LME005 – What is a vision statement and do you really need one?

Do you really need a business vision statement? What can a business vision do for you? We’ll have some good and some bad examples of vision statements.

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Do you need a business vision statement for your company?

business vision statement

Business vision Statements are important!
Image: nruboc/ Resource: www.bigstock.com

I think so. With a good vision you can unleash the power of your team.

With a vision you paint a vivid picture of the future. You describe where you’re heading – both as a team and as a company. A true vision inspires people and creates a common understanding.

Do you have a business vision statement for your company? Do you know about a vision in your company?

I mean this kind of statement or phrase or description, which tells where your business is heading, what you want to achieve and why your company exists?

Pseudo Visions

Don’t get confused with those pseudo vision statements of big companies in the corporate world. Business visions like:

“As a reliable partner for our customers, we count on innovation, creativity and consistent customer focus as well as on top performance in all areas.“

Blablabla. Sorry, but that is just a bunch of buzz words. It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t say anything. How does this statement helps to distinguish your company from others? It doesn’t. Everyone wants to be a reliable partner. Every company wants to be customer focused.

Want another example of bad vision statements in the corporate world?

“We work hard to be a Company that Our Shareholders, Customers and Society Want!”

Oh, come on: That’s boring: That’s so generic: That can be true for almost every company.

Here is another “great business vision”:

“We will be the No1 in our industry and strive for double digit sales and profit growth over the next 5 years.”

What? Maybe the investors like this statement. But what’s about the customers, the employees and partners of this company? Does this statement inspires, energizes or motivates anyone? No, it certainly doesn’t!

The business vision isn’t about money.

Hardly anyone is inspired by helping someone else make money. Why would employees put their heart and soul into such a thing?

Sorry to all the CEOs in the corporate world who developed this kind of pseudo visions: These business vision statements are totally useless.

Difference between mission and vision statement

So what’s a good business vision then? Often people get confused with what the difference is between vision and mission.

Let’s answer that briefly: As part of a business strategy the vision tells where you are going and a mission tells why your business exists. But don’t think too much about these definitions and which one’s which.

Two important questions

If you are an entrepreneur and running a small business or if you are a manager in charge of parts of a business you should focus on these two questions:
1.           Why does your business exist?
2.           Where do you want your business to go?

Just to make it crystal clear. The first question is by far the most important one!

Why does your business exist?

What’s the purpose of your company?

There is a great Ted Talk by Simon Sinek about the why and about the purpose of a company. It’s called: “How great leaders inspire action.” It’s my favorite TedTalk. Simon describes in a wonderful understandable way how great leaders think, act and communicate and how important the “Why” is.

What makes a well-conceived business vision statement?

Successful entrepreneurs, such as Richard Branson or Steve Jobs live for real visions. They are or were not primarily driven by making money.

These entrepreneurs are in pursuit of other objectives and visions that are bigger than themselves. These are frequently business visions that carry a social or ecological value for the rest of humanity.

Some inspiring vision statements

Take Microsoft’s first business vision statement as a case in point. Microsoft’s revolutionary founding vision in 1975 was:

“Our vision is a computer on every desk and in every home.”

Probably, it addressed only a limited number of people back then. But they enthusiastically supported it. They were intrinsically motivated to contribute to this vision, which was viewed by these people as socially relevant.

Here are some other examples of great business vision statements:

The company Scooter:

“Our vision is to provide freedom and independence to people with limited mobility.”

Or Wikipedia

“Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

Just by listening to these visions, can you hear the difference to those pseudo visions?

What is a true vision statement?

If an entrepreneur or a company have a true business vision then they ultimately pursue an objective that is larger than themselves. The business owner isn’t just working to satisfy his ego and the company doesn’t purely exist to earn money.

A true business vision shows that the entrepreneur or the company strive to solve a meaningful problem. It is not about money, it is about solving a problem which makes the world a better place, which helps people.

And that’ll inspire other people. They’ll feel that the vision is important and useful.

And that’s why they want to support this business vision and be part of it – as an employee, as a customer or as a supplier.

What’s about making good money?

As an aside, this doesn’t mean that the company or an entrepreneur cannot make good money. On the contrary. In order to attain the purpose, to achieve something of value for the world, the entrepreneur as well as the company should and must make money.

If it’s important to the entrepreneur to live in a beautiful home and drive a luxury Porsche, then that’s ok. It may be necessary for him to be satisfied and content. The luxury then becomes a means to an end if he’s focused on his true vision.

His true vision is striving to solve a meaningful problem. It is not about money, but money is a means to an end. It’s about solving a problem which makes the world a better place.

What‘s your business vision statement?

What problem is your company solving to make the world a better place? If you don’t have a true vision yet or if you only have a pseudo vision in your company so far, don’t worry. You can work on it. Just click here to learn what exactly is needed to create an inspiring business vision.

The inspiring quote

“If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

LME004 – Upward Delegation: How to avoid this kind of monkey business

We are talking about how to avoid upword delegation, often also refered to as back delegation or reverse delegation. It’s a problem a lot of managers suffer from.

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upward delegation - monkey business

Upward delegation

When a task that you have delegated to an employee comes back to you – and you complete it. This is called reverse delegation or monkey business.

If you – as the boss – accept that an employee hands back the work given to him, then you do the work that your employee should actually be doing. That’s fatal, since you won’t have time for your own tasks.

In the following I’ll describe why so many executives have their problems with reverse delegation and how you can deal with it.

What exactly is upward delegation?

I can best explain it with an example:

Let’s assume that you delegated an important task to Jack last week. He was supposed to write the final report for Project XYZ by the end of next month. Jack knows this kind of project well and has all the information about it. You have complete confidence in him and in his abilities. That’s why you agreed with him that he only briefly reports back when he’s finished and sent the report.

Today you are very busy. You are on your way to an important meeting. Jack is talking to you in passing.

“Boss, I’m glad to see you. I’ve got a problem. I’m supposed to write that project report. I’ve put something together, but somehow I’m not getting anywhere. You know XYZ very well. Could you take a quick look at what I’ve written and perhaps add a few key words?”

So? How do you react?  In your mind you are actually somewhere else – namely already at your meeting. Yeah, sure. You’re the expert on Project XYZ, but you just can’t be bothered to do it right now. You just think:

“How do I get rid of Jack as quickly as possible?”

So you’re answering:

“OK. Jack, give it to me. I’ll deal with it later.”

Opps. – You have another task on your desk – a task that you had actually delegated to your employee, right?

Delegating back: Monkey Business

Many executives fall into this trap, called reverse delegation. As early as 1974 there was an article in the Harvard Business Review about it. The title:

“Management time: Who’s got the monkey?”

The authors compared tasks to be delegated with monkeys. Whoever is working on the task and who is responsible for it, is carrying the monkey on his shoulder. As long as he has the monkey he has to take care for him and feed him. This is expensive and takes time. If this becomes too much, you need to get rid of the monkey. Now the boss comes into play.

If the boss delegates a task, he puts the monkey on the shoulder of the employee. After a successful reverse delegation, the monkey sits again on the boss’ shoulder.

And if the boss has a lot of employees and does not resist, then very soon a lot of monkeys sit on his shoulder. Then he feels like a zookeeper. He’s in charge of feeding a lot of crazy monkeys.

The boss will then no longer be able to work properly on his tasks because he deals with tasks that he’s not supposed to do. He does the work of his employees.

The boss becomes the bottleneck.

It even goes as far as employees having to wait for their boss. The boss becomes the bottleneck. Then the employees complain:

“My boss can’t get anything done. He’s overdoing it. Our team can’t go on because we need his input but his work is piling up on his desk. He can’t manage at all. Who actually made this guy an executive?”

Why does reverse delegation take place? You have delegated a task and your employee tries to return the delegated task to you. The question is, why?

It can have many causes. For example, an employee is under a lot of time pressure, whether he’s just feeling it or not. The work just gets too much for him. He has taken on or promised too much, does not want to admit it and therefore tries to get rid of part of the work.

Perhaps the employee also has too little self-confidence in his abilities or feels overwhelmed. Here, too, he has accepted the task, but in the course of time he realizes it’s growing over his head.

In these cases your employee needs your help and support. But that doesn’t mean that you do his job.

What can you as a boss do?

Let’s assume you delegated the task correctly. You also made sure that the employee has the competence to solve the task. If there are problems, you told him, he can approach you – but not just in passing. You will help him, but always leave the responsibility with your employee and make an appointment to discuss the problem. Then ask:

“What would you do if I wasn’t there?”


“To solve the problem: what have you done so far?”


“What ideas do you have to solve the problem?”


“To make to solve the problem: What decisions do you need?”


“What exactly do you need from me now?”

With this kind of questions you coach your employee. In this way you ensure that he doesn’t remain on the problem side, but rather comes up with his own solutions.

Beware of your impulses.

Many managers are used to making quick decisions and thinking solution-oriented. However, in such a discussion with your employee you should suppress the impulse to work out the solution yourself.

If you solve the problem, it doesn’t train your employee’s solution behavior. You don’t really help him but you make him addicted. Because the next time he has a problem, he’d rather go straight to you than work on the solution himself. That’s not what you want, is it?

That’s why you support him with questions. Talk a little, explain a little, but ask. Help your employee by coaching him to find the solution. Suppress your problem-solving reflex.

Why are many managers being tricked into upward delegation?

Many managers fully understand the concept of reverse delegation, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. They keep finding out that they have somehow been tricked. Suddenly the monkey sits on the boss’s shoulder again. How could this have happened?

Some managers fear that if you do not solve the problem, their employees may consider you weak or incompetent. Others cannot say no, because you have a reflex of wanting to help or you are simply tempted to take on a complex task again.

Upward delegation because of incorrect behaviour

Sometimes, however, managers simply react incorrectly.

Let me give you an example to illustrate this:

You’ve been the expert in your field – and then you were promoted. Now you have the leading role and know that you should hand over the technical task to your employees. It is not your job to do the work of your employees. You realize that! But deep down inside you are proud to be perceived as an expert and not just a leader. You want to keep the status of an expert.

Normally, this need is not a problem for you. If you are concentrated or have enough time to think, you are safe. You decide rationally in favor of the leadership role and consistently hand over the technical work to your employees and you don’t allow reverse delegation.

However, it is different when you are under stress and have to make short-term decisions – without much thought – for instance when your thoughts are already in the next meeting and you are approached unprepared by your employee Jack on the corridor on the way there.

“Boss, can you take a look at this? I mean you are the expert. You know best about it…”

That’s something you love to hear from Jack. You enjoy the short-term good feeling of being perceived as an expert by your employees. It’s flattering. It’s good for your EGO, good to hear that you are needed and recognised as an expert. However, in the long run you have another monkey on your shoulder.

How can you avoid this upward delegation?

You could just block the conversation with the phrase:

“Do you want me to do your job?”

But this isn’t constructive. It’s frustrating and only leads to your employees feeling that they aren’t getting any support from you.

The solution is: You make an appointment with your employee to discuss the problem indepth:

“Jack, this is not a good time. I am already late for my meeting. But we can talk about it later in my office. Let’s say in half an hour. Is that ok with you?”

You kill two birds with one stone: On the one hand: You don’t let yourself be determined by Jack and you hold back your impulse slipping back into your expert role. On the other hand, you give your employee enough time to think again about his problem. Maybe he’ll find a solution without your help.

3 Tips on upward delegation

Let me give you some help when dealing with “monkey business”.

  1. Every monkey takes time!

Think very carefully about what you commit to. For example: If your employee asks you to participate in some unimportant project meeting because you are the expert. Don’t do it just because you want to please him or please your EGO. Think twice before you do it or before you make such promises. A meeting can quickly cost you several hours. Time you could probably make better use of.

  1. With every monkey comes a supervisor!

If you have accepted the task, very often you have someone who depends on your completion of this task. Therefore, if you take on the task, you become accountable to others. After all, you make a commitment – and it doesn’t matter on which hierarchical level your supervisor stands.

Think about it: If you take back a task then your employee becomes your supervisor. Now he has all the right to ask you:

“Have you finished the task yet?”

  1. A monkey rarely comes alone!

If you take on a task, your employee is rewarded for his or her behavior. He reverse delegated an unpleasant task to his boss. Now, he has more time for himself and is even allowed to supervise his boss according to the motto:

“Boss, have you finished the report yet?”

Oh, great! What’s happening? In the future, the employee will try to give you even more monkeys. That makes sense to him. That’s why I say: Don’t feed your employees’ monkeys!


Try to consistently avoid upward delegation. Not only in your interest but also in the interest of your employees.


The inspiring quote

“Delegating means letting others become the experts and hence the best.”

by Timothy Firnstahl

LME003 – Micromanagement? How to avoid it and get things done.

You may think you are not a micromanager. But believe me, chances are high, that you are – at least sometimes.

But why should you avoid micromanagement? How do you become aware of when you are micromanaging and what can you do to avoid it? We will have answers on all of these – and I’ll give you 5 proven tips on how you can avoid micromanaging.

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What is micromanagement?

A typical definition is:

“Someone who micromanages is characterised by an exaggerated attention to detail and a detailed specification and control of what needs to be done.”

But what does “exaggerated” mean in this context?  What is meant by “detailed specification and control of what needs to be done”?

When are exact specifications and controls bad and when are they not? Isn’t that all very subjective? Don’t you have to take into account the situation and the skills of the employees?

We’re going to discuss these questions in more detail today, because you can see from the above definition that the evaluation of micromanagement is not so easy.

In my coaching sessions, I’ve worked with executives who told me that they don’t micromanage. However, their employees thought about it quite differently.

Are you a micromanager?

Let’s do a test.

Answer the following 7 questions and count the “Yes” answers. But be honest with yourself!

  • Do you spend more than 80% of your working time on day-to-day operations?
  • Do you believe in the sentence: “Control is better than trust”?
  • Do you have too little time to regularly deal with long-term strategy?
  • Do you feel you are the expert in your field?
  • Do you often ask your employees about the status of projects?
  • Do you always want perfect solutions?
  • If things seem to go wrong, do you sometimes skip hierarchy levels and give instructions over other managers’ heads?

The more questions you answered with “yes”, the greater the probability that you have tendencies towards micromanagement – even if you believe that you are not micromanaging.

Why is micromanagement bad?

Micromanagers have a negative impact on employees, especially on employee motivation. But it’s also harmful for the micromanager himself.

Let’s take a closer look at these negative effects – and first of all at the effects on employees:

If you tell employees exactly what they have to do and if you check their work down to the very last detail, then they lose the fun at work.

Control results, but not the steps towards the result.

It’s ok to control results, but it’s not ok to specify and control every tiny little step towards the results.

If you don’t give your employees at least some freedom to find their own way to get the result and to meet deadlines, then this is highly demotivating and frustrating. Because – whether you like it or not – with such behavior you make it clear to your employees that you don’t trust them and certainly don’t trust their abilities.

The bad thing about this is that over time you train your employees to become dependent. After a while you wonder why your employees don’t seem to have any ideas of their own. Typically the micromanager gets the feeling

“Nothing at all comes from my employees. Creativity? Nothing. They don’t come up with their own ideas. I need to tell them everything. They’re just stupid, need to get told what to do and need to be controlled all the time.”

I’m sorry, but this is your fault with all your micromanagement. I keep saying it:

“After 2 years latest, every manager has exactly the employees he or she deserves.”

Micromanagers also often find it difficult to set priorities.

Everything always seems important and everything always seems urgent.

The employees are confronted with a flood of tasks that they cannot deal with in time. Everything is important and urgent to the manager. He’s not talking about strategy, goals or the big picture but only about small and tiny tasks in detail. The employees cannot classify the significance, importance or urgency of tasks because he’s neither giving this direction nor is he talking about why a task is important.

Why does the manager do this?

Either he doesn’t think he has the time or he doesn’t know his goals and priorities. I don’t care how: It is fatal and leads to frustration, demotivation and excessive demands on employees.

Overload of the micromanager

However, the exaggerated attention to detail and the lack of confidence in others also has negative effects on the micromanager. He believes that he must set the course and control every task and every employee.

This costs time and energy – and that is exactly why the micromanager becomes the bottleneck of his department. Everything needs to be approved by him. Tasks remain lying around because he has not yet checked and released them. He Doesn’t know how to delegate and very often he falls into the trap of upward delegation.

He takes care of every little thing and therefore does not find the time to take care of the really important things. The operational matters are really eating him up. That’s fatal.

Bypass of hierarchy

A particularly critical type of micromanagement is bypassing the hierarchy and undermining your subordinate’s authority. Let me describe it in an example:

Assume you’re the CEO of a small business. Because your business is prospering and you’ve had to hire more and more people, you recently introduced your first managers.

That makes sense, because you can’t manage 30 employees and more on your own. So you have appointed some of your best and most trusted employees as group leaders. One of these employees is now responsible for production as group leader, the other for the development group and one leads the sales group.

The only trouble is: So far, all employees have reported to you. If there were problems or if a decision was needed, whom have the employees asked so far? – Exactly: They asked you.

Just because you’ve now officially appointed group leaders doesn’t mean that your employees will automatically turn to these group leaders for questions and decisions in the future. On the contrary. After all, your employees have become accustomed to addressing you for years. So they’re gonna do the same thing for now.

Who makes decisions?

And now it’s up to you. You are no longer allowed to make all the operational decisions that you made earlier. You delegated some of them and they are now in the hands of your group leaders.

For example – if an employee from production approaches you and asks you how he should proceed with product xyz, you shouldn’t longer decide.

Instead, you should refer him to the production manager, because he is now the decision-maker. It’s his job now. It’s up to him, not to you.

If you don’t do this, you are undermining the authority of your production manager. In the future his employees will no longer take him seriously, because real decisions will still be made by the big boss, who is you.

Then why should the employee ask his group leader if he still can ask you? There is a saying which is on point:

“Talk to the organ grinder, not his monkey.”

You don’t want your employees to think your group leaders are monkeys, do you?

What if a decision is already made?

It gets even worse if your production manager has already made a decision and communicated it to his employees and you now reverse this decision with a small remark to an employee.

“John just asked and I helped him quickly and decided the matter.”

Wrong.  Without probably wanting to, you have undermined the authority of your production manager. If this happens several times, he will no longer be accepted by his employees – and it will be your fault. When in doubt, the employees ask you – the boss and not their group leader.

Perhaps your employees will play you and your production manager off against each other.

“Let’s see who gives me the better choice.”

I’m sure you know that from your parents’ house. If Dad tells me I have to be home by 10:00, I’ll just check with Mom. Maybe she’ll let me stay away until 11:00.

So, if you undermine the authority of your production manager, then he can’t take the burden off you. Because the employees do not accept it and go back to you in case of doubt. This costs you time, nerves and in the long run the production manager will quit his job.

Whoever undermines his subordinate’s hierarchies is micro-managing. Therefore, think about it:

“Micromanagement can even destroy otherwise useful hierarchies.”

Why does someone micromanage?

Mostly it’s not done because of bad intention.

Some micromanagers simply lack self-confidence. They have a strong need for security and predictability. Nothing should go wrong.

But anyone who delegates always takes a certain risk. You never know for sure whether the agreed result will actually be achieved and what will really result when you assign a task to an employee.

It’s the fear of mistakes and the risk that leads to micromanagement. In case of doubt, the micromanager prefers to control too much rather than too little or not delegate the task at all.

Are you the expert?

Then there are the micromanagers who think of themselves as the best at everything anyway. This category primarily includes managers who’ve successfully completed specialist tasks for many years. They are and were experts. But something changed. They were promoted into a managerial position. Now they have to deal with leadership and need to delegate these specialist tasks.

The problem here is:

If I was the best programm coder for years, then it’s naturally difficult for me to hand over the coding when I am now group leader.

Because I am convinced that my employees will not do the job as well as I do. So I specify every detail and I control every step of the implementation. As an expert, the risk of becoming a micro-manager is high! I used to be in the expert’s shoes and know what I’m talking about. I was a micromanager. Listen to episode 001, where I tell you my story about what helped me to get rid of my micromanagement behavior.

5 Tips how to avoid micromanagment

Starting with learning how to delegate and avoiding micromanagement is both an investment in employee training and an investment in yourself becoming a better leader. Yes, it takes time and energy – and mistakes sometimes happen. But it’s worth it. Because you as a manager get time and you get committed employees who work independently and probably exceeding your expectations in the long term

What can you do if you realize that you have tendencies towards micromanagement? How do you manage to resist your impulse to control and specify everything and specify down to the smallest detail? Here are some tips.

Tip 1: Focus on the result not the way to the result.

If you delegate, you control the result, but not the path to it. Talk about goals and priorities, but leave your employees the freedom to find their own ways. If you haven’t done yet, then listen to podcast episode002 on delegating. There, I talk about the 5 levels of delegation. They will help you to find the balance between trust and control depending on the skills of your employee.

If you have delegated a task on a certain delegation level, stick with it and trust the employee. If you don’t and you control more than you agreed, your employee will get the feeling that you think he won’t make it. You’re undermining his confidence. You don’t want that.

Tip 2: Learning from mistakes!

Let your employees learn from their mistakes. If you are an expert in your field, remember that you initially learned a lot through trial and error. Give them at least some kind of freedom to make their own mistakes.

Tip 3: The 80:20 rule!

Always ask yourself: What kind of result do I need? It’s important here: Mostly the best, the optimum result is not needed. It’s about the result that makes sense for the customer or the situation.

In most cases the result is good if you follow the 80:20 rule. With 20% of the time you get an 80% solution. If you want 100%, you have to spend 80% of the time on the remaining 20%. It seldom pays for itself.

I’LL give you an example: Let’s assume that you told your employee to write the minutes of a meeting. How important and decisive is it that the content is correct? Well, I believe we agree that this is very important. Also the correct wording can be decisive. However, whether the formatting is perfect, all rules of correct grammar and spelling are applied and wheather the minutes of meetings adhere to all rules and standards of the companies  corporate identity – all these points aren’t important. However, it can cost you and your employees a lot of time to deal with it. So don’t do it. Don’t waste time on it. Follow the 80:20 rule.

Tip 4: Write your own job description.

Think of the top 3 important things someone in your position should be spending most of his or her time on. And no: It’s surely not controlling your team. Listen to my podcast episode 001. There we talk about on what you should focus as a leader.

Now, write these 3 important things down on a piece of paper. Put it on your desk or stick it on your bathroom mirror. Put it somewhere, where you look at it at least once a day. Then review it daily or even more often. If you do so, this will help you to focus on doing your job correctly and you will recognize more easily, when you micromanage.

Tip 5: Pretend it’s the day before you go on a vacation.

Isn’t it funny? Every time when we have a deadline – like if we are going on vacation tomorrow morning – we are able to finish our tasks shortly before the deadline is due.

Yes, it’s hectic but to get out of the office, you force yourself to focus on the most critical things and on the tasks most likely only you can accomplish.

If you suspect you may be micromanaging then use this strategy. Focus on the tasks closest to you that really require your expertise. The ones only you can do. Don’t be distracted by controlling your employees. Remember: Your plane leaves tomorrow at 8:30 am. There’s no other way for you than to trust that your team has it under control. – And they will.


The inspiring quote

“Authority—when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”

John Stoker


LME002 – How to delegate successfully and get time for the important things.


Most managers don’t know how to delegate successfully. Why is that?

“The fundamental secret of the art of management is delegation.”

That’s a quote from Cyril Northcote Parkinson. – Is delegating really a secret? Actually, it isn’t. The principles of delegation are simple.

However, many entrepreneurs and managers still find it difficult.

How to delegate successfully is a challenge.

How to delegateSo the secret seems to lie more in how to successfully implement the principles of delegation in practice. Just knowing the principles isn’t enough.

If you delegate a task consider to whom you delegate, how much you must support and control and how much room for flexibility you have to leave – and avoid micromanagement as well as upward delegation by any means. – But what does delegating mean?

Before we go in greater detail, let’s start with the question:

Why doesn’t delegating work very often?

As a manager, you have to make new decisions every day: What’s important and what’s urgent? Which of your tasks can and which of your tasks should you delegate?

A manager has to concentrate on the essentials. But: If you want to concentrate on the essentials, you have to be able to let go. And that’s where many people fail. Many managers know very well what tasks they should delegate. But they don’t do it. If you ask them why, you will often get the following answers:

“I have to do it by myself, because nobody else does it right anyway!”


“Nobody really knows how to do this but me! “


“By the time I explain it to someone, I’ll have done it myself.”


“I don’t have anyone I can trust and who I can hand this over to.”


Let me cut to the chase:

These excuses won’t help you.

Please don’t get me wrong: I believe you, if you tell me that you don’t have the right employee for the job at the moment. I believe that you’re the best at this. But: If you don’t change this now, it will remain so in the future.

How I learned to delegate.

Let me tell you, how I learned to delegate. In my first start-up company we dealt with vibrations on heavy machinery. Just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to assess a person’s heartbeat, we used sensors to analyse the vibrations of gears, pumps and motors. We developed and sold condition monitoring systems, but also performed diagnostics as a service for our customers on site.

Since I had already worked intensively on diagnosing machines for many years before the company was founded, I was usually the one who carried out such diagnoses for our customers. I was the expert at the time.

As our company grew, I had to decide to delegate this task. After all, it was no longer my job as managing director to be knee-deep in oil and to diagnose machines on site. It was difficult for me to accept this change at the beginning – to be honest: I loved to do this work and I loved to be the expert – although I understood that this shouldn’t be my role any longer.

Furthermore, none of my staff seemed good enough to do the analyses as I did. So I micromanaged my employees in the beginning.

But, because I was traveling worldwide to get new clients and to grow our company,  I couldn’t find the time to control and micromanage as I did before.

I just had such a lot of other work on my plate – and I was traveling a lot. So I had to let go and delegate these tasks to my employees – whether I wanted to do it or not.

Let your employees learn.

Of course, in the beginning some things didn’t run so smoothly: My employees analysed differently than I did. They didn’t meet dealines. They weren’t very efficient. They made mistakes that I thought would not have happened to me – but then – after some time, they learned from their mistakes. They improved. After one year, the results of some of my employees were not only as good as mine but even significantly better.

That was fascinating. After this experience it was much easier for me to delegate tasks. I know – if I delegate – that it will probably get worse and take longer – but then there’s a good chance that it will not only be done just as well, but even better.

Delegating is an investment

See it this way: Delegating is an investment in employee training – it costs time and energy in the beginning. But it’s worth it.

Give your employees the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Let them make mistakes. If you delegate a task that you have successfully done in the past, you will probably get a worse result the first time. But that’s only understandable. After all, you’ve been able to learn how to do it for months or years.

Of course, you cannot hand over a difficult task straight to everyone. You can’t just trust that your employee will learn that over time. It doesn’t work that way.

If you want to delegate a task to an employee, you must first assess what experience, what level of knowledge and what skills he or she has for this task. Based on this, you have to specify, control and support to a greater or lesser extent.

But how far do you have to control? How much do you have to specify?

The 5 level of delegation

In order to answer these questions, it is advisable to deal with the 5 levels of delegation. Years ago, I first read about this concept on Michael Hyatt’s blog. I think it’s very useful.

How to delegate successfully

5 levels of delegation

1. Level

I like to call the first level of delegation: “Execute”. Here you specify everything exactly and in detail. You tell your employee to stick exactly to your specifications:

“Do exactly what I asked you to do.”

In this level you have already researched, analysed and decided everything in detail about the task you delegate!

The problem with this level 1 is. You have to control a lot, you need to know the task in detail. You only have very low trust in the abilities of your employee. That might be ok, if a new hire just started working for you knowing nothing about the task you delegate. But you need to make sure that this changes quickly and that your employee will climb to higher delegation levels.

2. Level

In the 2nd level of delegation, your employee already has more degrees of freedom. Delegating on this level means: You tell him to familiarize himself with the topic in general, work out options and then consult with you. This 2nd level is called:

“Research the topic and report back.”

3. Level

In the 3rd level, your employee will work on a topic in detail, develop alternatives and prepare a detailed proposal. He should explain in detail how he intends to carry on in the project. You then decide whether or not to proceed in this way. This 3rd level of delegation is called

“Make a recommendation.”

4. Level

In level 4, the employee makes the decision, but later tells you what and why he’s made the decision. I call this level:

“Decision with reporting back.”

5. Level

The top level – level 5 of delegation, is when your employee makes his or her own decision and you have so much confidence in him that a report isn’t even needed.  This is Stage 5:

“Decide without reporting back.”

How to delegate with the 5 levels

This example is about delegating a development project.

Mike’s in charge of the development department in a medium-sized Engineering company. They develop and manufacture control and regulation systems. Mike’s department got the order to develop the hardware for a new interface module.

Let’s assume that all of his experienced engineers in his department are working on full capacity. The only employee who could support him in this project is Jack. He’s new in the department. Jack has just finished his studies and has no practical experience. He’s a newbie. Therefore, Mike cannot simply assign the project to him, as he would do with an experienced employee.

Level 1 delegation because Jack is a newbie.

That’s why Mike will delegate the project to Jack on delegation level 1.

Mike takes his time to prepare the project in detail. Based on his many years of experience, he selects which processor, which A/D converter and which memory modules must be used. The process is also clear to him.

He knows which development steps have to be completed. Therefore, he writes down the procedure with exact steps and specifications. Now he hands over this documentation to Jack. Jack will stick exactly to the procedure and gradually work through the steps in order to develop the hardware.

In this 1st level, Jack has little scope for decision on this project. After each small step, he reports the progress of the project to Mike and shows him the results.

This is the first stage of the delegation:

“Do exactly what I have asked you to do.”

It’s a matter of sticking exactly to the guidelines, since the supervisor has already researched, analysed and decided everything important in detail. Of course, this takes a lot of time for the manager. The employee is also quickly under-challenged in this procedure. There’s nearly no freedom to make any decisions.

How to delegate on higher levels?

What would it look like if Mike delegates on level 2? Instead of working with exact specifications, Mike asks Jack to take a close look at the customer requirements and familiarize himself with the topic. After that he’s asked to propose the further actions and steps for the development. The decision to take the next steps, however, falls to Mike.

If delegated on the 3rd level Mike gives even more freedom. He asks Jack to familiarize himself with the topic in detail, to develop different alternative procedures, to select the processor, the A/D converters and the memory modules and then to present the results to Mike. Mike will question the results and then gives his OK for the proposed further procedure.

Be careful with corrections.

What’s important here is that if Mike doesn’t agree with Jack’s proposed decisions, he shouldn’t simply tell Jack that he is wrong and correct him:

“Jack, that A/D converter you chose only has 16 bits. This may be in line with customer requirements, but in the long term it will cause us problems. We must also think about future upgrades. Therefore, use the 24 bit converter instead.”

Lead with questions.

Mike shouldn’t propose the alternative. He should ask questions so that Jack can work out the solution himself. For example, if Mike doesn’t agree with the selection of the A/D converter, he might ask:

“Jack, the A/D converter you’re proposing only works at 16 bits. This meets customer requirements, but there are already the new 24 bit A/D converters on the market. I wonder if they might not be a sensible alternative for this project? What speaks for and what speaks against using the 24 bit A/D converter?”

This procedure costs Mike more time. However, it helps Jack to learn, to think and to develop his skills. In the end, Mike wants Jack to be able to assess this kind of situations and decide on his own in the future.

Give even more freedom in level 4

If Jack were already an experienced hardware engineer, Mike could possibly hand over the project to him with much greater decision-making leeway. For instance delegating on level 4: “Decisions with reporting back”.

Then Mike would only arrange 2 or 3 appointments with Jack during the project. On these dates, Jack will briefly present the current status of the project and the decisions he’s taken so far. So, Mike’s informed in detail, but Jack has already made the decisions, for instance which A/D converter’s to be used. It’s Jacks project. Mike will only be informed.

The – let’s say – premium level is the 5th level: “Decide without reporting back”.

Here, Mike has complete confidence in Jack’s abilities and actions. Mike no longer even needs feedback on the achieved project steps. His confidence in Jack is so high that he assumes that Jack will do the work in the best possible way and no control is needed.

The higher the level of delegation, the higher the trust in the employee. The higher the level, the less time the manager has to spend making decisions, controlling, monitoring and supporting the delegated task.

Tell your employees what you expect from them.

It’s important that you as a manager tell your employee upfront, when you delegate a project, what you expect from him. It has to be crystal clear what kind of freedom and authority your employee has to accomplish the delegated project.

Now you know how to delegate, we will talk in the next episode about micro-management. What exactly is it, why should you avoid it and how can you avoid it?


The inspiring quote

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling while they do it.”

Theodore Roosevelt


LME001 – What is leadership and how can you find time for it?


If somebody asked you to explain what is leadership? How would you respond?

It’s hard, right? The concept of leadership is vague – and the funny thing is as long as we don’t have a good definition how can we talk about leadership?

What is leadership?

What is leadership?Let me give you my definition of leadership. For me, leadership means defining where to go. Who leads deals with the future of the company and with the people in the company.

If you are  in leadership mode, you work on the vision of your company, you formulate goals and strategies. You reflect on innovation, positioning and customer benefits. You improve the processes in your company. And most important: You talk to and with your employees, you discuss, inform and inspire. All this is leadership.

If you are only managing

In recent years I’ve seen many managers who work hard – but they are unable to execute because they are trapped in their day to day work. These managers often feel frustrated and demotivated.

If you are in such a situation you start feeling like in a rat race. You work and work, but nothing important gets done. Your company is not growing, sales are stagnating and the mood of your workforce is low.

The reason for this is often, that most executives focus on management but not on leadership. They manage a lot but they don’t lead.

What is managing?

If you manage you focus on processes, you don’t work on the future and you don’t focus on people: You have no time for it. Managing is more about day-to-day business, administration, resource allocation, budgeting, costs and risk management, control, keeping deadlines. There is no time for other things. Numbers, data, facts! Pam!

Don’t get me wrong. Of course you have to do both: you can’t just lead. You have to lead and manage. But as a leader – above all – it is your job to keep track of the big picture. You have to deal with the future direction of your business and with taking care of your people.

If you don’t lead, who does?

I know many CEOs and managing directors who work around the clock and still feel they don’t really do their job. Many are trapped in the rat race of day-to-day operations.

They work a lot, but don’t take enough time for the real leadership tasks. Are you one of them?

The problem for most managers

The question is, why is that? Why do a lot of managers deal with so much operational stuff and administrative work instead of focusing on the most important tasks: leadership? I admit, that I also struggled myself with this problem for a long time.

This isn’t just a problem of CEO’s and managing directors. It doesn’t matter if you are a group leader, a team leader or if you were just promoted into your first managing role. Every manager seems to have more work to do than he has time for.

In my view, there are several reasons why managers think they don’t have time for leadership. The biggest challenge can be summarized in one sentence:

Leadership is important, but rarely urgent!

Developing a business strategy, talking to an employee, discussing the vision statement, thinking about customer benefits or improving processes – these leadership tasks are important, but they are not urgent.

If you develop the strategy today or only tomorrow, will not be a big difference. If you have this one-on-one meeting with your direct report today or only later next week, this doesn’t change the bottom profit line, does it?

In contrast, management tasks are usually urgent and have a deadline. But are they always that important? Not really.

Why is that so?

Management tasks are determined by others and they have normally a due date – a deadline. For example, the tax office needs documents at a given deadline, the participation in a trade fair must be decided until the end of the month. A customer urgently needs an offer by this evening. All these tasks have deadlines which were defined by someone else.

On the other hand, leadership tasks are generally self-determined and have no fixed date – at least, if you don’t define one.

Most people – and managers are no exception – have a tendency to focus on urgent tasks with a deadline and postpone tasks, which are really important, but not urgent.

Important or urgent? What is leadership?

As a result, many executives realize at the end of the day that they worked only on urgent tasks. This means that they didn’t find time to work on any leadership tasks. Too bad!

“But there are such a lot of urgent management tasks. They need to be done! They are all urgent and important.”

Really? Yes, a management task normally has a deadline. But keep in mind: Mostly this just means that someone else made it urgent. You may argue, that this management task is urgent and important, but very often it’s important for someone else – not necessarily for you.

If you’re a manager you should –  on a daily basis – question, if and what kind of management tasks you have to do. Ask yourself everytime: Is it really necessary to do it? If yes: Is it necessary that I do it? If you can delegate then do so. I know this can be difficult sometimes and we will talk about how to delegate successfully in one of the following episodes: “LME002 – How to delegate successfully”.

But for now: Keep in mind, that management tasks don’t need to be done by yourself. You need time for the important leadership tasks.

Is leadership really so important?

This question often comes up when managers are convinced that facts and figures are most important in business. I agree that facts and figures are important but you miss out if you only focus on them.

What about the vision and the purpose of your company or your department? Not important? Be careful. Some managers think that the purpose of any company is easy to define. It is clearly to make profit. What else?

In my opinion, these managers are wrong. They have never experienced how motivating a big vision can be, how important values are and that the ultimate purpose of a company is not to make a profit. No, the purpose of a company is to create customer benefit and then the profit will come.

We will talk about this in one of the next podcast episodes. If you want to be successful, it’s important that you have a clear answer to the question

“Why? – Why does your company exist?”

and your answer should not be just to earn money.

Only when managers have a clear vision and a bigger goal, they can communicate with their employees in a way that they carry their employees along. If they do, their employees work on the right things. Why? Because then your employees  know what is important. They understand what ‘s expected from them and only then will your employees be able to work independently. A true leader has a clear vision.

The problem is that managers often don’t believe this.

“Independently working employees? Forget it. Employees need to be told what to do in detail. Otherwise nothing gets done.”

The problem with micromanagement

That’s why this kind of managers are often at the mercy of “micromanagement“. Frustrated, they complain about the demotivation and inability of their employees. But they don’t understand: it’s their own fault.

If you don’t take the time to think and talk about vision, strategy and goals, how can your employees work towards these goals? How can they make decisions in your interest, if they don’t know your expectations?

That’s why you need to find the time for leadership.

3 tips how to find more time for leadership

You know by now, what is leadership. Here are three helpful tips to find more time for leadership.

Tip 1:    Track your time.

If you want more time for leadership in your daily work, you first need to be aware of how much time you are currently spending on it.

Most managers only have a very vague idea of ​​how much time they really spend on leadership. We all often underestimate the hours we spend with unproductive management instead of leading.

That’s why you should determine daily how many hours you have spent on leadership and how many on day-to-day management or on normal work.

You only have to log two numbers at the end of the day. Not more! Do this for 2 weeks and you have a good idea how much time you really spend on leadership.

Even if you managed all day long, if you write it down at the end of the day, you will at least realize that you did not spent any time on leadership that day. Realizing is the first step toward improving.

Just log your time. It costs you nothing but 2 min max at the end of the day. And it’s worth it. Just write it down on a piece of paper: How much time did you spend on leadership and how much time did you spend on management?

Tip 2:    Set yourself a goal.

Set yourself a measurable goal. What percentage of your working time do you want to spend on management tasks over the next 3 months? This motivates yourself. But don’t overdo it. If you have only spent 10% of your time for leadership, it will probably be difficult to reach 50% in the short term. However, an increase from 10 % to 20 % is quite realistic.

Experience shows that there is no point in planning significantly more time for leadership tasks as early as next week. Your schedule is so full, it’s hard for you to make it. Therefore, set yourself the target for a 3-month period. By the way: When you have reached your goal, reward yourself. You deserve it.

Tip 3:    Make important tasks urgent.

Since leadership is usually important but not urgent, we postpone it. Therefore, let’s outwit ourselves. Set fixed deadlines for leadership tasks in your planning and put them into your calender and your ToDo List. This automatically makes your leadership tasks urgent.

But sometimes you may find that this is not enough. After all, the appointment is self-determined and not determined by others.

In such cases it helps if you commit yourself to others. For example if you’ve always wanted to work on the important strategy for your company, you promise to present the results to your employees at the end of next month. Here’s the deal: a deadline for your important leadership task, which you just made urgent. It goes without saying that you must keep this promise. Stand up to your word. Through scheduling and commitment to others, you make an important leadership task urgent and the likelihood increases that you will actually complete this task on time.


This should help you to get started with leading more and managing less.


The inspiring quote

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Peter F. Drucker


LME000 – What you can expect from this podcast


This is the intro for my new podcast: Leadership Made Easy. Episode Number 0.

This is the podcast where you learn how to lead a highly effective team, how to make sure, things get done and how to deal with tough issues like confronting an employee performance problem, getting along with a bad boss or balancing the demands of work with your personal life.

Why should you listen?

If you’ve read any book on leadership, you already know there is a big gap beteeen how most authors think things work – and how things actually work in the real world.

If you’re done with silly theories and want practical stuff that really works this podcast is for you. There are no pie-in-the-sky theories here. No insights from professors who never actually lead a single team member.

You will also not hear any corporate B.S., or silly business jargon.
Instead I’ll show you exactly, down to earth – what works in leadership and what doesn’t.

What is it all about?

For instance:
– When do you need to trust your employees and when do you need to control them?
– How and when should you confront low performers and when doesn’t it make sense at all?
– What can you do to maintain employees motivation and what do you need to avoid?

Every episode will bring you an actionable solution to a problem you might be facing. I’ll give you proven management and leadership tips which you can apply immediately and successfully for your day to day work: Practial tips, proven strategies and exclusive interviews with experienced managers and inspiring leaders.

Do you want to become a real leader?

If you have an aspiration to become a top leader in your company this podcast will help you getting there. If leadership doesn’t interest you and you are just frustrated with managing your employees and you‘re looking for the best shortcuts to get them to perform, you’ll find some useful tips in this podcast as well – and maybe by using these tips you will change your mind regarding the importance of true leadership.

Pretty big claims, right?

I know that I made some pretty big claims. I don’t blame you, if you are a little bit skeptical about this. After all, so much of what is out there is often exaggerated.

So why do I think you should listen to me and why do I think that I have solutions for most of the problems managers have to deal with?

Let me tell you a little bit about me.

As you probably can hear from my pronunciation: I am German. I live in a small German city called Aachen. Aachen is in the Western part of Germany right next to the Belgium and the Netherland borders. I am happily married for more than over 20 years and my wife and me have two grown-up sons.

My background is engineering – that’s at least what I studied: Electrical Engineering to be precise. After university I co-founded a high-tech company. We built it up to 20 employees and sold it after 5 years to a big corporation.

In these five years I made a lot of mistakes being in my first leadership position. It took me quite long to understand that as a manager my role was not to be the best expert any longer. It was difficult for me to accept this, because I was proud to work and be the expert in my engineering field.

But my job now was to manage employees and to lead the company. I needed to help my employees to become the experts. I had to learn how to delegate, to know when to trust employees and when and what to control.

In one of the following podcast episodes I will talk about how I learned to delegate and what mistakes I made on my way. After we sold our company I was in charge of integrating our start-up into this big corporate company and to build up their worldwide service business.
This was a very exciting time. I had to travel a lot all around the world. After a couple of years I was responsible for 350 employees worldwide.

My first leadership challenges

Now in this role I had other leadership challenges, for example:

  • How to build teams remotely in different countries with people from different cultures.
  • How to work inside such a huge corporation dealing with all kind of company politics

and as an employed manager I had to get used to have a boss.

Especially to understand and to deal with the corporate politics was difficult for me. One of my leadership challenges was to learn how to succeed as a manager in the corporate world:

  • What are you allowed to do?
  • What is expected from you? and
  • What shouldn’t you do?

Of course, there were official rules but in corporate world there are hidden agendas, no one tells you about – and if you don’t obey to these hidden rules you are in trouble. I had to find this out by myself – by making sometimes embarrassing mistakes and by putting my foot in it.

You don’t need to make the same leadership mistakes. I’ll share with you how to successfully deal with these situations and what rules and processes you can safely ignore.

During my time as a start-up entrepreneur as well as an employed manager, I learned a great deal about people, about business strategy, about running teams, about corporate politics as well as about leadership in general.

In 2009 I realized my passion was no longer in the company I was working for. What I really wanted to do is to teach others about what I learned about leadership over the years.I wanted to help others not to make the same mistakes I made.

My passion today

My passion it to show you how to become a successful leader and how to enjoy your role as a leader. I am convinced that we need more true leaders. A true leader does not only focus on results but also develops his or her employees and by doing this positively impacts the life of them and their families.

I started as a business coach and leadership trainer in Germany mainly focusing on small and medium sized companies. I found that there is a big demand for leadership trainings down to earth – without unnecessary theory: Just actionable tips which work in the real world.

My German Podcast

Führung auf den Punkt gebracht

My German Podcast

In 2013 I started my German podcast called “Führung auf den Punkt gebracht”. In English it means “leadership to the point”. The podcast was a big success from the beginning. After only 3 months I had 100.000 downloads and lots of 5 star reviews.

Today my German podcast is downloaded more than 100.000 times per months. I have produced more than 200 episodes. In iTunes it is routinely ranked under the top 10 in iTunes business category in Germany. I was featured by iTunes and my podcast was nominated for the best German business podcast award two years in a row.

So 2018 is the year for me to go international.

That is why I started this podcast you are listening to right now: Leadership made easy.
So if you are ready to discover a much better way how to manage and if you want to know what really works in management and leadership head over to my first real episode – that is episode No 1 – where I will reveal what I consider the most important point of leadership. You can listen to it right now. Go ahead. I see you there.


The inspiring quote

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

John C. Maxwell