Numerous times in my role as a business leadership coach I have had the opportunity to work with individuals who have just recently been promoted into the role of a leader. It might be a person given the opportunity to lead at a senior leadership level, leading a department or responsible for leading a team. The one issue commonly encountered is helping the person transition from being the doer of tasks to the overseer of them.
On one hand it seems like this would be a welcome change. Welcome or not, it is not something that happens overnight or automatically. Although delegation is a most effective tool one has as a leader to motivate and develop reporting employees, if she/he insists on doing all of the work themselves they are not really leading. And failure to do so has significant costs to the intended goals being pursued as well as building loyalty and enthusiasm among those being led.
When a manager assigns specific tasks to their team members at any level they are delegating. By delegating they create the realistic time to accomplish aspect of the job that are clearly theirs to do. They also build enthusiasm within the team for the learning they can experience. However, there are several reasons why managers may shy away from delegating work. They might:
- Believe doing a task themselves will be faster than explaining to another how to do it
- Think that they are the only one who can do the job correctly
- Convince themselves that others they lead are already too busy to take on an extra task
- See being the leader as the right to pick and choose what they personally want to do
- Want to hold the needed ‘key’ to various tasks to enhance their personal importance
The key ingredients to successful delegation
Even with these good and seemingly logical reasons to resist delegation, leaders understand the importance and value of developing this skill. Here are some ways one can delegate effectively and develop high performing teams:
- Know what to delegate
Recognize the certain tasks that need to be handled by you as the leader. Things like hiring or adding to the team or giving reviews of team members are yours to handle. At the same time there are tasks that can be well-handled by another team member. Delegating this will help develop their skills and build their value to the team.
- Communicate expectations in a very clear manner
Making certain that you clearly communicate the specifics of the task being assigned is the starting point. Then
why the task being assigned is important to the team, department or organization gives depth to the value of it. Finally making clear how you as leader want to be involved and informed in the process further strengthens the understanding.
- Do not presume complete understanding of the communication
This is an important aspect of delegating. After explaining the task, resist asking the person(s) if they have any questions. Rather, ask them to repeat back to you what they understand of the task and all of its’ components. This will ascertain that the leader was clear in what she/he communicated or not. If not it will allow the delegator to clarify which will help to set the person up for success and avoid wasteful rework.
Provide the resources needed for the person to be successful
For the ‘delegate-ee’ to be successful they are going to know and understand the resources that they will have to help them accomplish the task. It is imperative that the leader make them readily available as a means of helping the assignee successful
- Be tolerant of things being done differently than you as leader might do them
Of course you know how to do what you are now delegating to others. Rather than taking exception to a variation, welcome it for often, you as leader will appreciate the creativity it represents. Even the leader will learn and appreciate the improvements derived.
Be people rather than task focused
A challenge for any leader is to create a team made up of the right people as related to strength, attitude, skill and drive. Achieving this increases the likelihood that the delegation one does will be successful. This also requires that the leader recognize a weak link and replace it if and when necessary.
- Allow for the learning that will inevitably take place and review at task’s end
Learning is not perfection in any way. Although the leader may have the skills to do a task ‘with eyes closed’, delegation is now a part of that person being successful … as leader. Just as the leader went through a learning process, others must be allowed the same latitude.
Transitioning into a leadership position brings with it both opportunities and challenges for the lucky individual. In summary, the challenges involve recognizing that the skills and abilities that contributed to ones’ getting the promotion are no longer those that will spell success in the new management position. The opportunities exist in using the position to develop the team you lead so that they acquire the very skills that gave you the opportunity to move up. In addition, the leader now gets to hone new capabilities by inspiring, teaching and leading others to be able to develop their own approaches and ideas. Succeed in this arena and the future holds more and continuing career success.
Donald Thompson: Empowered leadership: Here’s how to delegate effectively
Lauren Landry: How to delegate effectively: 9 tips for managers