Trust your team

| 10 October 2014

This article originally appeared on Moneyweb.

May-Elaine Thomson, CEO at the South African office of legal firm Hogan Lovells, is the go-to person for 40 partners and a total staff complement of around 250.

hogan lovellsDuring the past 20 years she has overseen six mergers and eight office moves, which included building renovations and outfitting of new premises in Sandton, Durban, and Mauritius. Since December 2007 she has implemented six due diligences, followed by the rebranding of the firm to Hogan Lovells South Africa, and the alignment to the international brand – in itself a mammoth task. None of this could have been achieved without a dynamic support and marketing team, which she has put in place over the years, most of them women.

Her “trust your team” principle ensures that her work day is manageable and less stressful. “I have an exceptional team of managers who handle finances, human resources, marketing, admin etc. and over many years we have recruited and trained excellent support staff. Yes, during the training phase you might need to hold their hand for a while so that people understand their job responsibilities, and are able to deal with the job requirements. But after that I trust them implicitly to do what is expected.”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you must do everything yourself if you want it to be done right. Delegating is an important part of managing any team; it’s difficult to work productively when you’re carrying too heavy a workload.

Thomson’s principle not only frees up time for planning and organising, but also benefits the employees. She explains: “People respond well to working autonomously. They live up to the expectation that they can do the job, and feel challenged when something comes across their desk that stretches them beyond what they thought they could do. Occasionally somebody may slip up and something falls through the gap, but I’ve found that dealing with the fall-out created by the odd slip-up is more manageable than policing everything and everybody.”

Touch something once

Like many modern conveniences, addressing emails has added further pressure to our days.

“Managing your mail box can be time consuming, as there’s often a lot that comes in that you don’t need or want to see,” Thomson notes.

“My most important rule in this regard is ‘touch something once’. Whether it arrives by hard copy or by email, I try my utmost to deal with it only once.”

Tips on how you can achieve this:

  • If it’s something informative you’d like to keep, save it in the relevant folder on your computer.
  • If it needs your response, respond right away.
  • If you need more information before you can respond, perhaps send an email to somebody else and save the request in the relevant folder.
  • If you cannot respond immediately, save the email in a folder with the date when you will have the necessary information to respond.
  • If you can delegate it, do so and leave it up to your team to attend to the matter.