Delegating effectively is not only an important tool for developing others, it’s also key to achieving results in a leadership position. As an individual contributor, one has to be self-reliant, completing tasks autonomously and relying on one’s own technical expertise to get things done. However, this could actually work against you in a supervisory role.
Leaders are responsible for getting their own work done, including attending to higher-level organizational priorities (improving processes and systems, strategic planning, facilitating positive change, etc.), while also overseeing the work of others.
But delegation isn’t easy. Choosing what to delegate does take time and effort. Here are six tips to consider when delegating effectively:
1. PRIORITIZE WORK: Delegate to your own and others’ advantage by prioritizing work to determine what you must personally address and what can be handed off to others. Do this strategically to simultaneously provide your team with opportunities to develop and expand their skillsets.
2. TRUST THE TEAM: It can be difficult to get “out of the weeds” and trust others to complete work to high standards. Strive to trust your team to reach the bar you have set. Facilitate this by setting clear expectations, being upfront on deadlines, creating timelines to stay on track, and following up to ensure progress is being made.
Over time, as trust is built and established, you will be able to step back even more, affording your team the autonomy they may desire and need to grow themselves. It is truly a win-win situation.
3. “GUIDE” INSTEAD OF “DOING”: Once you have delegated responsibilities, resist the urge to step in and do the work yourself, even in situations where hitting deadlines are threatened. Instead, be available to answer questions and provide feedback while leaving the task of “doing” to your employees.
4. PUSH YOURSELF AND OTHERS OUTSIDE COMFORT ZONES: Recognize when you are experiencing a strong desire to be close to the details and push yourself to let go of more responsibilities. Assign tasks that push your direct reports past their comfort zone, and provide them with the resources they will need to succeed–without doing the work for them.
5. ANTICIPATE MISTAKES AND MAKE ROOM FOR THEM: Build in extra time before deadlines to review work products, provide feedback, and ask your employees to make adjustments. Often we have the tendency to make edits and adjustments ourselves, but remember that doing so won’t help your employee perform better next time. Give them the responsibility–and the time–to complete the deliverable, even if multiple drafts are necessary.
6. CONSISTENTLY ENFORCE EXPECTATIONS: Inevitably, there will be times when your employees do not meet expectations. When this happens, take the opportunity to consistently enforce what you are expecting, and make sure the standards are clear with your team. Don’t let issues languish: address them in real time (or as close to it as possible), demonstrate understanding, provide feedback aligned with expectations and, if necessary, enforce consequences.
Delegation does not always come naturally or easily. When success as an individual contributor—the natural precursor to being a leader—is so dependent on one’s ability to complete tasks from start to finish by oneself, it can feel strange to hand off responsibility to someone else. But delegation is necessary to successful leadership, and these six tips can help anyone in delegating effectively.
What tips and tricks have worked for you to become a stellar delegator? How did you successfully transition from managing yourself to managing others? What challenges did you experience with delegating? Sound off in the comments!