5 Tips to Master the Delicate Art of Delegation
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Control freak. Workaholic. Credit hog.
Managers who fall into one or more of these groups usually have one thing in common: a refusal to delegate. Often, though, these managers are none of the above. They just haven’t mastered the emotional balance of delegation.
Entrepreneurs and leaders are programmed to despise laziness. That trait is a big part of why they’ve succeeded. With that comes a level of guilt -- if they can do more, they should. And in a new business, there’s always more to be done.
Despite how painful it may be, delegation is a critical skill all leaders must master to be successful. Not only will delegation give you more brain space and time to devote to doing what you do best -- visionary thought -- but you’ll also empower your team. Being self-aware enough to recognize this is step one. It’s hard to do, but is anything worth doing ever not?
Humility is a sorely underrated trait for a leader. By trusting your team and accepting that you can’t do it all, you’ll accomplish much more as a group than you could have ever accomplished alone. Here are some insights into how to find the right balance for you.
1. Be thoughtful about what you can hand off.
Take a clear stock of the tasks you have on hand and assess which ones aren’t using your time and skills to their fullest. For those tasks that emerge as delegate-able, incorporate delegation into your existing workflow via staff development and project management plans. You don’t want delegation to be just another task you have to do, but rather a natural part of your existing processes.
2. Choose tasks that prioritize your teammates’ careers with increased responsibility.
Every leader knows the most successful businesses are the ones with the strongest teams. For your team members to grow individually, they must have opportunities to prove themselves. You may worry that if you empower them and expand their skill sets, they’ll just leave. To that concern I’d say, you should be more worried if you don’t -- and they stay. Delegate tasks that push your team members outside of their comfort zone and challenge them to reach a new level of creativity and leadership.
3. Channel the time and intensity you would have devoted to the job at hand and redirect that time into educating someone else.
How many times have you felt like you were too busy to train someone? Yet, it’s in training others that we cultivate confidence in handing off a task, and show our team members we value their continued growth. Effective teaching and mentorship is its own worthwhile skill you can practice here -- when it starts to feel difficult, remind yourself that not only are you helping your employees grow, you’re stretching and strengthening your own teaching muscles, too.
4. Get out of the way.
I tell my teams to "make it awesome" and let them run with it. I've found they do best when they know I have a high expectation but want them to get there without hand holding. Instead of requiring people to do the work exactly how you would have, respect and appreciate the varied styles your teams use to get to the end result. Make sure the technical aspects of the task are clearly defined, but allow room for independent thought. If you’ve hired well, your mentorship will plant the seed for some great ideas you may never have even considered.
Recognize that teaching and learning is not always a linear process, and it doesn’t happen smoothly or overnight. The person you chose to delegate to might not grasp exactly what you’re saying the first time around. They may put in a good faith effort but fall short. Don’t use this as an excuse to snatch responsibility back. Use it as a learning tool to recognize where the process went wrong and how it can be made better.
Being a self-aware leader means acknowledging that you aren’t a super hero. You’ve intentionally hired your team members to bring skills to the table that you lack. Use smart delegation techniques to grow those employees -- and watch your business grow as a result.