As people advance in a career, one of the main reasons they move up is because they are effective and efficient workers. The truth is, most people get promoted because they’re doing a great job of being in control of all the different aspects of what they have to do. As you become a senior executive and a leader, one of the most challenging parts of the job is learning how to delegate. Most leaders recognize that even with fantastic subordinates, they are not you. While it’s not an insult to your team when you don’t want to delegate, to be productive, you simply must learn how to stop being a “do-it-yourselfer.”
Create a Daily Task List
One of the most revealing things I do with clients is to have them create a detailed list of what it is they do every day. This is not a job description outlining responsibilities per se, but a list of specific tasks and duties – essentially an expanded, practical job description. Quantifying each task reveals how much time it actually takes to perform each task. From here, you can begin identifying what can be delegated. It’s important to recognize that delegating is not giving work away, but entrusting work to someone else. In this way, you still retain accountability.
While some tasks can be resolved by technology or streamlining and cleaning up work practices, there will always be certain things that you simply cannot get away from. In terms of delegating, it’s essential to make sure you retain control while getting the help you need.
Identifying the Who and Mastering the How
Once you know what work there is to delegate, you can identify who will be best suited to help. In most organizations, there are always one or two “go-to” people that can be relied on no matter what. But effective delegation requires looking at the entire team with all available skills sets on the table. Another part of effective delegation is learning how to phrase it in a way that adds challenge and interest so that people understand that this is a good thing for them. Rather than throwing it in their face in an e-mail saying, “Here, get this done,” you can have them watch and learn with expectations and instructions that are sufficient and clear.
You want to make sure people understand that there is a preferred way of doing things, but as a leader, you need to be open to suggestion that there may be a better way of achieving the same outcome. If you are asking for continuous improvement, you need to live it. As long as the end result is the same and you are comfortable that should be all that matters.
The ideal way to delegate it to pass the task off, communicate it appropriately and set clear expectations. Check in with them in a reasonable way, which doesn’t mean calling every 5 minutes and you should be able to step back and let that person do it. If you’ve opened up those communication channels so that they are comfortable coming to you with questions, you should be able to step back with confidence.
Feedback is Critical
Realize, when you get results for the first time, they could very well not be what you want and so how and what you deliver as feedback is crucial. You need to be able to sit down with that employee and say, “Okay, this is great, how did you come to this answer?” Instead of saying, “This is how I do it,” you may want to say, “In the past, we’ve done it this way, tell me why you did it the way you did, maybe we can learn from that.” Approach it as a very constructive feedback process as opposed to, “No, you did it wrong, go back and do it again!” If you get into the mindset where you send people back and forth, telling them it’s wrong in a negative way, no one will ever want to take a delegated task from you again. Worse, people will hide under their desk when they see you coming.
Delegation is one of the best ways to cross-train and build up bench strength by preparing people for responsibilities outside their skill set. When you need to hire and promote, you can say, “Oh, yeah, I remember when Greg did this. He did a great job!” The performance management mindset of employee learning and development can help leaders be more effective by learning to step back, and give work away a little easier.