 freed up hours given your current workload? What would you do with your third arm? How about a “High-15?” Slap-Slap-Slap!

Pre-Mutiny – A Young Managers Greatest Challenge

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You’ve been watching that young superstar’s performance and your keen sense of talent development makes you confident that they’ve got the leadership skills to move the performance needle in a management role. Before you reward them with a promotion, be sure to acknowledge “Pre-Mutiny” and build a strategy around it! Otherwise, you’ll be feeding your protégé to the wolves of jealousy. This happened to me as a fresh faced 24-year-old in his first corporate management gig, and I would have never survived without my mentor (Nate Mathes)!

What is Pre-Mutiny? It all starts with the team or departmental dynamics and the roster of candidates who WILL NOT be getting that management opportunity. The assumption here is that your future star will be managing these competing peers turned employees. Ageism is in play here, as your young superstar is facing a challenge that requires thick skin, courage, open support, and strong mentoring. Pre-Mutiny is when a young manager is rendered ineffective because the team won’t respond appropriately to their attempt to lead and support. Most of the time it is a collective boycott of cooperation as a unified statement of “no confidence” inspired by ignorance, jealousy, and negative leadership.

As a senior manager, what do you do to protect your prized prospect as they get called up to “The Show”? Here are some tips:

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1 – Identify Potential Threats – If you have good political acumen you might be able to anticipate which employees would have a problem with your decision.  If you don’t know who the threat could be, put your ear to the street to tap into the corporate grapevine or leverage existing managers’ knowledge of staff to determine which personnel to worry about. My mentor (Nate) knew exactly who to be worried about and he was very right.

2 – Cut the Head Off – Each example of Pre-Mutiny has one or two dominant personalities that have real leadership skills, but they use them for evil rather than good. These negative leaders know how to recruit support and influence team attitudes. Kept unchecked, they will round up the posse and both quietly and openly work to discredit your young manager’s credibility and impact. My mentor openly challenged a negative leader to support my efforts, instead of attempting to stunt my progress.

3 – Present a United Front – As a senior manager you must cash in some of your corporate capital as a respected leader to convey an overwhelming amount of support for the new manager towards others. You must plan to literally (physically) stand by your youthful managerial selection to drive home the point that they are the selection and nothing is changing that. In other words, “Like it or not, this is your reality. Deal with it, adjust, and work as a team.” One way to present a united front is to be a part of the formal transition or introductory meeting, as well as attending some future team meetings so your presence is felt while your candidate builds trust, credibility, and establishes their management style. My mentor took a chance and trusted I would evolve despite a major lack of experience, and he did so folding his arms behind me as I ran through the meeting agenda (he is an imposing figure, picture Apollo Creed).

Build your plan to proactively address Pre-Mutiny and preserve your young manager’s early success. If they are as talented as you think, they will learn to use the same courage and persistence that my mentor taught me.

 

Free Miracles! No Money Required!

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Living in one of the most blessed and wealthy countries on the globe comes with a lot of “pros” and a few “cons.” One con of being submerged in a capitalist society is the jaded sense of what the modern definition of a “miracle” is.

Some of the most popular television shows of the past 5 years have revolved around miracles that are simply lump sums of money gifted to people in need, typically from a wealthy business or business person. “Undercover Boss” and “Extreme Home Makeover” are a few of the better-known examples of this. When my wife watches these shows, she wells up with tears when a check swoops in to wash away someone’s troubles. I respect the generosity of philanthropists, and I acknowledge that I have personally benefitted from such giving. I am not attacking the concept of philanthropy.

I fear that Americans watch these shows and think, “Someday, I hope to be wealthy enough to help someone with a big check.” The truth is that miracles can happen every day, without large checks. There are meaningful ways within the world of business, and within our personal lives to make a miracle happen. Don’t underestimate the small miracles that mean so much more to their potential recipients.

If you are reading this you are probably wealthy with thoughtfulness, courage, and talent! This means you are already capable of making a miracle happen. Are you an expert in an industry or a successful businessperson? You could mentor a young professional who lacks some of the gifts you possess. Have you heard a rumor about a co-worker and thought to treat it as fact? Ignore it, and give that person a chance to invalidate those stories. You never know what emotional or intellectual need you could appropriately and generously fulfill for someone unless you have your ears and eyes open, instead of your checkbook.

I challenge you to look for those “Free Miracles” that actually cost the most precious commodity we have: TIME. Take a little time to create a miracle for someone and YOU will feel wealthy beyond the shallowness of currency. I guarantee it!