Delegation, much like feedback, is often hailed as a cornerstone of effective leadership. When done right, it allows leaders to empower their team members, foster growth, and achieve higher levels of productivity. Unfortunately, I find that for most managers, it is the skill that most often holds them back because rather than delegate well, more often than not, they don't delegate at all.
Many managers I speak with think of delegation as handing work off to someone else, relinquishing control, and/or dumping their work on someone else, rather than considering delegation as a development tool. This misperception often leads managers to hold on to tasks or projects, which stunts the growth not only of their employees but also themselves. By not embracing delegation as a means of shared growth, managers miss out on a significant opportunity for personal and professional development.
Instead, I suggest expanding your view of delegation as a skill to be mastered and apply it with a mindset of employee development. With that in mind, you are more likely to make the time to do it and avoid the pitfalls of poor delegation. Imagine being handed a task without clear instructions, expectations, or even a clear goal. It's like receiving feedback that's vague and confusing. Much in the way that feedback loses its value when it lacks clarity, delegation can lead to frustration and inefficiency when it's not well-defined.
Delegation, at its essence, involves entrusting tasks and responsibilities to team members. It's not just about handing off tasks to lighten your load as a leader; it's about fostering a sense of ownership and accountability within your team. Just as feedback needs to be specific to be valuable, delegation should come with clear objectives, expectations, and guidelines.
For instance, rather than saying, "Please work on this report," an effective delegation might be, "I'd like you to prepare a comprehensive report on XYZ topic by next Friday. It should include a market analysis, and recommendations, and be about 1500 words long. Let's schedule a brief meeting on Wednesday to discuss your approach and any questions you have.” In addition to being clear and specific, effective delegation includes follow-up and support.
Clarity is crucial, but so is trust. Just as feedback is more powerful when given within a constructive, trusting relationship, delegation flourishes in an environment where team members feel valued and capable. Overloading a team member with tasks beyond their capacity, or micromanaging every step, erodes trust and stunts growth.
In the realm of delegation, biases can also sneak in. Assigning tasks based on perceived strengths and weaknesses might limit the potential of your team. Instead, aim to delegate tasks that stretch and challenge team members, allowing them to develop new skills and grow in unexpected ways.
Just as your feedback should open up a two-way dialogue, delegation should invite questions and suggestions. Encourage your team members to clarify doubts, offer insights, and share their approach to the tasks assigned. This not only ensures alignment but also fosters a collaborative spirit that's essential for effective teamwork.
Delegation is a skill that demands thoughtfulness, clarity, and consideration. By approaching delegation with the same level of care you would employ while providing valuable feedback, you can transform it into a powerful tool for team growth and success. With crystal-clear expectations, an atmosphere of trust, and open communication, delegation can propel your team to achieve remarkable outcomes while enabling you to find space for your own growth as a leader.