According to Leadership Expert, John C. Maxwell, ‘If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.’
Yet, for many leaders, delegating feels like something they know they should do, but don’t do. And the roadblocks are varied. Managers and leaders are often concerned about what they can delegate and what they should hold onto, especially when it comes to delegating responsibility.
They often believe they don’t have time to delegate, ‘it’s quicker to do it myself’.
While this may be true, spending time on these tasks prevents you from getting to the more strategic work you should be doing, it also denies your best people the chance to have new challenges, and it’s likely they will therefore leave to find new challenges, elsewhere.
There is often a perceived reputational risk. Will delegating make me look like I don’t know how to do it? Will it make me look lazy and like I’m palming tasks off to my team?
In fact, there is mounting evidence that delegating increases productivity, morale, and commitment, all of which impact company culture.
A 2015 Gallup study of the entrepreneurial talents of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list showed that companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.
Once a manager or leader has begun to shift his or her mindset to remove the roadblocks to delegation, they can then to start to focus on the behaviours that will make them successful delegators. According to an article in HBR (August 2019) there are eight behaviours leaders who delegate successfully have mastered. I believe these behaviours fall into three clusters:
1. Choose the right person — Who can do it? Who needs to develop these skills? Who has capacity? Who has shown interest? Who is ready for a challenge? Who would see this as a reward? It is also important to explain why you chose the person to take on the task.
2. Encourage new, creative ways for team members to accomplish goals. Set aside the notion that your way is the best way and the only way.
3. Create a motivating environment. Successful delegators know when to acknowledge, cheer, coach, step in, step back, adjust expectations, make themselves available, and celebrate success.
4. Be clear about what the person is responsible for and how much autonomy they have. Successful delegators let their team members know exactly where they have autonomy and where they don’t.
5. Describe the desired results in detail. This includes setting clear expectations about the outcome (what it is, specifically), how the task fits into the bigger picture (why we’re doing it), and the criteria for measuring success (what it should look like when done well).
6. Ensure team members have the resources they need to do the job, whether it’s training, money, supplies, time, or help from others.
7. Establish checkpoints and milestones, so that you neither micromanage nor under-lead.
8. Accept risks and mistakes, and use them as learning opportunities, rather than as proof that you shouldn’t have delegated in the first place.
Delegating done well is a win-win. It helps leaders optimise their strengths and their time, ensuring that they are focusing on their highest priorities. It enables team members to develop, to enjoy new challenges and new responsibility. Both the leader and their team now perform at a higher level and enjoy their work more. This in turn, builds a high-performance culture and a more competitive business.
Put the spotlight on yourself. How good are you at delegating, on a scale of 1 to 10? What are your roadblock beliefs? Which of the eight behaviours do you still need to master?