How to delegate more effectively (and why you need to)

Getting used to doing more with less doesn’t make it any less challenging.

When your team is under the pump, there’s a natural tendency to want to shield and protect people. Wanting to keep your team focused and on track, you end up adding tasks to your plate rather than adding to theirs.

But at what cost to you? And your team?

Time carries an opportunity cost

Sam and his finance team worked in an environment where there was no room for error. Sam justified his habitual decision to “get it done himself’ believing that he could do the task better and quicker. Which has true. While Sam was proud of his willingness to roll up his sleeves, deep-down though, he knew his ‘task focused’ busyness meant that he wasn’t supporting his team the way he should. Sam realised that giving up control carried risk, but what was the higher risk – tasks not getting done right the first time versus his team’s growth and development?

Are you paying the price of too much ‘doing’ and not enough ‘leading’?

Would your direct reports say that you delegate enough and delegate well?

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 – John Maxwell.

Great delegation can grow capability, grow relationships and trust, and fuel business results.

Delegation done well is a win / win:

1) You get to spend more time on the work that matters. Delegating reactive low risk or straight forward tasks or processes frees up time for higher value work that will have a greater impact.

2) Your team grow faster and become high performing. Delegating tasks/initiatives that provide learning opportunities to build skills, capability and capacity across your team.

I’ve worked with leaders who believe they are delegating effectively yet their team perceive they are being micro-managed. I’ve also worked with well-intentioned leaders like Sam who needed to transition from doer to leader. Leaders who stay in their comfort zone with what they know often don’t recognise their own blind spot and the impact that has on their team.

Are you delegating enough? If not, how are you getting in the way?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to ensure your delegation is hitting the right mark, particularly around growth opportunities.

  • Have I shared enough of the right context / content in relation to someone’s skill/will in a way that is engaging and meaningful?
  • Am I challenging this person at a level they are ready for? How do I know?
  • Have I communicated my expectations (of the person, task, and outcome) so there is clear alignment of what success looks like, what the performance benchmark is, and where the lines of responsibility/accountability start and end? Are my expectations realistic?
  • Does this person have the resources they need or know how to access them?
  • Is a check-in point required to make sure someone feels supported and on the right track?
  • What is the feedback loop to ensure that someone can self-assess their own learning and get constructive feedback?
  • How does this learning opportunity fit into someone’s wider development plan?

Benchmark your progress by asking yourself:

  •  What am I observing as a result of my delegation? What’s working and what’s not? How can I shift my thinking, planning or actions to delegate even more effectively?

Bringing it all together

It takes courage, trust, and humility to delegate well and in ways that drive productivity and team performance. Delegation sounds easy but takes time and carries risk. Don’t let the risks outweigh the opportunity to develop your people and make the difference to them you can.

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