How Leaders Can Learn To Delegate
Most professionals reach a point in their careers when they are told to “do less and lead more.” Translation: Delegate more to your people, so your time is freed up to be more strategic and to drive the organization, team, unit or yourself forward.
Truly great leaders understand delegation is not an across-the-board management tactic designed to get unwanted tasks off their plate. Effective delegation is much more strategic and should not be taken lightly. Before jumping into delegation mode, put deliberate thought into it, so the practice works for you, not against you.
When To Delegate
- Delegate when your calendar is so full you can’t get higher-level work done. If you are in constant reactionary mode — where most of your day is filled with meetings, calls and administrative work — then you need to delegate. You have little chance of being perceived as more senior if you are doing the work your team should be doing or if you are wasting your time on low-value meetings and calls.
- Delegate when someone else can do the work as well as or better than you. You may think that no one can do something as well as you can (and it may be true); however, ask yourself if someone else can do it well enough. The other person may even have a different way of doing things that could be better. Allow your ego to consider this. You should be spending most of your time on things others can’t do. That is what makes you valuable.
- Delegate when you need to provide a growth opportunity for a direct report. If you have a direct report who is bored and unchallenged, then you need to delegate something that will challenge him or her. A bored and talented employee is a risk you need to manage, or else the individual will find a place where he or she won’t be so bored.
- Delegate when you need to improve as a manager. Sometimes you are the one who needs to grow. You can do this by taking the risk to trust your people more. Managers who want to be great leaders will force themselves to delegate, so they can learn what their teams are made of and see how effective they are at managing the inevitable mistakes and failures.
What To Delegate
- Delegate projects, rather than tasks. It is much less motivating for a direct report to be asked to put some talking points together for you to present about a new project than it is for that person to be able to prepare and present the points and project proposal on your behalf.
- Delegate meetings that a direct report can own. Ask the individual to own the meeting and represent the team from this point forward. Remember to ask for updates as necessary. Caution! Don’t cite your full calendar as a reason you need a direct report to attend a meeting for you. That person will resent “the ask.”
- Delegate things you love to do. It’s easy to delegate what you don’t like, but it’s inevitably more powerful to delegate what you do like. Your team will recognize that you are delegating the important, good stuff, rather than just the undesirable stuff. It sends a message that you are not above doing some of the “grunt” work, so they can take a turn at the more interesting work.
When Not To Delegate
- Don’t delegate something and say it’s for the direct report’s growth, if it isn’t. The individual will see through this and resent you for it. If you are too busy to do something and need the help, simply say that. This is better for the relationship in the long run.
- Don’t delegate when people aren’t ready. Don’t get fed up with your calendar on a random Tuesday and start delegating tasks or projects before knowing if the person or team can handle it. The risk of failure is too great. Delegate to those who are ready for the opportunity.
- Don’t delegate something and then forget to recognize people for their efforts.
- Don’t take credit for what you delegate. Let those who did the work own the glory. This seems like a no-brainer, but I see it happen all the time.
- Don’t delegate decisions initially, but then change your mind when you don’t like the decision. This is akin to giving someone “busy work.”
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