I had the opportunity last week to speak with an Emerging Leader and a C-Suite Executive who were both suffering for the same reason with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Neither one of them was making enough use of a time management technique that has stood the test of time over the years, delegating your work and your authority to someone else on your team. Interesting that it happens at the highest level of leadership and also interesting that it also is an essential strategy at the early stages of a leader’s career.
Bottom line: For Leaders at all phases of their careers, they often fall into bad habits or don’t get started with great habits in trusting their associates to help them get the work done. I thought it might make sense to provide a primer on when and how to delegate to raise the level of your productivity and to make your team stronger.
It’s About Trust And Control:
Many leaders struggle with delegation. There are a great many reasons why we struggle with delegation. Sometimes, we are reluctant to cede control of an important task, thinking nobody can do it as well as we can. Other times, we tell ourselves that it requires a lot of time and work to delegate the task and, well, I might as well just do it myself. Still other times, we sometimes lack trust in our colleagues and worry that they may fail in doing the work up to standards and that their failure might not reflect well upon us. Some of us are perfectionists and cannot imagine anyone handling the job as well as we would do it. Some of us are borderline control freaks and don’t want to trust others. Can we agree that avoiding the delegation of important work is a limiting factor upon our success? Yes, of course, we can. You can only work so many hours in a day and only do so much. Invest in trust, make a change to give up some of your work to a teammate, and prepare for the delegation, so you’re setting them up for success.
Prepare Well Before Delegating:
Prepare in advance with enough planning and communication to ensure that the delegation will go successfully. Choose a person who is well suited to handle the new responsibility and describe in detail your expectations for what success will look like. Promise your never-ending support, so that your delegee will know they have you to lean on for help. Make sure they work the task diligently and respect the challenges that they will need to overcome. Set a timeline and agree on a good checkpoint to follow up on their progress as they begin working on the delegation. Be sure to celebrate with your colleagues once they have completed the task so that they will have a positive experience and look forward to their next task!
Remain Attentive, Check-In Regularly, But Don’t Hover:
Once you’ve delegated the task you’ve made the investment in yourself and also in your colleague. See the investment through, all the way to the return on your investment. That means that you need to check in regularly with your associate to make sure if she struggles, you are there to help her to remove the obstacle. You need to be attentive and providing meaningful feedback and guidance if she falters, but avoid hovering like a helicopter, and avoid micromanaging her effort. Don’t dictate how the task should be done, just give enough direction so that she can get started and then let her figure out how best to get the task done. Let your colleague find her way to success!
Be Positive And Be Aggressive:
More often than not, you will try to tell yourself about a hundred reasons NOT to delegate the things you should be delegating. Don’t give in to that temptation. When in doubt, delegate the task out. Tell your colleagues what they need to know without any ambiguity and encourage them to get started. Delegate and continue to delegate so that you’ll get the hang of it. Unless your team is occasionally commenting to you that they are beginning to have to juggle, you’re probably not delegating enough. If your team says they need a break, you can always back off. Don’t delegate too infrequently, that is much more prevalent than delegating too much.
Don’t Wait, Get Started Today:
Take time, or make time, to free yourself from small tasks, so you have the time for more important work. Delegate some of your meaningful work to one of your associates at your first opportunity. Then begin planning for your next delegation, and keep at it. You will get the hang of it!
What do you think? Are you delegating enough? Is your team of direct report Managers delegating enough? Does your organization need encouragement and training to help them to become Master Delegators? We’d love to hear from you about your experiences, so please, send us a comment about your delegation’s best practices or experiences.
Michael is the founder and CEO of Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, a business advisory firm with offices in Minnesota and Arizona. MBCC works with Business Owners, CEOs, their C-Suite Executive Teams, and their Emerging Leaders to help them to develop great Leadership abilities. One of the most critical leadership abilities a leader will need is the excellent sense to delegate work as they grow, so their team will grow right along with them. If you’d like a free Best Practices document on Delegation, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to sign up for our monthly email information service and receive a wealth of valuable free information from Michael and his coaches every month!