Effective delegation skills can make or break a leader’s career. Delegation is an essential management skill – the link between leading (setting the direction and inspiring others) and managing (organizing, directing and controlling work).
So, what is delegating? According to the Oxford English Dictionary delegating is “to give part of your work, power or authority to somebody in a lower position than you“. I would challenge the latter part of this definition in that one can also delegate to somebody at the same level or even upwards in the organization.
The definition in the dictionary is further illustrated by the sentence: “Some managers find it difficult to delegate“ which – from conversations I have in my network and my coaching practice I would completely agree with.
Why is delegating so difficult for some? The reason (or excuse) I hear the most is “I don’t have the time”, i.e. time to explain a task or desired outcome to someone in order for them to fulfill the task effectively. Instead, leaders rather continue to overload themselves with work because they believe it is faster to do it themselves than having to teach someone else.
Next on the list is the absence of trust, i.e. feeling secure that an employee knows how to complete a task to expected standards. As a leader you are always responsible for the outcome your team delivers, and you may feel you would rather complete a job yourself than take the blame for an outcome which is possibly not as expected.
Finally, there is the need for control. If you have a strong need for control and you like to have things done a specific way, you may want to maintain a certain level of power over your staff. Sharing responsibilities with others may result in losing some of the control you have over them – going forward you may not be seen as the expert on all matters.
SO - HOW CAN YOU GET BETTER AT THIS?
#1 When a task or project lands on your desk, ask yourself first “Who can do this?” instead of immediately starting to work on it. It takes time to train this muscle and for you to automatically ask yourself this question – so be patient. A note of caution: Not all responsibilities can be delegated, but I am certain you know which ones can be.
#2 Once you have decided who would be best suited to delegate to, take time to clarify exactly what he or she needs to do and what a successful outcome looks like. Manuel Pistner, founder of Flash Hub, said in a keynote “If a team member does not deliver a task to my expectations, I need to first ask myself if I have made my expectations clear.”
#3 Make sure the employee has all the resources they need to be successful (authority, skills, decision-making autonomy, time).
#4 Check-in regularly, do offer support and monitor progress to a level that you have prior discussed and agreed on with the individual. Be careful not to fall into the trap of micro-managing or continually chasing.
Try this out and don’t give up just because you may have had a less than satisfying experience with delegating at some point.
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